Music News & Reviews

August 24, 2014

Nicki, Miley, Beyoncé, Ferguson: The top moments of the MTV VMA awards

MTV’s Video Music Awards Sunday night at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., got serious and sexy. Nicki Minaj shook her booty (as usual). Miley Cyrus grabbed the spotlight again, but this time for a good cause. Beyoncé did 14 songs in 15 minutes. And there was a plea for peace, inspired by the Michael Brown shooting.


There was no twerking from Miley Cyrus this year, but she still managed to manufacture a buzzed-about moment. When Jimmy Fallon announced Cyrus as winner of video of the year (for “Wrecking Ball”), she sent her mysterious male companion to the stage to accept.

“My name is Jesse, and I am accepting this award on behalf of the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in the United States who are starving, lost and scared for their lives right now,” said the shaggy dude, who read from notes. “I know this because I’m one of these people.”

Miley looked on and cried a little as Jesse directed everyone to the pop star’s Facebook page, where she said she’s raising money to end youth homelessness, starting with My Friend’s Place, a homeless center for young people in Hollywood.


As expected, the showstopper of the night was Beyoncé, who performed a 15-minute montage featuring all 14 songs on her self-titled 2013 album. She also led the VMA nominations.

A very tired (we assume) Beyonce was then presented with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award by husband Jay-Z and their daughter Blue Ivy. “I just thank God for this moment, and I love you all so much,” she said.


Rapper Common, presenting best hip-hop video, talked about the last two weeks in Ferguson, Mo. People there and across the country have used their voices to call for justice and change because “each and every one of our lives matter,” he said.

Common then asked for a moment of silence “for Mike Brown and for peace in this country and in the world.”

MTV later aired a 15-second spot featuring a quote from African-American novelist James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” In the background: a musical chorus of “Hands up, don’t shoot.”


Taylor Swift sang “Shake It Off” for the first time publicly (but no, for anyone already sick of it, not the last time). During the performance she had a chance to go splat on live TV and she … passed. Swift was perched atop a platform looking down at her male chorus line. The guys had their arms out. The crowd cheered. But Taylor decided to take the stairs.

“One second,” she announced. “I don’t care if it’s the VMAs. I’m not jumping off there. … People getting bitten by snakes! It’s dangerous!” (That was a reference to a rehearsal in which one of Nicki Minaj’s backup dancers was bitten by a 6-foot-long boa constrictor while performing Nicki’s classy hit “Anaconda.”)


Sometimes Jay Pharoah’s standup and impersonations seemed like filler, but the “SNL” dude had his moments. Such as:

On lusting after the young-looking Ariana Grande (she’s 21): “You should not be a grown man enjoying (Nickelodeon’s) ‘Sam and Cat’ just as much as your 5-year-old nephew.”

As Kanye West: “We so next level, we named our daughter North West after an airline that no longer exists.” To her credit, Kim Kardashian laughed.


In Kansas City we like to claim Lorde and her song “Royals” (inspired, of course, by a picture of Kansas City Royals great George Brett). But when she accepted her Moonman for best rock video (huh?), first she didn’t know which way to look and then she got bleeped for saying “Oh (bleep)!” But she apologized for swearing, which was sweet.


Robin Williams’ recent suicide wasn’t just another celebrity death. The VMAs proved it by airing a (too?) quick montage of photos of a guy known not for music but for making us laugh.

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