If I had to use one-word to conjure up my feelings for Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards I would use: disjointed.
Before I tell you how little I enjoyed of the three-and-a-half hour broadcast (not including the mess that was the red carpet special), let me commend MTV execs for one thing: attempting to break the mold and trying something different. It was obvious from the minute that Vanguard Award-recipient Rihanna took the stage to open the show that this was not going to play out like your typical award show. Yes, it is refreshing to see the network take a chance with its biggest annual flagship program and create a new type of experience.
That said, they failed. Miserably.
We’ll start with the aforementioned Rihanna. Instead of receiving one long block of programming to showcase her prolific work and accept her “lifetime achievement” award, the singer was split in to four different performance segments, culminating with long-time collaborator Drake presenting her with the honor named for the late Michael Jackson. This alone exposes one of the VMAs major issues: a lack of star power so unavoidable that one of the night’s biggest performances was sprinkled throughout the course of the evening.
Think about music’s biggest names that were not in attendance: Justin Timberlake, Adele, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris, Coldplay, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.
Yes there was Beyonce, whose 15-minute medley of songs from “Lemonade” proved to be the night’s undisputed high point. Kanye West offered another bizarre, rambling diatribe before premiering a new music video from “The Life Of Pablo.” Britney Spears, introduced by Kim Kardashian West, appeared to return to old form with a performance of “Make Me” that featured rapper G-Eazy.
But you would have needed five Beyonce-like performances to make up for not only the missing names but mess that occurred when a performance or award presentation wasn’t happening. Comedian Jay Pharoah, who might have been better suited for a more-traditional hosting role or relegated to pre-taped vignettes (think Kevin Hart circa 2011 VMAs) was instead randomly inserted in to the program to showcase his various impressions. DJ Khaled proved that his energy and array of catchphrases play better on Snapchat opposed to live TV.
And comedians Key and Peele, who again should be commended for attempting something that breaks from the norm, failed in their quest to parody the “social media influencers” (coincidentally, like Khaled) who have become regulars on branded-content heavy programs like this one.
Perhaps just like those influencers, MTV needs to think of yet another new act. Ratings for this year plummeted 34 percent, from 9.8 to 6.5 million viewers.