Commentary: MTV VMAs 2015: Five reasons it was all a mess

Nicki Minaj accepts the award for hip-hop video of the year for "Anaconda" at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30.

Nicki Minaj accepts the award for hip-hop video of the year for “Anaconda” at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30.

(Matt Sayles / Invision / Associated Press)

The 2015 Video Music Awards will, rightfully, be best remembered as a fiery train wreck where casualties, chest-clutching awkwardness and “oh no they didn’t” absurdity were in abundance.

Somewhere between a provoked Nicki Minaj cursing out Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber rising from the stage as if he were Christ and Kanye West delivering a stream of consciousness that did everything from exposing award show ratings ploys to announcing a run for president (jokingly, we think), it was clear that none of the pop stars who showed up bothered to care or censor themselves.

FULL COVERAGE: 2015 MTV Video Music Awards

The entire telecast was one disastrous mess after another. Here’s five standouts that are going to be hard to scrub from our brains:


Nicki Minaj checking Miley: Oh, so you thought Minaj wouldn’t clap back at Cyrus’ recent New York Times interview? Wrong -- so very wrong. Accepting the Moonman for best hip-hop video, the provocative pop-rapper thanked everyone from her fans to her own pastor (because, YOLO) before turning her focus to Cyrus. “"Now, back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me in the press the other day. ... Miley, what’s good?” Minaj quipped, in response to Cyrus’ take on the media-fueled brouhaha between the rapper and Taylor Swift.

Was it staged? Maybe, probably, but who cares? The look on Cyrus’ face when Minaj put down the award to lay in to her was a reminder that sometimes keeping it real can go awry. And no one thought to put a camera backstage?

Whoever was in charge of the censor button: If anyone earned a raise Sunday night, it was the guy or gal backstage who had to operate the censor button. Never in award show history was there as much profanity.

Cyrus dropped F-bombs like her job depended on it -- and showed her breasts multiple times (because, YOLO). Rebel Wilson literally wore an expletive on her chest. Performers didn’t care to censor themselves and neither did award recipients.

And the Parents Television Council, speaking for all the terrible parents out there who still allow their little ones to watch the VMAs, issued this venom after Sunday’s show: “MTV had an opportunity to use its powerful VMA platform to stir a young audience to aspire to something positive and uplifting. Instead they chose to perpetuate blatant sexualization -- much of it self-inflicted by the artists -- and to celebrate the use of illegal drugs. MTV rated the content of the program as appropriate for a child as young as 14, though most parents of teens that age would find such a content rating preposterous.”

So maybe the censor guy or gal won’t be getting a raise after all.

Miley, Miley, Miley: The pop instigator who famously wedged herself into VMA infamy with her tawdry 2013 performance (the one we never forgave Robin Thicke for) truly lived up to hope that her gig as host would be an absolute mess.

She cursed like a drunken sailor, littered her speeches with as many references to her affinity for marijuana as possible, deliberately showed her bare breasts (twice) and performed alongside a bevy of drag queens. She was at her best while dancing alongside some of the most famous contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and she was at her worst doing pretty much everything else.


She does get bonus points for using the night as a launching pad for her new album, which she dropped for free immediately after.

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Kanye West’s acceptance speech. When Justin Timberlake received the Video Vanguard Award in 2013, he brought the VMAs to a standstill with a muscular 15-minute retrospective of hits and recruited ‘NSync for a mini-reunion.

And last year Beyonce, given a similar lengthy slot, moved through a spectacular presentation that ran the entirety of her groundbreaking self-titled visual album.


This year’s winner, West, did none of that. After being feted by Swift, because the night was about hatchet burying or whatever, West took the stage. He didn’t perform any of his hits or offer a preview for his eagerly anticipated album. Instead he talked, and talked, and talked. In a speech that was part motivational, part rant, part truth bomb but wholly West, the performer went off the rails in so many directions that we won’t bother trying to decipher.

Instead, we did our best to transcribe his words:

“Bro. Bro! Listen to the kids.

First of all, thank you, Taylor, for being so gracious and giving me this award this evening.


And I often think back to the first day I met you also. You know I think about when I’m in the grocery store with my daughter and I have a really great conversation about fresh juice … and at the end they say, ’Oh, you’re not that bad after all!’ And like I think about it sometimes. … It crosses my mind a little bit like when I go to a baseball game and 60,000 people boo me. Crosses my mind a little bit.

And I think if I had to do it all over again what would I have done? Would I have worn a leather shirt? Would I have drank half a bottle of Hennessy and gave the rest of it to the audience? Ya’ll know ya’ll drank that bottle too! If I had a daughter at that time would I have went on stage and grabbed the mic from someone else’s? You know, this arena tomorrow it’s gonna be a completely different setup. Some concert, something like that. The stage will be gone. After that night, the stage was gone, but the effect that it had on people remained.

The … The problem was the contradiction. The contradiction is I do fight for artists, but in that fight I somehow was disrespectful to artists. I didn’t know how to say the right thing, the perfect thing. I just … I sat at the Grammys and saw Justin Timberlake and Cee-Lo lose. Gnarls Barkley and the FutureLove … SexyBack [sic] album … and Justin, I ain’t trying to put you on blast, but I saw that man in tears, bro. You know, and I was thinking, like, ’He deserved to win Album of the Year!’”

And this small box that we are as the entertainers of the evening … How could you explain that? Sometimes I feel like all this ... they run about beef and all that? Sometimes I feel like I died for the artist’s opinion. For artists to be able to have an opinion after they were successful. I’m not no politician, bro!


Look at that. You know how many times MTV ran that footage again? ’Cause it got them more ratings? You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award ’cause it got them more ratings? Listen to the kids, bro!

I still don’t understand awards shows. I don’t understand how they get five people who worked their entire life … sold records, sold concert tickets to come stand on the carpet and for the first time in they life be judged on the chopping block and have the opportunity to be considered a loser! I don’t understand it, bruh!

I don’t understand when the biggest album, or the biggest video … I’ve been conflicted, bro. I just wanted people to like me more. “But ... that, bro! 2015! I will die for the art! For what I believe in. And the art ain’t always gonna be polite! Ya’ll might be thinking right now, ’Did he smoke something before he came out here?’ The answer is yes, I rolled up a little something. I knocked the edge off!

I don’t know what’s gonna happen tonight, I don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow, bro. But all I can say to my artists, to my fellow artists: Just worry how you feel at the time, man. Just worry about how you feel and don’t NEVER … you know what I’m saying? I’m confident. I believe in myself. We the millennials, bro. This is a new mentality. We’re not gonna control our kids with brands. We not gonna teach low self-esteem and hate to our kids. We gonna teach our kids that they can be something. We gonna teach our kids that they can stand up for theyself [sic]! We gonna teach our kids to believe in themselves!”


If my grandfather was here right now, he would not let me back down! I don’t know I’m fittin’ to lose after this. It don’t matter though, cuz it ain’t about me. It’s about ideas, bro. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth. And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.”

The fact that MTV put on a VMAs without Beyonce, Rihanna or Lady Gaga. Don’t ever do that again, please. Why? See all of the above.

For more music news follow me on Twitter: @gerrickkennedy



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