This Sunday, one of cable television’s most storied traditions, the MTV Video Music Awards, beams from the Forum in Southern California into living rooms nationwide. The VMA’s 32nd broadcast, this year’s hostless show looks to carry on the quality of well-received recent installments, namely the 2011 and 2013 editions, with a stacked line-up of performances and seriously hard-to-call nominees up for the Moon Men. If you haven’t had a chance to catch up on all the recent happenings but have had your curiosity piqued by the advertisements in Taco Bell, we’ve got you covered with this round-up of what’s going down.
The big story going into the 2014 VMAs is Beyonce. Along with leading the pack with eight nominations, including Video of the Year, she’s set to receive the illustrious Video Vanguard Award. The most prestigious award a music video artist/director can receive, it’s the closest thing the medium has to a Lifetime Achievement Award. If Beyonce walks away with both Video Vanguard and Video of the Year honors on the same night, she’ll be only the third artist to do so behind Justin Timberlake last year and Peter Gabriel in 1987.
Competing against Beyonce for Video of the Year are multi-nominees Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” as well as the talk of last year’s VMAs, Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and viral gem “Chandelier” by Sia.
Speaking of viral, this year MTV is debuting a new award, “Best Lyric Video.” What’s interesting and a bit peculiar about this is how the channel famous for broadcasting music videos is acknowledging the evolution of the medium to the degree where these pretty much online-only promotional clips are going to be awarded for their artistic merit. That’s not to say there aren’t some great ones, rather the network is continuing to do what they do best, roll with the changes. This move is merely the latest in the show’s continuous embrace of new technology, including announcing the nominees earlier this summer on SnapChat and promising to enhance the interactivity of the show by broadcasting reaction GIFs sent in by viewers.
History might also be made by Eminem, who is only behind Beyonce and Iggy with seven nominations, as he may be the first artist to win five Best Rap/Hip-Hop Video Moonmen. The only thing more surprising than no-one else having achieved that before him is that it’s one award his fellow nominee Kanye West, who has been nominated for the honor a record nine times, hasn’t walked away with.
MTV’s making their best effort to make the event sound like a can’t miss affair from the start. Opening the show will be current talk-of-the-town Nicki Minaj, Jessie J and Ariana Grande performing their hit “Bang Bang” for the first time together. The network seems to have embraced Grande as their next big star, giving her an all-Ariana TRL resurrection earlier this year, so a next-level performance is to be expected.
Also slated to perform are Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Usher, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Maroon 5, with Charli XCX and Fifth Harmony on the pre-show, hosted by Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale.
But beyond the awards and the performances, it’s the unexpected moments that make the VMAs such can’t-miss television. It’s a largely unpredictable broadcast, but that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from speculating. The hot gossip now is that Kanye West will deliver a surprise performance, but don’t get your hopes up just yet. The same buzz swarmed around a prospective Jay-Z concert at last year’s event, presumably based on Jigga’s connection to the event’s venue the Barclay Center, which never materialized. Let’s not forget how it seemed MTV were even teasing a Kanye West/Taylor Swift duet at the 2010 Awards one year after Kanye’s outburst, but that didn’t happen either.
The only thing we can say for sure about this Sunday’s broadcast is that we’ll be watching with rapt attention and hoping with all of our hearts for the long-awaited MTV return of Jesse Camp. Oh, and Taco Bell.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 22, 2014