Last night, millions of music fans turned their TV back to MTV (remember them?) for the 31st edition of the Video Music Awards, an awards show which struggles to stay relevant in the YouTube era, to watch star-studded pop performances from Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Maroon 5 — and, not too many surprises.
That said, along with the flubs (a Nicki Minaj wardrobe malfunction; the overly short Robin Williams tribute; we're still scratching our head regarding Lorde winning Best Rock Video), there were some highlights. By the way: no, all of the highlights aren't Beyonce showin' that she's still a boss. Before we get started, there were a few big takeaways: pop divas still shine, rock music is in a lull, and it confirmed that butts are in this year.
Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jessie J performing a trio of hits ("Break Free," "Anaconda," and "Bang Bang")
Nicki Minaj wore her snake suit just about as well as you could expect someone to wear a snake suit. While it ended up being a disjointed medley of songs, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jessie J strutting and singing alongside a group of dancers definitely was an attention-grabbing beginning to the awards.
Sam Smith's Heartfelt Performance
Best known for his guest vocals on 2012's "Latch" (by Disclosure), crooner Sam Smith performed his soulful hit single "Stay With Me." After being introduced by Kim Kardashian-West (who is apparently a good friend of Smith's), he performed a stripped down performance accompanied by just a piano, backing musicians and a swooning audience.
Common speaking on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri
Before presenting the award for best hip-hop video (given to Drake for "Hold On, We're Going Home)," rapper Common called for a moment of silence "for Mike Brown and for peace in this country and in the world." Within the context of an awards ceremony, tributes can often seem contrived but this gesture was received well.
Miley's VMA Win for "Wrecking Ball" and Acceptance Speech
After last year's twerking debacle at the VMAs, Miley Cyrus knew she had to pull out all of the stops this time around. While we hoped she would win the award for Best Music Video, we didn't expect how she would accept. Instead of thanking her family and friends, she sent a formerly homeless teen on her behalf to accept the award and spread awareness about homeless youth. A marketing ploy? Sure. It was upstanding of her nonetheless.
Beyonce's Medley (and Blue Ivy)
Yesterday morning, we were tipped off that Beyonce would be performing all of her surprise self-titled album, which came alongside videos for every song off the LP.
Last night confirmed that the 32 year-old stardom is just as strong as ever. After declaring "MTV, welcome to my world," she performed a snippets of the entire albm, ordered her compatriots to "bow down" and poignantly flowed in front of lit up words like "feminism." Our highlight of the night might just have been her daughter congratulating her mom, saying "Good job, Mommy" as Beyonce and Jay Z kissed.