If this year’s viewer-voted VMA winners tell us anything, it’s that either 1) People have very bad taste or 2) There is nothing good to choose from—or maybe a combination of the two. With winners like One Direction, Selena Gomez and 30 Seconds to Mars, it seems safe to say that the days of artists like Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna being recognized is over now that the caliber of quality has lowered. Granted, Justin Timberlake’s performance proved to be more than worthy of his Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award—plus that brief 'NSYNC performance where every other member’s face seemed blurred out by Justin’s spotlight.
The vibe of the awards seemed decidedly laidback (perhaps owing to taking place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center), even considering one of the more somber, sinister performances of the night, “Blood on the Leaves” by Kanye West. Lady Gaga kicked off the show with “Applause,” a lackluster song with a tired performance to match. Donning wigs and outfits representing her past, Gaga ended up in nothing more than a bikini and seashell bra—possibly to show off her new hip.
Miley Cyrus did her best to shock as well, with a performance of “We Can’t Stop” and pairing up with Robin Thicke to sing “Blurred Lines.” Although everyone was seemingly shocked by her flesh-colored ensemble, have they all forgotten that Britney exhibited a similar illusion during her 2000 VMA performance of “Oops…I Did It Again!”? Taylor Swift provided several shock value moments of her own, including her reference to One Direction member Harry Styles upon accepting the award for Best Female Video and mouthing “Shut the fuck up” when One Direction took the stage to introduce an award. Apart from these trifling instances, the VMAs were decidedly low on the scandal meter.
Speaking of scandal, Lil’ Kim made an appearance on the red carpet looking like a far cry from her infamous 1999 VMA persona. Lil’ Kim presented the award for Best Hip Hop Video, expressing Brooklyn love as she noted that she never thought the VMAs would make it to her borough. The fact that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won the award is further evidence of just how far “hip hop” has evolved since Lil’ Kim’s golden age.
Drake’s understated performance of “Started From the Bottom” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home” was a somewhat refreshing change of pace from the pomp and circumstance surrounding other artists of the night, including Katy Perry, who closed the show with “Roar.” With a boxing ring set up by the Brooklyn Bridge, Perry appeared in her standard brand of animal-inspired costume and delivered, well, if nothing else, a better effort at artistry than Miley Cyrus.
What it all boils down to in 2013 for the VMAs is Taco Bell-sponsored awards, recycled tactics of creating consternation and ‘NSYNC. That being said, it seems to be, like so many classic award shows, one that has continued to devolve as time goes on. But at least it wasn’t in L.A.