Last night at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA), we all learned the difference between gratuitous showmanship and tasteful performance. There were moments of pure, unadulterated talent and ferocious skill, and there were moments that were nothing short of public spectacle. A show like this one goes to prove many things; some would say the superficiality of music and the music industry, others would say the art of performance and presentation, and in many ways this show epitomizes the commercialization of music in general and of each individual artist as a unique, edgy, controversial brand.

 

Every act, gesture, and performance (or lack thereof) from each artist could be construed as nothing more than an elaborate and highly calculated PR move to a critical eye. Yet despite all the fanfare and “scandal,” the show stil appears to be very predictable. Albeit the MTV Music Awards are not the most serious of award shows, but nonetheless, in all of the pressure to make the drama-filled show “memorable,” (a word used in nearly every 2014 VMA recap) perhaps we lose the main purpose of the event: to celebrate the best in music.

 

The most coveted award of the night, “Video of the Year,” went to Miley Cyrus, whose racy performance last year put her on the map again and who this year opted for a controversial route in the opposite direction. Instead of going onstage, this year she pulled a Dustin Hoffman and sat tearfully blinking in the audience while a young, attractive, homeless man went on stage to accept the award on her behalf; her way of advocating for the homeless around America and finding yet another way to don the title of “controversial,” arguably the only thing keeping her relevant and current. Some might see this as an act of maturity; taking the high road instead of taking yet another opportunity to make a spectacle of herself. However, others might view it as a carefully orchestrated, and silent, yet, dramatic way to belay claims of her over-sexualized and childish behavior and still make headlines. Not to mention the award probably should have gone to Sia for her hauntingly beautiful and astounding single-take video for “Chandelier,” or Pharrell Williams, whose video for “Happy” all but started a worldwide revolution.

 

Despite Williams’s snub for “Happy,” he did not go home completely empty-handed. Although he did not win the award for Best Male Video himself, he had a hand in the song that won the title: his collaboration with Ed Sheeran, “Sing,” ended up winning the coveted award. However, in a rare moment at the VMAs, when you see a pure if not fleeting moment of straight-up, no-frills, God-given talent, Sam Smith graced us all with a soulful rendition of his single, “Stay With Me.” After his powerful and simple performance, I think we all took a moment to wonder who really deserved this award.

 

VMA history was made in more ways than one last night when Lorde became the first female and the first non-rock artist to win in the “Best Rock Song” category. Don’t misunderstand — we absolutely love Lorde, and it is refreshing to see a female winner (FINALLY) in the rock category. However, one of the criteria for “Best Rock Song” should probably require that the winner actually qualify in the rock genre. It is actually shocking that Lorde even received a nomination in this category, seeing as she is not associated with the rock genre and does not produce rock music, let alone winning the award over bands who can actually qualify as “rock.” The conspiracy theorist inside of this writer wants to say that they wanted to give both songstress Ariana Grande and Lorde awards, so they threw Lorde into the rock category to make room. Then again, maybe MTV was confused; yes, “Lorde rocks,” but Lorde’s music is not “rock.”

 

Among the cliches, spectacles and exhibitions of talent during the show, the awards given to the 2014 VMA winners spoke volumes in more ways than one, and history was made in several different ways. The show was stolen so many times, there was almost nothing left by the end of the night — Nicki Minaj‘s wardrobe malfunction; Miley Cyrus and her silent statement; Taylor Swift and her almost endearing awkwardness; and Beyonce, with her flawless showcase in receiving the Video Vanguard Award with her daughter, Blue Ivy.

 

This year’s show was chock full of pretty costumes, flashing lights, shiny trophies, awkward moments, and missed opportunities. Perhaps the outcome of the VMAs should be taken with a grain of salt, and appreciated for what it is — just another entertaining if not superfluous award show.

 

 

What do you think of the VMAs? Leave a response in the comment section below or shoot me a tweet @JenksUOhMeASoda