The MTV Music Video Awards is the spectacle of every summer. Music’s biggest night of the season for the past thirty years has provided fans with yearly iconic moments, head-turning red carpet looks, and show -stopping performances. It’s a night where stars are born, and A-Listers reunite.
But, over the years the spark of what made the VMAs once so great seemed to go missing. In the last few years, the lack of memorable moments, or the appeal of the musicians in attendance hasn’t been enough to keep viewers interested or to watch at all. This isn’t the fault of MTV, but the cause and effect of the music industry failing to produce superstars.
Before going wrong in the years of 2017-2019, MTV celebrated one last night of carefree pop culture, the 2016 Video Music Awards. Just months before the Presidential Election, and the shift in media content, MTV bid farewell to the wackiness, the weirdness, and the outrageousness of entertainment before things started to get serious.
Some of the biggest stars in the industry, ranging from the likes of Kanye West and Beyoncé to Drake and Rihanna, it was a spectacle that defined our nostalgia of the pre-Trump era. With four medley performances from Rihanna, to a sixteen-minute Lemonade performance from Beyoncé, viewers were in for a treat. Future represented hip-hop with a performance of “F**K Up Some Commas”, Ariana Grande gave a glimpse to her pop dominance with a performance with Nicki Minaj, while Kanye West had the world talking as he premiered the music video for “Fade” featuring Teyana Taylor.
So, what made the ceremony so special? Well, it had all the elements of every beloved award show from the past and marked the end of an era. At this point it was the last signs of solo releases from Rihanna and Beyoncé. Kanye West provided the showstopper and marked farewell to secular music. Chance The Rapper showed signs of promise with a co-sign from Kanye himself. Future celebrated DS2and led the latter half of the decade into the world of trap. Teyana Taylor proved that music videos still matter with the “Fade” music video. And Drake’s surprise appearance and almost proposing to Rihanna gave us the iconic moment that fans still talk about today.
The nominees for Video of the Year also made sense. Adele’s “Hello” was the comeback music video. Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” was the dance-oriented music video. “Hotline Bling” was Drake’s iconic music video that helped transition him into a crossover phenomenon. Kanye West’s “Famous” provided the controversy, while Beyonce’s “Formation” celebrated power.
MTV officially retired the gender-specific categories after this ceremony with Calvin Harris’ “This Is What You Came For” becoming the last music video to win Best Male Video – while “Hold Up” by Beyoncé was the last to win “Best Female Video”. The “Moonman” was also renamed to “Moon Person” the following year. (It was also the last time fans would see Mac Miller at an award ceremony).
Prior to all of the political correctness, and prior to the lack of superstars, the 2016 Video Music Awards was the spectacle that proved that the spirit of what made pop culture once so interesting, is now dead.