The MTV Video Music Awards have never really been about continuity. This is due mainly to the network's refusal to acknowledge its past, either because it can't (the whole "You guys don't play music videos anymore" thing) or it won't (since its core demo barely remembers the 1990s at this point). Regardless, long ago, a line was drawn in the sand, and it's left the channel's flagship awards show – the one with three decades of history – in the lurch.
Or so you'd think; the funny thing about the VMAs is that they're the rare awards telecast where the awards don't really matter all that much. Think back to last year's show: Chances are, you don't have the faintest idea what won Video of the Year (it was Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors," though I had to look it up) but you definitely remember every tongue waggle of Miley Cyrus' performance.
Instead, the VMAs have built a legacy around singular moments – Madonna's "Like a Virgin" performance, Pee Wee's "Heard any good jokes lately?" retort, the MJ/Lisa Marie Kiss, the Madonna/Britney (and Christina) Kiss, Kanye's "Imma Let You Finish," Beyoncé's baby bump, etc. – which is good for business, but bad for anyone in search of a back story. Sure, the show makes the occasional nod to the past (like the Video Vanguard Award or whatever they're calling it now), but overall, each VMA stands alone as a snapshot of a particular period in popular music.
Case in point: In 2006, at the tail end of the Emo era, Panic! at the Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" somehow won Video of the Year. Presumably, that made sense at the time.
So predicting who will walk away with a Moonman at one of these shows is tough. The winners aren't quite as important as the inevitable interruption of the acceptance speeches. So, in the lead-up to Sunday's VMAs, I'm attempting to split the difference, making a couple of picks in key categories, while, at the same time, trying to forecast some of the night's big moments. Here's what I've come up with…though, if I'm wrong, it's not like anyone will remember next year, right?
It's Gonna Be A Big Night For Iggy
With the success of "Fancy" – and her team up with Ariana Grande, "Problem" – Azalea's already a breakout year, and the Australian import looks to continue that trend at the VMAs. She's up for seven awards (second only to Beyoncé), and despite the show's tendency to spread things out, she could win a couple…though my money's on a Video of the Year triumph. Why? Well, her success certainly didn't happen overnight, and throughout her rise, she's established a pretty solid relationship with network. Let's put it this way; there was a time when she'd show up at anything involving MTV, and let's just say the network hasn't forgotten that.
But Beyoncé Won't Be Shut Out Either
She's got 8 nominations – not including Video Vanguard – so expect Bey to make a few trips to the podium throughout the show. Most likely? I'll go with "Partition" for Best Female Video, and, given all the speculation over the status of her marriage to Jay Z, a Best Collaboration win for "Drunk in Love." I'm willing to bet their joint acceptance speech would be the kind of thing that sets social networks ablaze. And, really, that's what this show is all about.
Other Winners (Presented By Taco Bell)
I'll take Pharrell's "Happy" in Best Male Video, Ariana Grande's "Problem" in Best Pop, Imagine Dragons' "Demons" in Best Rock, 5 Seconds to Summer in Artist to Watch category (brought to you by Taco Bell) and "Who gives a shit?" in Best Lyric Video.
Memorable Moments, Part One
Like everything, it starts with Beyoncé. Like last year's Video Vanguard recipient, Justin Timberlake, she'll be performing…and like JT, we should expect a medley of past and present hits. So you know what that means: Destiny's Child reunion, y'all.
Once the smoke clears (maybe Bey will actually open the show), I bet Nicki Minaj's performance will have people talking – have you seen the "Anaconda" video?!? – though it was just announced that she'll also join Jessie J and Ariana Grande for "Bang Bang," so hopefully Her Minajesty gets some solo time (of course she will). Oh, and how about Taylor Swift's first performance of "Shake It Off?" Which member of Odd Future will she offend this time?
Memorable Moments, Part Two
OK, after studying the lineup of performances, and taking into consideration the entirely unpredictable – drunken stage invasions, rambling speeches, accidental nudity – this show still feels light. So I'm thinking VMA producers have got something big up their sleeves. Secret performance, perhaps?
If they decided to go that route, we could see Kanye West take the stage. He has a history of premiering new music at the show – in 2008, he debuted "Love Lockdown" and in 2010 he unveiled "Runaway" – a solid relationship with its producers and, hey, he supposedly has a new album coming in September. This could be the launching pad for the follow-up to Yeezus. And, yes, I'd classify that as a memorable moment.