How President Kanye Saved the Video Music Awards: MTV, What's Good? - Rolling Stone
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How President Kanye Saved the Video Music Awards: MTV, What’s Good?

Our future Commander-in-Cheezus props up a diva-heavy, Bieber-weeping VMAs ceremony

Kanye WestKanye West

Kanye West accepts the Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California on August 30th, 2015.

Larry Busacca/Getty

Kanye West

Hail to the chief — our future President Kanye West stole the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, announcing his beautiful dark twisted candidacy for Commander-in-Cheezus. “Yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided to run for President in 2020,” he said, after a brilliantly rambling 10-minute-plus speech that had more music in it than any of the night’s performances. Kanye’s stoned Video Vanguard soliloquy (“we the Millennials, bro!”) was this year’s VMA highlight, as everybody knew it would be. The whole point of the bash every year is to show off the dizzy pageant of pop ridiculousness — and tonight, there was no way Kanye wouldn’t out-ridiculous everybody else in the room. America, what’s good? Let’s have a vote for the douchebags!

The Electoral College Dropout brought some badly needed insanity to the VMAs, because sad to say, host Miley Cyrus was off her game crazy-wise, despite all her excellent Cher outfits. The big loser of the night was probably your local weed dealer, since Miley’s cutesy one-toke-over-the-line humor was enough to make Cheech and Chong go straight-edge. Her funniest moment came when she gave a simple shout-out to her dad in the audience: Billy Ray Cyrus, one of the show’s few reminders that the Nineties ever happened. Listen to the kids, bro! 

The festivities kicked off with Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj, in a duet that surprised everybody who’d never seen an awards show before. The big Taylor/Nicki snuggle-and-make-up moment was a foregone conclusion ever since Minaj’s July Twitter rant about her hurt feelings at not getting more VMA nominations. So it was a shrewd move for MTV to get it over with fast, instead of stretching it out into a big faux-surprise finale. The only disappointment was that Madonna didn’t show up to make out with them to “Like a Virgin.”

Nicki had bad blood in her eyes for Miley. After thanking her pastor (but of course), Nicki cut a wrestling promo: “And now back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me in the press. Miley, what’s good?” Miley reacted the lamest way possible — claiming she didn’t really say what she said. The whiff of violence hasn’t been so thick at the VMAs since Tommy Lee and Kid Rock put the smack down at the 2007 ceremony in Vegas. (Or since Eminem tried to beat up Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in 2002.)

Taylor debuted her “Wildest Dreams” video, going brunette for a swank Forties-vamp look that evoked Ava Gardner circa The Killers, or at least Sherilyn Fenn circa Desire and Hell at Sunset Motel. (The video is basically Britney’s “Lucky” except with giraffes — brilliant!) Taylor lounged in the front row with her usual armful of glam girlfriends. When she won Video of the Year for “Bad Blood” (not “Blank Space” — what’s up with that?), she brought the whole Tay-tourage onstage, saying, “I’m just happy that in 2015, we live in a world where boys can play princesses and girls can play soldiers.”

Demi Lovato did a “Cool for the Summer” twerk-fest that was essentially “Katy Perry, what’s good?” Plus a sad Iggy Azalea cameo — Demi actually had to remind the crowd what Iggy’s name was. It already seems strange to remember Iggy happened — where have all the Azalias gone? The Weeknd did “Can’t Feel My Face,” introduced by a distinctly non-face-feeling Jared Leto, slicked up in white hair and shades like Lou Reed in the Sally Can’t Dance days. Macklemore brought out old-school rap gods Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz. (And the dude from Foxy Shazam, who looked like Dave Grohl after accidentally ingesting some of Miley’s stash.)

Needless to say, there weren’t any rock bands. The only guitar sighting: somebody named “Tori Kelly,” who tried to bring back the fond memories your mom doesn’t have of Melissa Etheridge. A$AP Rocky imagined his dragons with Twenty One Pilots, who crashed at least 17 musical planes into stone temples. Snoop Dogg got stuck in a miserably unfunny weed skit with Miley, although at least this year he didn’t call Gwen Stefani “the true queen of L.A. punk rock.”

A welcome surprise: Britney Herself showed up, dusted with gold sequins from her eyelids to her stilettos. Our girl hasn’t had such a big VMA moment in years — not since her own Video Vanguard award in 2010, which got tragically sabotaged by Beyoncé throwing herself a baby shower. Now more than ever, it’s Britney, bitch!

Pharrell had the unenviable task of following Kanye with a dippy song about freedom that goes “Your first name is free, your last name is dumb” — Julia Louis-Dreyfus already did that one on Veep. John Legend tried to keep a straight face while comparing Pharrell to Nina Simone and Bob Dylan, but some things not even John Legend can suave his way through. Speaking of Things That Are Important and Inspirational in #thesetroubledtimes, MTV now gives an award for Best Video with a Social Message. It went to noted philosopher Big Sean, though he really should have won that shit for “I Don’t Fuck With You.” Bieber wept. 

Justin Bieber

The red-carpet show was a hilarious disaster starring Kelly Osbourne, who kept looking at the camera with sad eyes that said, “Look, I don’t get it either. Why am I on TV? What do I have to do to convince people I suck at this? Yeah, I already tried talking about Mexicans cleaning toilets — even that didn’t work.” It was pretty funny when Miguel mused, “Tonight is really about the music — it’s something I always tune in to MTV for.” You tuned in lately, Miguel? Poor Nick Jonas had to do his new hit (a synth-pop rip of Alanis’ “You Oughta Know”) as a dirty-dancing duet with Kelly Osbourne, who proved there are things she’s worse at than talking.

MTV demonstrated its love and support for music by hyping the VMAs all weekend. Well, not exactly — MTV spent the weekend showing reruns of The New Girl, along with a Catfish marathon and flicks like Little Nicky and Friday After Next. That’s right — not just any Friday movie, a Friday Christmas movie, in August, just to prove MTV will play literally anything except music. 

Maybe Kanye can do something about that when he’s President. Because he lived up to his big moment, after a gracious tribute from Taylor. (So can this please be the last time we have to hear about what a dick he was at the 2009 VMAs? It’s not one of the 500 most interesting things about him.) At first, Kanye just stood there silently — which would have been cool enough if he’d left it at that — until he started to go off about the kids, because Yeezy is for the children, though sounding more Gen X than millennial. “It’s not about me,” he proclaimed. “It’s about ideas, new ideas, people with ideas, people who believe in truth.” When Kanye becomes President, he will make sure grocery stores have fresh juice. He will protect kids from brands. And most importantly, he will guarantee nobody ever makes Justin Timberlake cry again. (“Justin, I ain’t trying to put you on blast, but I saw the man in tears, bro!” Cry me a river.) Kanye 2020? Uh huh, honey.


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