Five Things We Learned From The 2015 MTV VMAs


The MTV VMAs have come and gone.

Did you notice?

Well, if you’re like everyone else you learned two things – Kanye is running for president in 2020 (bro), and Miley Cyrus wore a whole bunch of ‘scandalous’ outfits.

That’s it, seriously.

Having work professionally in public opinion for a hot minute (roughly a year and a half), I’ve learned to read some of the social media tea leaves. I have roughly over 1,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook and I tend to use that as a sample, a swath of what the American public is considering ‘hot’ at the moment. For example, I remember when “Jerzday” was a phrase that clogged my social media timeline. What’s Jerzday? How soon we forget! That was the nickname for the Thursday night airing of MTV’s Jersey Shore. Once that word started popping up less frequently, I knew the series was done.

The same can be said about The VMAs. For years on the late August Sunday night, my Facebook would be jammed up with running commentary. Instead, it was a handful of people making comments. There was nothing about award winners or performances. There were a few memes about Kim Kardashian’s outfit coupled with #Kanye2020 and comments about Miley’s hosting (mostly her outfits).

That’s what the VMAs are now, folks. It’s no longer the hot button cultural touchstone anymore – it’s boiled down to the tripe that fills up Twitter and Instagram. Moments forgotten as soon as they scroll past your eyes.

I’ve covered the show for the past few years on Pop-Break and last year I penned an angry, ‘Get off My Lawn!’ piece about how MTV couldn’t care less about music fans, and how the show is more about social media mentions than anything else. That’s why I can’t even review this entire ‘show.’ It’s not even a show, it’s just a series of Instagram vids and Tweets fleshed out into a moving train wreck. But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything out of this ‘presentation.’

So here’s the Five Things I Learned From the 2015 MTV VMAs

1. Miley Cyrus’ Persona is a One-Trick Pony Best Served in Small Doses

Miley Cyrus is an outlandish singer who is obsessed with smoking weed, wearing revealing outfits, and being ‘crazy.’ All three of these qualities we on relentless display last night. The entire concept of Miley Cyrus as the host of the show was a stunt for MTV to create ‘controversy.’ Sure, they’ll be listicles (like this) that’ll show her ‘craziest’ or ‘sexiest’ outfits. But that’s all you got from her hosting gig. The jokes were all flat. The outfits, for as crazy as they were, were all expected. You knew they’d bare a ton of skin, or just be weird for weird’s sake. Last year, MTV tapped SNL’s Jay Pharaoh to be the host. He was horrible. However, he was only given to us in very, very small doses. Thus his potentially damaging impact was negligible on the overall show. Had Miley been presented in limited doses, it would’ve worked so much better. There would’ve been more of a wow factor with the outfits. Simply put, Miley’s hosting gig was like being force fed birthday cake. Sure, it’s great if you have a slice or two, put to be forced to eat a whole cake while also trying to eat your main course (which in this case was the VMAs themselves).

2. The Weeknd is The Truth

The only thing that was both enjoyable, and impressive about the entire 2015 MTV VMAs was the performance by The Weeknd. It was a visually stunning performance, but outside of the lights and fire, it was a simple performance. It was The Weeknd singing his song, ‘Can’t Feel My Face.’ From what I could tell he was singing the song live, and his voice is a revelation. It’s this beautiful, soulful voice that pierced its way through the lights, the beats, and the overproduction of the entire show. This was the first time I had ever listened to one of his songs from start to finish, and I’m hooked. I need to listen to his new record…hell, I want to listen to his entire catalog. It has been such a long time since a performance has struck me this hard.

3. This Show Was All About Taylor Swift

T-Swizzle. Tay Tay. T-Swift. Swifty. Whatever you want to call her, she was the undeniable star of last night (until Kanye’s speech). No matter who performed onstage, MTV would frantically cut to Taylor dancing and singing along to the song multiple times. It was as if whomever was directing the show would desperately be screaming to the cameramen, ‘Cut to Taylor! We need a shot of Taylor!’ And who can blame them? While I might not be in the Swift Army, there’s no denying Taylor Swift is a true star amongst a crowd of forgettable ‘pop’ stars and personalities. She creates catchy songs that have teeth to them, she has a striking quality to her beauty, and she has an infectious personality. She’s the type of person who can carry a show like this.

4. We Stayed Up For Kayne, Bro

A few years ago, the VMAs were obsessed with creating ‘moments.’ They wanted to create those iconic pop culture moments that the show became known for inspiring. Last night, Kanye West created that moment. Frankly, it’s the only reason anyone is caring about this show today. In fact, he was the only reason I tuned into the rerun, and the only reason I stayed up till 1am to watch the show. Kanye, love him or loathe him, is a pop culture lightning rod. He’s one of the few modern musicians that can actually demand and command your attention.

5. Kanye for President 2020…This Reminded Me of Pro Wrestling

Kanye West’s speech at The 2015 MTV VMAs is pretty interesting because it was the most pro wrestling thing I’ve ever seen on MTV. In many ways this was a ‘shoot’ by Kanye. He was ‘going off script’ and telling the truth. He went into business for himself – crapping on MTV’s exploitation of his incident with Taylor Swift, justifying his persona, and then announcing his candidacy for president in 2020. If this was all true, then this was an amazingly honest, soul-bearing, and moving speech. It would be probably one of the most honest, and pure moments MTV has had on its airways in eons. He was highly emotional, and you felt it. He really hit home.

However, the cynic in me, and the longtime pro wrestling fan in me has some issues with it. Look at the venue/platform he used to bare his soul – the utterly shallow, often-orchestrated, overly-produced MTV VMAs. This isn’t the Grammys, Oscars, a charity show, a concert, or anything that holds some sort of weight. This was about as powderpuff as you possibly can get. And as a pro wrestling fan, this felt a LOT like a ‘worked shoot.’ The type of speech or ‘promo’ where a wrestler is allowed to go off script and speak the truth, all with the blessing and censorship (and sometimes scripting) of the powers to be. Also, look at Kanye’s body language, and what he was saying. It felt a little too much like a performance piece. All the head grabbing, the pauses, the ‘bros’ — all a little too performance for me. Also, his entire ‘burial’ of MTV about their exploitation of his incident with Taylor Swift didn’t have the impact it was intended to, mainly because a lot of people believe MTV scripted a lot of this.

So which do I believe? It’s hard to say. I would love it if Kanye was 1000% genuine with his words, and sentiments. Will he actually run for office? Who knows. That could’ve been the heat of the moments. However, it’s just hard to believe someone known for outlandish performance giving such a ‘shoot’ style speech in arena known to be as scripted as the WWE.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.