The MTV Video Music Awards have long been the place where controversial performances, celebrity crossover drama, and general messiness come together for one glorious, gawk-inducing night. However, for a show that has propelled everyone from Kanye West to Miley Cyrus into pop culture infamy, this year's ceremony was undeniably disappointing, and felt less like a celebration of the truly cool and cutting-edge cultural innovators and more like an anthropological study in which adults tried to cobble together a show about the things they think kids want.
Viral one-hit wonders and C-listers with little cultural sticking power? A reliance on stirring up pointless fandom drama? A lackluster performance by a boy band two decades past their prime, because "kids love '90s nostalgia"? It's the 2018 VMAs.
Not only were we missing the expected pantheon of chart-topping divas (Beyoncé, Gaga, Rihanna, wya?), but the talent that was present was done so dirty, it was painful to watch potentially show-saving performances by the likes of Hayley Kiyoko and Panic! at the Disco. Why? Well, the sound quality was terrible; this appears to be a major issue with many broadcasted live performances at Radio City Music Hall, but MTV should have known better. You know we've hit rock bottom when a major music-centric awards show prioritizes half-baked gags and throwing water on Shawn Mendes over decent sound transmission.
And perhaps it's because the show itself was likely put together by a writers' room so out of touch that the best they could come up with was a series of face tattoo jokes. It was apparent that there was a desire to pander to an audience that the industry itself is still struggling to understand. But if anything, their efforts at tackling relevant discourse, streaming culture, and viral trends (all in the same breath, no less) came off as corny and, ultimately, quite condescending.
As a result, you got a messy show probably best encapsulated by DJ Khaled boorishly yelling over Jennifer Lopez's show-stopping medley performance and Madonna using her Aretha Franklin "tribute" to talk about... herself. But hey, there's always next year? Maybe we'll get avant-garde Gaga back by then.