The MTV Video Music Awards this year were underwhelming at best. Despite the incredible, star- studded lineup – performances from Beyonce, Britney Spears and Rihanna – the night seemed understated and disappointingly controversy-free. For a show typically known for its iconic, tweetable moments, this year’s edition was extremely lacking. Still, there was much to celebrate.
First, Rihanna delivered a number of medley performances featuring a wide array of her more popular songs. She received the Video Vanguard Award, “the event’s biggest honor acknowledging the breadth of an artist’s visual accomplishments,” according to RollingStone. In one of the bigger moments of the night, Drake presented Rihanna with the award.
“Captivating from day one, the iconic being that is Rihanna was already at a place where most artists only dream of going,” he said in his speech. “For them, that’s often the peak, but for her, that was the starting point, and she has kept ascending to an untouchable level ever since. When it comes to music, she relentlessly takes over the charts with every release. When it comes to performance, they swarm in masses just to be in her presence.”
But it was the endearing and somewhat desperate manner in which Drake presented the award that had many on social media reeling.
“She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old,” he said, causing some to speculate whether a proposal was imminent.
Rihanna had many to thank in her acceptance speech.
“My success is not my own,” she said. “It’s my family’s. It’s my fans’. It’s my country’s. It’s the Caribbean as a whole. It’s women. It’s black women.”
Black and female solidarity was also a topic of discussion in perhaps the most important and certainly the most tweeted part of the event: a 16-minute show from Beyonce, whose incredibly socially-conscious album “Lemonade” produced a number of thought-provoking, vivid performances resplendent with emotion and empowerment. She even swung a baseball bat at the camera, surrounded by flanks of women throughout every performance and ending in a formation that resemebled the female gender symbol.
Other standout moments featured surprising (at least to me) visits from America’s decorated Olympians. Four of the Final Five – Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian – presented the Moonman for Best Collaboration to Fifth Harmony. Gabby Douglas was absent due to illness. Micheal Phelps also took the stage in order to introduce Future and reveal that the artist’s track “Stick Talk” was the reason for his now famous stink-face freeze- frame.
“If there’s been one thing that’s been constant through my entire career, it’s the motivation and inspiration that I get from hip- hop,” Phelps said. “Remember in Rio when I made that face that ended up all over the internet? I was in the zone, with Future’s track ‘Stick Talk’ blaring in my headphones.”
The only moment that might have held potential for controversy was Kanye West’s reference to Kim Kardashian’s feud with Taylor Swift. However, the moment was so brief and hurried over that it might as well have not happened at all.
Notably absent during the night were tributes to Prince and David Bowie, who both passed away in 2016.