Recapping the VMAs 2020 (Updating Live)

It's VMAs time for another year. This one will definitely look different, though. There's no red carpet to build anticipation, there will probably be a lot of Zoom, and if there's an audience, it will be greatly reduced. One thing that does happen at most award shows is that the broadcast will be coming from three different main locations. The abnormal part is that they'll all be in different parts of NYC instead of around the country. You can tune in on the MTV website or app or the CW at 8pm EST/5pm PST.
There's also a pre-show on if you want even more than two hours of VMA content that starts at 6:30pm EST, which includes its own line up of interviews and performances.
Tonight will be hosted by Keke Palmer with a star-studded line up of guests and presenters along with musical performances from Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga, BTS, the Weekend, Miley Cyrus, Doja Cat, and more.
There are so many awards set to go out tonight. The VMAs is a weird award shows in the sense that it offers a mix of fan voted and professionally voted categories. The fan voting also varied quite a bit. There was a lot of daily voting on their website, and then there's song of the summer that was voted through Insta stories and recently added.
 The nominees are also super confusing. They range from "WAP" that came out basically last week to "all the good girls go to hell" that came out almost exactly a year ago along with Billie's newer video for "everything I wanted". The Grammy's has a super clear eligibility period. The VMAs policy is very confusing. I decided that to waste some time before the show starts, I would try to figure out how they make these nominations. There's not much out there on this, but I did find this 2015 Bustle article, "How Are The MTV VMA Nominations Chosen?". Chelsea Mize wrote a very entertaining article about how there is basically no information to be found on the internet anywhere... which neither of us thought was possible. How do we get the chosen few nominees?
We still have no clue. But Chelsea did dig into the fine print to confirm what I suspected all along about fan voting at the VMAs. They reserve the right to choose who wins the fan voted category for any reason from a cyber attack to them just not liking the results. And they don't have to tell you if they override the results. When I saw the nominees in the fan categories, it felt a little fishy, but those sweeping clauses in the fine print definitely lead me to believe that the VMAs can be swayed a lot in which people they nominate in the first place.
While I think tonight will come down to fandom wars (pitting Harries, Army, Blinks, Beliebers, the Little Monsters, Arianators, and Megan Thee Stallion fans who are apparently called Hotties against each other) in the fan categories, it seems like they leave lots of room to mastermind the games if they feel like it. This is why the VMAs are tuned into more for the fun, antics, and surprises more than who wins and who loses any one category (though I'm sure there will be plenty of Twitter arguments).

Keep watching this space and refreshing for moment by moment updates so we can enjoy the show together! Any guesses on surprise guests? Let me know in the comments! I would fall out of my chair if Taylor or Harry made even a virtual appearance.

4:30 pm: Starting it off with a bit of a fashion moment (I was scared we wouldn't get these tonight without the carpet), Ariana just posted a set of photos to her Instagram in a stunning outfit. It might be one of my favorite looks of hers yet!

Watching the preshow is so strange. No one is in masks, but they're all standing across the room from one another. It makes me a little worried with them all being inside, but it just feels weird to watch people stand so far away from one another in this context. I'm glad they're trying, though. 

5:02PM: Best Alternative- During the pre-show, MGK won for his song "Bloody Valentine". It was the first award given out tonight. As an interesting note for what's to come, he was told about it standing few feet from Travis Mills who is co-hosting the pre-show, and a guy right off camera wearing black rubber gloves handed it over. It's interesting at how hard they're fighting for the appearance of normalcy by keeping gloves/masked people off camera while still following safety guidelines. 
I'm also shocked by how many stars have flown to New York for the VMAs tonight. I assumed most people would appear virtually. Am I being wishful, or is there a chance Halsey road tripped across the country to appear tonight? She is nominated for Best Pop Video and in some professional categories.

5:20PM: Best Group- This went to BTS, which surprises no one. Army is a voting machine that is extremely hard to rival. It's hard to imagine BTS won't sweep every category they're nominated in.

5:37PM: Best K-Pop- This one goes to BTS as well. Congratulations!

The show is finally starting. If you want to talk about all things VMAs while the show is happening, find me on Twitter @mslaurenbrice where I'll be sharing updates to this post and all my thoughts while watching. Also, tweet me with your predictions!

The Weekend is tasked with opening the show. He's in his signature outfit for this era performing from a rooftop. Most of it is drone shot and there's an impressive light show happening. Placing performers in precarious locations definitely makes the lack of audience less strange. Ummmm, fireworks!!!! The Weekend isn't my favorite performer, but the fireworks have won my heart.

Keke is hosting from a different rooftop nearby. I'm actually really enjoying Keke's opening speech. She's managing to strike the right balance in her opening monologue. She's really engaging and is actually making me super excited for the night. I tend to not be a huge fan of hosts.

DaBaby is the first performer of the night. They have quite the elaborate set and crew of background dancers in white masks. They're doing some some coordinated passing of packages. I'm not super familiar with him, though I know he's been major in the charts recently. I'm surprised to see a number with so many background dancers involved due to COVID. It seems like his performance is centered around the major crises we've experienced in 2020. The first section seemed to be about a black market for masks from the PPE shortage. In this next section, he seems to be confronting police brutality. These sets are super intricate. The production value tonight has really been next level.

Best Collaboration- Noms- Black Eyed Peas and J Balvin's "RITMO (Bad Boys for Life)," Ed Sheeran and Khalid's "Beautiful People," Future and Drake's "Life Is Good" and Karol G and Nicki Minaj's "Tusa", Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga "Rain on Me", Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber "Stuck with U".
Winner- "Rain on Me"
This was probably the most epic video in this list. It certainly had the highest production value and the strongest fan army behind it!
Lady Gaga's acceptance outfit is beyond strange, even as far as Gaga's outfits go. I don't really understand what she's trying to be with this one. Maybe a butterfly? I'm always intrigued by her outfits, but this one feels like it's a fashion miss for me. 

Miley Cyrus- I've been in love with Miley since I was like 6 and Hannah Montana obsessed. I'm enjoying this performance of "Midnight Sky" a lot more than I enjoyed the original video. It's cool how the red and blue backgrounds seem to grow and shrink around her, and she's hitting a lot of artistic looking poses that work super well with the cinematography choices. These performances seem more thoughtfully produced than usual for the VMAs. I also love how empowered this song is, and how she sings about her pansexuality in it switching the love interest's genders in the verses. 
She ends it by swinging on a glittering disco ball in a nod to her iconic "Wrecking Ball" performance and the Bangerz era that lead to a major MTV moment. There were so many cool snapshots there.

Best Direction- "Don't Start Now" Dua Lipa, Harry Styles "Adore You", Billie Eilish "xanny", Doja Cat "Say So", Taylor Swift "The Man", The Weekend "Blinding Lights"
Winner- "The Man" 
Taylor sent a message! She directed the video herself, so I'm so happy she won this, and I'm so pleased that she's making all these strides in her career completely on her own. I also loved that she thanked Rebecca and Jill who she worked with in the past and gave her the confidence to direct it herself. 
I loved all those videos and would've been happy for any of them, but "The Man" was a truly stunning video and shed a light on so many experiences that don't get enough attention. It was such a brilliant video. I'm so happy for this one. 
This is also the first industry voted award which is interesting to see considering most of the VMAs is fan voted.

Best Latin Video- Winner- Maluma ft. J Balvin "Que Pena"
He just performed and then they got to present him with his award right away at a drive in in Brooklyn.

Song of the Year- Noms- Doja Cat "Say So", Rody Rich "The Box", Billie Eilish "Everything I Wanted", Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande "Rain On Me", Post Malone "Circles", "Savage"
Winner- Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande "Rain on Me"
I would've given it to Billie, but these are really based on who mobilized their fanbases, and I know the Little Monsters went hard here. I'm expecting them to sweep.
Gaga also pulled out a third outfit and mask combo. I like this green dress a lot better than the first acceptance dress.

BTS is performing from Korea. I'm super excited to see what they do since they're such good all around performers. I can't believe they can move like that. Like their dance moves seem to defy physics. I'm always impressed by BTS when I get to see them performed. They also move incredibly well as a group. They've been at it for basically a decade, and you can definitely tell. I don't honestly know a ton about them outside a bit of reading and their collaborations with Halsey, but I definitely respect what they're able to do. Kpop is pretty incredible.

Best Video From Home- Noms- "Stuck with U", Drake "Toosie Slide", "Happy Days" Blink 182, Five Seconds of Summer "Wildflower", Twenty-One Pilots "Level Of Concern", "Bigger Love" John Legend 
Winner- "Stuck with U" Ariana and Justin Bieber 
Again, I can't say I'm surprised. When you blend two massive fandoms for a voting category, you basically guarantee who will win. I was honestly surprised by who they chose to nominate in this category because we've gotten a ton of homemade videos recently, and none of these were major stand outs for me.

Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga Perform- They got quite the set as well. I was not expecting Gaga to poll dance into a room of naked mannequins. I'm not sure what song she's playing right now. I thought she was just playing "Rain on Me" with Ariana Grande. This performance, while impressive from an athletic standpoint, is making me realize that I probably wouldn't enjoy Chromatica even though I did enjoy "Sour Candy".
She's segued into "Rain on Me" and somehow into a brand new outfit in seconds.
Ariana looks so cute in her purple two piece set. I also love her really simple black mask. I really respect both of them for performing in masks. It's so important for everyone's safety and to normalize mask wearing further. Ariana's voice never fails to impress me.
How does Gaga pull off these 5.5 second changes. It really is fascinating. I'm not sure why her piano is shaped like a giant brain though. It's interesting that she's decided to turn her dance anthem "Stupid Love" into a really strange, strained piano ballad. I appreciate Gaga's artistry, especially on ArtPop, but I think she's become more like Katy Perry for me.

Best Pop- Noms- Rain On Me, You Should Be Sad, What A Man Gotta Do, Intentions, On, Lover
Winner- BTS 
Like I said, if BTS is nominated, not even the Swifties can overcome army's voting power. I guess the benefit of all industry voting is that there tends to be fewer sweeps of smaller categories. I honestly wish Halsey could've won this category because her video was stunning, and she only got a couple nominations. It was also my favorite video of the bunch. Halsey's had such an extraordinary year, it would've been great to commemorate. BTS deserved it, of course, but it was a close category all around.

Artist of the Year- Noms- Lady Gaga, Post Malone, DaBaby, The Weekend, Megan Thee Stallion, Justin Bieber, 
Winner- Lady Gaga
I'm not surprised. I'm a touch disappointment because, of the nominees, I really thought it was Megan Thee Stallion's year. She's had the biggest pop culture impact really out of nowhere.
This was one of the categories that I was frustrated with from the start. It's clear who the VMAs cares about and the random people who are nominated. While some of these are major chart toppers, a lot of people here didn't have the best year when it came to album and tour sales.
I was shocked to not see Halsey, Harry Styles, or Taylor Swift in this category because all three of them had massive years in terms of both album charting and tour sales.

Video for Good- Noms- "The Bigger Picture", "Lockdown", "all the good girls go to hell", "I Can't Breathe", "I Love Me", "The Man"
Winner- HER, "I Can't Breathe"
HER accepted through video message. It is cool that they were able to pull together songs about topics from sexism to police brutality to body image issues to climate change.

Doja Cat's stage looks like it could have come out of the Chromatica world from earlier. Her dancers are also in masks. It seems like there isn't an actual policy around who has to wear masks when during performances because it's varied so much across the night. I can't tell if this is supposed to be set under the sea or on a different planet based on what they're wearing. There are some dancers in the back who seem to be dressed as sea urchins, and Dojo's hair looks mermaid inspired. She's getting one of the longer sets to perform a mash up like Gaga did.

Lady Gaga wins the Tricon Award
This also makes it make more sense why Gaga has swept tonight because the whole VMAs is set to honor her. She has accomplished a great deal in her career, and I think she definitely deserves to be honored, I just don't think her most recent singles have been her strongest which is why I would've chosen other people through some of the other categories. In an outfit straight out of Game of Thrones, Gaga makes another speech for this award emphasizing that failure is part of the journey to the top. She also highlighted her charitable organizations and philanthropy. She asks everyone to think of three things that define who you are and reward yourself for your own bravery. She also focuses on telling everyone that they can achieve their dreams and that a renaissance is coming in response to this pandemic. I also love how she has emphasized mask wearing in every acceptance speech.

Best New Artist- Noms- Lewis Capaldi, YUNGBLUD, Doja Cat
Winner- Doja Cat
I honestly thought this was Yungblud's to win. He campaigned harder than anyone I've ever seen push for an award, and he has a small yet devoted fanbase. Also, he's really good friends with MGK, so I thought it was set up for him to win. I guess there's no beating the viral power of TikTok. This category was confusing to me all around because earlier nominees Finneas and Conan Gray were a lot higher profile than some of the final 3, but it's another reminder about how important it is to vote and how much the energy of the fanbase can shift things. There's a definite advantage to artists who push and make it clear to their fanbase that the win means a lot to them. I'm happy for Doja cause she's had a huge year, but I am sad for Yungblud. He wanted this so badly.

Then they unleashed a giant block of award winners in a row to get through them before the end of the show.
Visual Effects- Physical
Cinematography- Rain On Me
Best Rock- Orphans
Best Art Direction/Editing- Mother's Daughter
CNCO- Best Quarantine Performance

If I'm being totally honest, the results don't seem to match how hard I saw some fandoms go on Twitter and what has trended the most in the last couple days. Notably, Harries and 5SOS stans are super mad at the results. Both of those groups definitely know how to vote, but from reading the nominations a few weeks ago, it was pretty easy to see who was being set up to win, and the VMAs were decidedly not into Harry and Dua Lipa until they wanted their names to boost the show with a performance.
While it's sort of how awards shows go, the blanket sweeps make the shows made it super boring to watch because it gets repetitive.

Video of the Year- Noms- "Godzilla", "Rain on Me", "The Weekend", "everything I wanted", "The Man", "Life Is Good"
Winner: "Blinding Lights"
I'm sorry... "The Man" was one of the best videos of the year, and definitely the best in that line up. I'm surprised that the final award of the night didn't also go to "Rain on Me" because that's what I had my money on. I shouldn't be surprised, though, The Weekend has a history of thriving at the VMAs and was the featured opener of this year.

Overall, it was interesting to see how award shows can look in the face of COVID. Honestly, it wasn't all that different. The production value was so high that you didn't miss any of the audience parts. In a way, it was nice to just watch the performances without the cutaways to people in the crowd. It still felt like watching a normal show. I appreciated everyone who elected to wear masks during their performances. It seemed like MTV was really pushing for everything to look as normal as possible, but I applaud everyone who chose to keep theirs on even if they didn't have to. I thought Keke was a real bright spot of the night, and she was one of the best hosts I've seen in a long time.
None of the performances majorly stuck out to me tonight. I might have enjoyed Miley's best, but I always like watching her perform. I was also dazzled by the fireworks during the Weekend's set. Ariana was on point as always with her vocals, style, and dancing.
As far as awards went, it unfolded about as I anticipated. I've been sort of down about the VMAs since I saw how hard they snubbed Harry (he objectively had some of the most impactful videos of the year) and Halsey, and how each category was sort of a repeat of the last- bouncing between Beiber, Gaga, Ariana, and the Weekend. I didn't feel like their nominations really took into account the actual commercial impact and achievements (especially int he video space). It seemed like they just picked a couple artists to spotlight.
If I was to name a big winner of the night, it would definitely be Lady Gaga. The VMAs was crafted around her tonight. I'm happy for her, but I feel like the achievements start to dull when there are so many of them in a row. I promised myself I wouldn't get frustrated or sad by how the awards fell tonight. I am very proud of Taylor and her industry win for Best Director because "The Man" was such an incredible video, and I'm extra happy for all of Taylor's new achievements that she is in complete ownership with. It's such a powerful moment that Taylor won at the VMAs (sort of ground zero for people trying to reduce Taylor's achievements and take them away from her) for a video that says "Owned By Taylor Swift" at the end. That's the moment I'm clinging to from tonight.
Congratulations to all the winners and congrats to the VMAs for figuring out how to bring out a smooth, high quality award show as the first one of the COVID era. Hopefully, we won't have to see too many more under these constraints!

Past Award Show Coverage:

Recently in Music...