The MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) had a tough road ahead of them going into this year’s show. First, they selected Katy Perry to host, because apparently producers forgot to ask a single person their opinion of Katy Perry this past year. Then, the show was slated to air at the same time as the season seven finale of “Games of Thrones” (2011-present). It almost seemed like they didn’t want people to tune in. Maybe that would’ve been for the best. But alas, the show went on, and therefore so must the recap.
The show got off to a fiery start, literally and figuratively, with Kendrick Lamar performing a medley of his top hits this year, “DNA.” and “HUMBLE.” Lamar was the most-nominated artist with eight nominations and six wins, including the top prize “Video of the Year” for “HUMBLE.”
After Lamar’s intense performance that included a man running around the stage engulfed in flames, Ed Sheeran’s performance of “Shape of You” felt a little lackluster. Things did pick up a bit when Lil Uzi Vert joined him on stage for the second half of the performance.
It was at this point that the Katy Perry cringefest began. After an unfunny sketch about Perry traveling to Mars, she delivered an even less funny opening monologue. Her attempt at political humor fell flat, and her joke about “The Handmaid’s Tale” was particularly tone-deaf. Her comedic stylings throughout the night did not improve, but on the bright side, her makeup looked decent.
Finally, it was time for the moment that everyone was waiting for. If you haven’t already seen and completely overanalyzed Taylor Swift’s music video for “Look What You Made Me Do,” chances are you have no intention of ever doing so, so it’s probably not worth any feeble attempt to unpack everything that happened in the video. The biggest takeaway is that Swift is one shrewd businesswoman, and this video certainly got her back into the narrative.
Shawn Mendes performed song of the summer nominee “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” followed by Lorde, who performed an interpretative dance to this year’s “Homemade Dynamite” instead of singing. Later she revealed that she came down with the flu, and presumably had no voice, but it was frustrating to see Lorde get so much time to simply dance while Julia Michaels got cut off for commercial shortly into an impressive performance of her 2017 hit, “Issues.”
Other notable performances of the night came from Miley Cyrus, Fifth Harmony and DNCE, if only because Joe Jonas was sporting a shockingly upsetting mustache.
Pink was this year’s recipient of the “Video Vanguard Award,” and after giving a powerhouse performance of some of her greatest hits, she gave a touching speech about her daughter and the importance of positive body image.
There were a number of other moving moments throughout the night. Alessia Cara also touted the importance of body image in her performance of “Scars to Your Beautiful” where she stripped out of her makeup and gown. Cara also joined Logic and Khalid for a powerful performance of their anti-suicide anthem “1-800-273-8255.” Near the end of the night, Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed while counter-protesting at the white supremacy-driven “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., came out to present the newest award, “Best Fight Against the System” (for which they ended up honoring all the nominees) and to introduce the Heather Heyer Foundation.
Before Lamar took home the award for “Video of the Year,” Swift and Zayn Malik, Fifth Harmony, and Cara and Zedd all took home their own “Moon Person” statues, a name that changed from “Moonman” this year.
Although the latter half of the program took a turn for the better with moving performances and speeches, all of that went out the window with Perry’s closing performance of “Swish Swish.” Perry, not known for her subtlety, flew around on a harness in a basketball-emblazoned dress, in front of a backdrop of a giant basketball, surrounded by basketball balloons falling from the ceiling. It was unpleasant.
Moral of the story: Katy Perry tried to take the VMAs crown, but that will always belong to Swift, whether she’s physically there or not. Sorry Perry, but pretty sure your tenure as VMAs host is as dead as the old Taylor.