VMA Highlights: Nicki Malfunctions, Miley Goes Mute, Sam Smith Mesmerizes, Beyoncé Endlessly Medley-izes
There was something symbolic about Nicki Minaj's wardrobe malfunction during the opening number of the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. As she clutched the pieces of her dress together, viewers thought they might be about to see something a lot more interesting or provocative than they ever ultimately got.
The two-hour-plus telecast was most notable for what we didn't see: The six-foot snake that got banished after biting one of Minaj's dancers during rehearsals. Last year's pariah/heroine, Miley Cyrus, singing or saying a word. And anything remotely resembling rock 'n' roll. Where's a foam finger or guitar when you need one?
Here are 10 moments from the show that had us wanting to either "Shake It Off" or just sleep it off:
Beyoncé's telethon. Her nine-month-old, self-titled album currently sits at No. 88 on the charts, so you wouldn't say it's dominating the cultural conversation at this late date. Nonetheless, Beyoncé chose to close the show with a medley of all 14 songs from the album, mystifying the 99-percent-plus of Americans who aren't intimately familiar with it. Feminist messages flashed on the screens behind her, immediately preceded by dancers doing the usual pole-grinding, making the epic performance seem part infomercial, part empowerment seminar, part Skinemax movie. All this, and Blue Ivy, too!
Sam Smith's Adele moment. Remember how Adele transfixed everyone at the 2011 VMAs with the simplest possible reading of "Someone Like You"? Smith may not quite have her star power, but he came awfully close to recreating that excitingly stripped-down dynamic by singing "Stay With Me," accompanied only by a keyboard player, and knocking it out of the Forum. If that wasn't a jaw-dropping moment, there were certainly some chins on the floor later in the show when Smith was beat out in the Artist to Watch category… no, not by the currently rising Charli XCX, which would be understandable, but… Fifth Harmony? Was he being punk'd?
Miley Cyrus's Marlon Brando moment. In an echo of Brando sending a Native American to accept his Oscar at the 1973 Academy Awards, Cyrus had a (formerly?) homeless young man accept her trophy for "Wrecking Ball." He nervously read from notes and urged viewers to go to her Facebook page for information on how to donate to a shelter for homeless youth in Hollywood. The sight of Cyrus looking on tearfully from her seat couldn't help but seem just a wee bit self-aggrandizing to some cynics, but at least she was using the moment to point her figurative foam finger in a useful direction.