When MTV (Music Television) first aired in 1981, it seemed the best way to promote a new artist and band. It brought in a youthful demographic as the focus was on Pop Culture, the latest trends and most importantly, the programming mainly included music. People would watch these music videos throughout the day, and at the end of the year, they would record on their VHS tapes the top 100 best music videos of the year. MTV at that time seemed inventive as they added their own award ceremony and on September 14, 1984, MTV’s Video Music Awards was born. Initially, this was a legacy for the youthful demographics where they had a chance to pick and choose the winners, and it was at that time considered a younger Grammy award ceremony. The first one had Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler hosting where Madonna shocked the audience with her “Like a Virgin” performance.
Now over thirty years later, it is no secret that MTV has stopped airing music for quite some time now when it canceled Total Request Live back in 2008. That show alone featured the most popular music videos of the week, and well, it has been gone for over eight years. Since then, MTV has focused more on shows geared towards Reality Television that is super cheap to produce yet includes current cultural trends and generalised simplistic entertainment value with shows such as “Catfish,” “Ridiculousness,” “Teen Mom,” and “Braless.” Based off of the titles alone, they are quite ridiculous and of course does not showcase music. Despite MTV killing music on their originally intended broadcast subject, they continue to air the Video Music Awards. Notwithstanding this show being relevant back in the eighties and nineties, their direction has changed, the ratings have dropped and here are fifteen reasons why the MTV VMAs have failed.
15. Lip Syncing
What sparked the theory that many artists lip-sync during their performances at the VMAs must have been from Britney Spears “Gimme More” performance in 2007. Of course, this year was when she had a mental breakdown, shaved her head and appeared “out of shape.” In other words, the year Spears showed that she’s a human being just like the rest of us. Her performance was hard to watch, as we were witnessing someone being forced out of her own will to sing when she was obviously going through some personal hardships. If you watch carefully, it will sound exactly like a pre-recorded track and her lips looked off as she looked mellow and not mentally there.
Since then there have been speculations of many lip-sync performances that include 2015’s Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj duet. The two were there to make peace from their Twitter beef and sang their hits with songs that included “The Night is Still Young” and “Bad Blood.” As the two women in red were singing and dancing, there was something off about their performance as though the lips did not match up correctly with the tunes. It is an observation but, there have been more and more of these over the years.
14. The Youthful Targets
What message is MTV’s VMAs exactly trying to showcase aside from overly dramatic acts, luscious booties rolling across the stage, and grandiose disasters?
Miley Cyrus sparked another rampage once again, this time with the Parents’ Television Council that reacted from her stunts at the 2015’s VMAs. The PTC President Tim Winter released a statement which emphasised the shows entertainment value as fundamentally toxic for the children. Theoretically as mentioned, the VMAs is supposed to be a break from the Grammy’s as it is implied for the younger audiences yet it supposedly inspires the youth to celebrate illegal drugs and sexual antics. As the PTC release stated, “MTV and Cyrus could both be forces for something positive, but tonight’s VMA partners relied on exposing millions of children to graphic, inappropriate and far-too-frequently offensive content.”
13. The Staged Outrageous Moments
It seems as though MTV is running out of ideas to keep the VMAs entertaining as possible where the outrageous, dramatic moments people see on stage are allegedly an act. For example, most recently in 2015 the live feud between (to no surprise) Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj. Since the Award ceremony is anything but the actual awards, there needed to be some sort of entertaining spice. Before the 2015 VMAs, Cyrus spoke about the Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj Twitter battle stating how Minaj handled the argument poorly. Ironically enough, a few days later at the VMAs during Minaj’s acceptance speech for her award for her video “Anaconda,” she pointed directly at Cyrus stating, “this b**h had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?” Seconds after this confrontation, MTV posted this “OMG moment” on Instagram, and possibly it was a few seconds too soon making one only assume this was staged, scripted, and planned.
12. The Hosts
The hosts have gotten dramatically worse where it was clearly shown in 2015’s VMAs that had the Twerking Queen herself Miley Cyrus as the host. It was shocking enough seeing her hideous twerking with Robin Thicke stunt at the 2013 VMAs where she practically broke the internet with gifs and jokes galore. Two years later it seemed that MTV thought it was controversial enough to bring her back for round two as an embarrassingly failed host. It is safe to say; she was her own Wrecking Ball as her comedic efforts fell flat and her skits made the Awards Ceremony painful to watch.
Additionally, the MTV VMAs have been completely inconsistent with the hosts all together. They would last a few years straight without one and all of a sudden a host would appear the following year. It makes no sense, and it can only reveal that MTV apparently does not know what they are doing anymore, or perhaps stopped caring altogether. Adding to the ridiculousness, the 2016 VMAs had a “in lieu of a traditional host,” Key and Peele, DJ Khaled, Jay Pharoah, and Nicole Byer. Yeah, that makes perfect sense!
11. More Of A Popularity Contest
Sadly, MTV’s VMAs is a popularity contest where whoever has the most Twitter feuds, buzz, or followers, will most likely receive the win or at least a nomination.
Not only that, over the years the nominees have become more and more predictable to the point that it is a bit scary on how easy it is to guess who will take home the award. It is a never-ending popularity contest which is why musical genres such as Pop, R&B, Pop Rock, Hip Hop and particular Indie artists are the latest trends. The video and songs itself are not determined based on creativity, originality, but rather categorized depending on the number of excessive plays and favorable feeds. It is no secret that the VMAs have always been a popularity contest. However, it is its essential flaw, and it will not disappear anytime soon.
10. The Overly Dramatic Feuds
The VMAs are all about the drama, the arguments, and absurdities where the awards are most likely secondary. The feuds have been escalating over the years, including 2009’s Kanye West outburst. It was during Swift’s acceptance speech for the Best Female Video category for “You Belong To Me.” West grabbed Swift’s microphone to emphasize in complete public embarrassment how Beyoncé deserved the award for her song (which was also nominated) “Single Ladies.” Additionally, back in 1995, there was that instance when Madonna was being interviewed, where Courtney Love appeared out of nowhere and was throwing items at her.
9. Lacking Music Diversity
The diversity in music and range in artists have been getting smaller and smaller over the years where you would end up seeing five artists receiving a nomination for most to all of the categories. It is evident that there barely is Rock and Metal in these awards when people like Beyoncé are nominated for 11 awards like at the 2016 VMA awards. The diversity seems to appear in the alleged Professional, Rock, and Electronic categories. However, the best video of the year will remain with the Pop and Hip Hop artists for the years to come.
8. More Of A Fashion Statement
The VMAs have always brought in an eccentric group of artists where they have a freer range to express themselves in their own personal fashion. Compared to major awards such as the Grammys, Emmys, and Oscars, the VMAs have tended to shock, embarrass, and entertain the viewers by the fashion statements alone. Again, this makes it less about the awards and more of one of the most ridiculous fashion shows one would ever witness. There are points when you want to ask the artist, what were they thinking? This includes Sofia Coppola’s see-through nightgown in 1995, Rose McGowan showing up practically naked in 1998, Lil’ Kim’s painted boob incident in 1999, and worst of all Lady Gaga’s full-fledged meat attire in 2010.
7. The Categories
It is as though the MTV VMAs have no idea what they are doing anymore. Naturally, since there’s no more music on the network itself, who can expect one to understand how to arrange categories correctly let alone select a fair amount of nominees. Obviously, the three top groups have been Best Video, Best Female Video, and Best Male Video. Now the Best Collaboration video category; does this one even make any sense? This could be considered in a Pop or Best Video category in and of itself, yet apparently, it is relevant. As the list continues, a new category has been added which is the Breakthrough Long Form Video. Come again? It is entirely absurd as it continues to include the leading contenders such as Beyoncé and Justin Bieber.
6. It’s All About S. E. X.
There is no denying that sex sells. However, it is time to be a bit serious here; isn’t this an award ceremony? Aside from showing up to the VMAs practically naked, or in some hideous outfit, including Miley Cyrus’ barely-there jumpsuit at the 2015 awards, there have been ongoing “sexploitation” activities. As obvious as it is, these actions have been staged and planned to gain a boost in ratings.
The VMAs began in 1984 with Madonna and well it’s been all about sex ever since her initial “Like a Virgin” performance. Flashing forward to 2003, Madonna returned and decided to shock and astound the audience when she volunteered to make out with not one, but two female artists: Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
5. Performances Are Forgotten
Between the endless fashion malfunctions, the arguments, drama, makeups and the typical soap opera play by play, who even remembers the performances? Perhaps there is a bit too much going on at once that the actual music performance is forgotten.
For instance Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj’s duet at the 2015’s VMAs. It was evident that this wasn’t about the performance itself, it was more about their Twitter feud that previously occurred as it was a way to show to the world that they worked out their differences. Britney Spears performance in 2007 was about her coming out of her depressive shell to say that she was doing just fine. However, it was clearly not the case. Miley Cyrus performance in 2013 which had absolutely nothing to do with her musical talents and more geared towards her twerkable skillset. No one should forget the obtuse tear jerking moment at the 2014 VMAs when Beyoncé and Jay-Z proved that their marriage wasn’t falling apart as they made an over the top performance that included bringing their daughter to the stage. Again, the music wasn’t there; it was more about the drama.
4. Where Is The Music?
Exactly, where is it and will it ever return? The 1997 VMAs had one of the most compelling moments. It was when artists came together like Sting, Sean “Puffy” Combs (known as Puff Daddy at that time), Faith Evans and 112. Each one of them united together to honour and remember the late rap artist the Notorious B.I.G. Sadly, it has to take a death of an influential musician to remember the power music can bring.
2016’s VMAs paid tribute to quite a few artists that recently died, including Prince and David Bowie. However, if it focused on the music itself and united artists each year the VMAs could have grown into a more respected music award outlet. Instead, it concentrates on the trash, outbursts, and predictions.
3. The Crumbling Ratings
The ratings have been dropping dramatically more and more each year. The 2015 awards that had Miley Cyrus as a host had one of the biggest disappointing drop in ratings, dropping 3 million viewers from the 2014 ceremony. Each year the VMAs continue to lose their audience, as they continue to be uninspiring, non-engaging and repetitive. It is a circus for pop artists, and people are getting tired of it where they do not care to turn it on. In fact, it is more entertaining to see what happened in a three-second gif than the full out program.
Despite the drop in ratings, MTV formulated a new strategy that included an encore presentation of the awards, and airing it on not one but ten networks under the Viacom chain such as MTV, MTV2, VH1, VH1 Classic, CMT, Logo, BET, Centric, Comedy Central, and TV Land. They seem to be getting a bit too desperate to make sure the VMAs are being watched, however, is the content even watchable anymore?
2. Has Become A Joke To The Music Industry
The audience, who supposedly respect and admire these artists, witness more of a class clown act than a top-notch moving performance. Whether it makes the listener want to dance, cry, smile, headbang, or twerk themselves, all it has been doing is creating an instant Twitter reaction filled with “I can’t believe that just happened, she said what?!” moments. Is there even a standard or strategy anymore or is it whoever acts the most outrageous fans will end up buying their music? Who knows, but one thing is certain, it has become rather tasteless.
MTV is no longer about the music, where most to all of their programming does not include it unless a major artist dies and they pay tribute. However, it has long since died and the focus is geared towards cheaply-produced Reality TV.
It is hard to believe that the VMAs continue to air after all of these years on a network that no longer caters to music as much as they used to. With this aspect, it is no surprise that the VMAs is more about outrageous entertainment value than the music and awards itself. MTV has lost its direction and significance since it deducted music out of Music Television. As a network, it would make more sense to have an award ceremony based off of their Reality TV programming. It would be filled with the dramatics and outrageous moments it is known to love instead of using that subject towards music where the music ends up being disrespected.