The MTV Video Music Awards actually felt a little bit faster-paced this year, you know, in comparison to the slow-burning awkwardness of last year. To mark the occasion of Rihanna receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, the show opened with the bad girl of hip hop’s pink-outfitted wet dream of a medley that consisted of her openly lip syncing “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Only Girl,” “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been.” This led into the “parody” of obnoxiousness by Sports Center-like hosts Key and Peele as they mocked the obsession awards shows have with Twitter, tweeting and social media in general–though their mockery was often perhaps more annoying than a more deadpan commentator might have been.
Rihanna’s second appearance onstage found her in a more thug-inspired mood, with a durag fashioned in a Virgin Maryesque style and Ankh cross, as she led with “Rude Boy,” followed by “What’s My Name,” and, most notably, a sweltering, stage-filled rendition of “Work.” Elsewhere, the black power motif of the night was initiated and punctuated by Alicia Keys, who recited a Martin Luther King Jr.-propelled poem in honor of the anniversary of his “I Have A Dream” speech. Kanye West, annoyingly, appeared soon after to talk about himself and nothing in particular before introducing the memorable video for “Fade,” starring Teyana Taylor, who, if you didn’t know before, you definitely do now as a result of coveting her body as it shines and glistens in this video.
At some point, some other awards were given out and Ariana Grande took the stage to give us a SoulCycle-fueled performance that was more flaccid than Britney’s in comparison to Rihanna and Beyoncé’s fiery delivery. In fact, Nicki Minaj is the only element that bailed Grande out of an otherwise fizzled attempt. Luckily, Beyoncé appeared like a vision soon after to deliver the highlights from Lemonade, which included “Pray You Catch Me,” “Hold Up,” “Sorry” and the show-stopping closer, “Formation.”
Alas, even if Britney Spears’ rendition of “Make Me…” featuring G-Eazy afterward had been something not quaintly, well, Las Vegas, she would have been fucked no matter what having to follow that act. But at least G-Eazy looked semi-straight in his leather jacket and sexually appetitive air.
Rihanna rounded out the night with a trio of ballads that consisted of “Stay,” “Diamonds” and her latest single, “Love on the Brain.” Drake, who was inexplicably missing earlier in the night to accept his award for “Hotline Bling,” but managed to show up promptly to give Rihanna her Vanguard Award and confess his unwavering love for her, proves that Romeo and Juliet-level fervor still exists–even if it’s one-sided. Honestly, the public may experience a heart attack if Rihanna doesn’t throw him a bone for his perpetual boner soon. And that, ladies and possible gentlemen, is the VMAs 2016 in a nutshell.