DVRs across the country will be paused tonight as viewers of MTV’s 2015 Video Music Awards rewind and freeze the sole gasp of the night: A flash of Miley Cyrus‘ bare left breast. As the show wore down, Cyrus, changing into a costume backstage while on camera, lost her grip on a carefully discreet curtain when a producer handed her a mic. Call it TV’s first drapery malfunction.
“Oh, sorry, my t**’s out?,” she said, off guard and unbleeped. It was the show’s only truly surprising moment. The host was composed enough, though, after a commercial break, when she sang about smoking pot and loving peace.
So much for feuds and social unrest. Miley, Nicki, Taylor and a rambling Kanye were so huggy-kissy you’d almost think their name-calling and trash-talking has just been a promotional stunt for what turned out to be a tame, lame show surprising only in its bleeping predictability.
The hatchet-burying mood was set early on at L.A.’s Microsoft Theater, when Taylor Swift joined Nicki Minaj at the start of the show during Minaj’s “The Night is Still Young.” The two have been tweet-sniping since Minaj suggested that her “Anaconda” video might have received more VMA nominations if she were “a different kind of artist,” with a “very slim” body. Swift and Cyrus took it personally, or seemed to.
Minaj began her acceptance speech for Best Hip-Hop Video (she won, by the way) in a street-tough voice (“Where all my girls at getting their own money, make some noise!”), then slipped into mock-polite Swiftian tone to thank her “epic” and “beautiful” fans and pastor. Then she returned to aggressive mode, directing her faux-ire at Cyrus, “this bitch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press.”
Said a seemingly scripted Cyrus, “We all do interviews and we all know how they manipulate.” A week before, Cyrus had told The New York Times that Minaj’s complaints “sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj, is not too kind.” But that was, like, then.
Throughout the show, Cyrus, thoroughly at ease in this hosting gig, seemed intent on cementing, if toning down, the bad girl image she presented when she twerked up against Robin Thicke two years ago. At least until the final flashing segment, which seemed entirely unplanned.
Still, between frequent costume changes (one silver feathered coat might have been a Phyllis Diller cast-off), a defiant Cyrus ate pot brownies and hallucinated with Snoop Dog (in a pre-taped bit) and instructed a weepy Justin Bieber, who’d just landed onstage after a brief and throughly underwhelming Peter Pan audience flyover, to call her when he gets legal.
In the other anticipated and disappointing showdown, Swift presented Kanye West with the Vanguard Award, capping the six-year stand-off that started when West interrupted Swift’s VMA acceptance speech to say Beyonce should have won. “I have been a fan of his since I can remember,” said Swift before handing West the award.
A no less ego-centric (“Sometimes I feel like I died for the artists opinion”) and pot-stoned (he said so) West delivered a lengthy non-apology for the infamous scene-stealing incident. He said he thinks often of the moment, especially when 60,000 people boo him at a baseball game. “I didn’t know how to say the right thing, the perfect thing,” he said, then noted how before his outrage over Swift’s win six years ago, he sat at the Grammys and saw Justin Timberlake lose. “I saw that man in tears, bro. I was thinking he deserves to win album of the year. ” Sorry Taylor.
West ended his speech (you can watch it here) by announcing his 2020 run for president, which was as close as the show got to topicality. Rebel Wilson did a silly, unfunny bit about “police…strippers.” Pharrall, introduced by John Legend with a build-up that included references to Paul Robeson, Nina Simone and Bob Dylan, sang his “Freedom” from an outdoor stage designed as a Jailhouse Rock knock-off, recalling, intentionally or not, rock & roll controversy all but ancient.
And no mention of Wes Craven, whose death went unmentioned, despite a promo for the upcoming season finale of MTV’s own Scream. Not even Big Sean, winning the award for Best Video with a Social Message (for “One Man Can Change the World”) could muster anything more socially significant than thanking God, Kanye and John Legend.