"I don't understand award shows," declared Kanye West, in the middle of an award show. He was accepting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for lifetime achievement at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday. Sometimes I agree with his sentiment about awards, especially at unusual events like the VMAs. But you know what? The always irreverent telecast was nothing if not interesting.
West gets a lot of public flack for his arrogant bravado, but his lengthy acceptance speech indicated an artist with passionate, intelligent opinions and an uncompromising willingness to express them – even if not always clearly. He touched on his frustration with award shows pitting artists against each other and his desire to be a successful artist also allowed to have opinions. He also boldly commented that MTV exploited his infamous 2009 VMA interruption of Taylor Swift for ratings. He said a lot, and seemed to want to say more, but even though his thoughts came out as a ramble, I was surprised that they were thoughts I was interested in hearing.
Oh, and he announced he's running for president in 2020. Better him than Trump, at least.
West's speech was surely the main event at the VMAs, but it wasn't the only one on offer. Miley Cyrus was nearly as frank and outlandish as host. A few pre-taped comedy bits worked well enough – like one featuring Andy Samberg and Ike Barinholtz as Instagram consultants – and she closed the show with a typically raucous performance of her song "Dooo It" (capped by her announcement that her new album is available for free online right now), but really it was her wardrobe that stole the show.
She introduced presenters and performers in a new outfit every time she returned to the VMA stage, each so bizarre that even meat-dress-enthusiast Lady Gaga might have suggested she tone it down. (See all her outfits, both onstage and off, in the photo gallery at the bottom of this post). But once I accepted her wacky costume changes as a kind of outlandish performance art, I quite enjoyed it. She went for weird, and she didn't go halfway. I appreciated that.
The musical performances weren't quite as memorable as Cyrus and West, but there were still a few standouts. Newcomer Tori Kelly was a vocal powerhouse performing her song "Should've Been Us." The Weeknd was also a highlight with his passionate and energetic "Can't Feel My Face," performed on a stage full of flames. I was also partial to Pharrell Williams's rendition of his song "Freedom" live from the Orpheum Theater.
What did you think of this year's VMA show? Were you wowed by Miley's outfits? Would you vote for Kanye West in his bid for the presidency? Click here to jump into our forums and discuss the VMAs right now.
Photo: Miley Cyrus at 2015 VMAs. Credit: Rob Latour/REX
Photo: Kanye West at 2015 VMAs. Credit: Chelsea Lauren/REX