Well, for starters, what was supposed to take place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center was of course relegated to a mix-mash of pre-taped, virtual clips filmed at various locations and the occasional live remote performance, all hosted by Keke Palmer. Instead of live audiences, cue the applause track—the same one—over and over and over again.
Amongst the main show performers were Maluma, DaBaby, and Miley Cyrus, who went from “Wrecking Ball” to disco ball for her performance of her new single, “Midnight Sky.”
A now-single Cyrus paid homage to her 2013 Bangerz-era breakup ballad by swinging on an oversized disco ball while ostensibly singing about her breakup from either Kaitlynn Carter or Cody Simpson or Liam Hemsworth (who also may or may not have been the inspiration for the original “Wrecking Ball”). Did this reference to the iconography from one of her most controversial album eras work, though? Or would it have been better suited as a still image in a magazine’s full fashion spread, instead of in an empty, audience-less studio for the VMAs?
Musicians like Chloe x Halle—who performed at the pre-show instead of the main show, allegedly because they wanted to remain safe and not fly all the way out to New York in the middle of a pandemic—need nothing but each other to turn out a dazzling production, but it’s never been more clear that some musicians must rely on a full stage crew to fill out what is otherwise a somewhat lackluster gig.
While the VMAs seem to be plagued by a lot of unknowns, one thing is for sure: these socially distant performances reveal which musicians have a real need for dancers or a backing band in order to make their whole schtick actually interesting.