MTV VMA 2016: The performances

MTV VMA 2016: The performances | Random J Pop

This year's VMA's cemented that no matter how big a star you book for the night, the MTV VMAs just ain't what they used to be. The whole shebang is about as credible as the BET awards. It's just that MTV gets pumped more of that Viacom money for better venues, and the brand of MTV nets a wider spectrum of acts who bother to turn up and audiences who tune.

Whilst there were a bunch of performers on the night ranging from Future to Nick Jonas and that Halsey woman, they may as well have not bothered. The only performances that most cared about were those from Beyoncé, Rihanna and the once queen of the VMAs, Britney Spears. A title that Britney has not managed to keep, between her 2007 train wreck performance and her lacklustre stage shuffle this year.

We'll get to Britney's second rate performance in a moment. But first let's put some focus on the ladies who actually bothered to have their mics turned on and serve something. Anything.

Ariana pours Olivia Newton-John "Physical" teas
Ariana's performance was cute. That's all really. The decision to perform "Side to side" was clearly just to bring Nicki Minaj out, because there are other songs on Dangerous woman that Ariana would have been better off performing, regardless of "Side to side" being a single.


The problem with this performance is that it didn't really put Ariana front and centre. You can see she's still trying to come into her own as a performer who can truly command and own the stage; something that many of her peers had gotten a good grasp of by this point of their careers.

The second Nicki Minaj came out, it was no longer Ariana's performance. If you're going to bring out a guest artist, then you need to make sure that you work the stage in a way that there is no mistake that the guest artist is the damn guest artist. That really wasn't the case here. Nicki came out for all of 60 seconds and Ariana became a guest feature within the first 10.

It would have been a wiser choice for Ariana to have performed a different song, one which is a better representation of her than "Side to side" - like say, "Be alright". Ariana's performances as of late have had her step out looking like a PG-13 version of Rihanna, and then she performs this Talk that talk reject.

Beyoncé serves Lemonade
Beyoncé did the expected. Gave us a Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V job from her Formation world tour. Beyoncé has been a busy B, traipsing around the world on a tour. She's spent blood, sweat, tears, months and millions of dollars bringing her Formation world tour to life. Everybody who has attended it has loved it. So it made sense for her to scale it down and bring it to MTV. There was an element of newness however which was the opening song "Pray you catch me". A song which was disappointingly not performed on the Formation world tour.

Beyoncé's performance the best of the night, hands down. The calibre from the competition was about as strong as wet Andrex. But Beyoncé still showed a level of showmanship that Rihanna needs to take note of, and that Britney (by all intents and purposes) should already have, but worryingly doesn't.



Let's start with the good. Beyoncé has become very, very particular of her stage image as of late. Her Formation world tour features a giant monolithic screen which broadcasts Beyoncé's every move. For this reason, Beyoncé not only has to perform for the crowd, but the cameras too. Beyoncé went at this performance as though she was shooting a music video. Every angle and shot was meticulous. You got the best shots of all of the theatrics and none of what was happening to make it all happen. (Shout outs to the camera man who caught the folk working the shadows behind the projection screens during Britney's performance). The production values with this performance were stellar. This was truly a mini show within a show.

However, just shy of 16 minutes the performance felt a little too long. Sometimes less is more. A killer performance of one song or a 3 song medley tops would have sufficed. Performing the whole of Lemonade was overkill. But the more I watch this performance the more I like it. Although I could have done without "Don't hurt yourself" and would have liked to have gotten a performance of "6 inch". "Formation" continues to keep winning me over. The new mix and choreography were hot. I always love when an artist takes an old song and puts little twists on it to keep it fresh.

Rihanna litters at the VMAs
Rihanna received the 'prestigious' MTV Michael Jackson video vanguard award. (Yes. I'm as surprised as you are). An honour which granted Rihanna the opportunity to perform not once, but four times throughout the dire event.

Now, I like Rihanna. But I would not pay money to watch her perform and wouldn't even put her in the category of 'good performers'. Three out of her four performances on the night highlighted that she still has a ways to go.




There is no sense of finesse or polish with Rihanna's performances. It always feels as though Rihanna is just winging it each time. I could roll with this if Rihanna had a consistent hit rate of solid performances. But it's not the case. Rihanna's opening performance looked striking visually, but the dancing was lacklustre and the medley was ropey. Rihanna should have just performed "This is what you came for" and wrapped it up. Rihanna's Dancehall themed performance was just a ratchet shambles. Her performance of "Needed me" and "Bitch better have my money" were struggles. She steamrolled every single one of those notes flat. Rihanna's final performance of the night was slight redemption, because she looked great and sounded good. Ballads are not for medleys. But Rihanna at least managed to sing through each of the songs well. "Diamonds" had the best live arrangements, but "Love on the brain" had the best vocals. The same level of care and attention that was paid to these performances should have been extended to the previous three. Maybe next time.

Britney makes me yawn
Billed as 'Britney's comeback performance' and her first return to the VMA stage since she swayed around on it in 2007 - expectations for this performance were high. I have no idea why, because we all knew deep down what we were going to get here. I can't even be mad at Britney for letting the side down, because it's as clear as her weave tracks that she will never have it how she did back in the day.

Britney's performance wasn't awful. But Britney has been in the game too long to be delivering a performance this lukewarm and to be looking as bewildered and unprepared as she did.


Britney's star burnt brighter each year before our eyes as a result of the VMAs - an event which would become synonymous with Britney due to how memorable and showstopping her performances and appearances were. From her performance of  "Oops!...I did it again" in 2000, to her 2001 performance of "I'm slave 4 U" which would go on to be one of her most remembered. Then there was the train wreck that was her 2007 performance of "Gimme more" in the midst of Britney's public meltdown.

This basic performance will not be remembered because there was nothing special about it. The sense of energy, precision and spontaneity that Britney's performances used to have just aren't there any more. When I watch Britney now and Britney then, it's like watching two completely different people. As overlong as Beyoncé's performance was, she at least owned the entire thing, topped what she had delivered before in terms of sheer spectacle and gave a lip sync so good that MTV should have thrown her a moon man for it. Britney didn't. And given that Britney had performed at the VMAs long before Beyoncé, back when she was still a member of Destiny's Child and everybody was calling her Bee-yonss - this is all rather perplexing.

Britney's look also needs a revamp. Britney should have been wearing what her dancers were wearing, because that was a look. These jewel encrusted swim suits were tired during the Femme fatale tour and they're tired now.

Britney also should have performed a medley. There is no two ways about it. "Make me" is her latest single. I get it. She dragged G-Eazy from anonymity to attend the VMAs, so she had to perform it and let him have his moment. But it would have been great for her to have performed a medley of songs from Glory to really sell it, because everybody was over "Make me" from day one Ariana, Beyoncé and Rihanna did not make shy of the fact that their performances were clear promo for their albums.

I'm not shitting on Britney because I dislike her. I just find it a shame that this is what Britney has become, when 10 years ago she was such a force to be reckoned with on stage. The 2007 breakdown fucked Britney up completely. It's like it erased a part of her which is a real shame. Because in this performance you could see flecks of the old Britney, but I guess I'll just have to accept that she's dead and gone forever.

All in all, another disappointing year for the VMAs. The news of Beyoncé, Britney and Rihanna all performing on the same night eclipsed the event itself. Only Beyoncé delivered a truly solid performance, but even she didn't pull anything new out of the bag. The same goes for Rihanna. Both acts just recycled elements from their recent / current tours. The door was wide open for Britney to deliver something new and completely own the VMAs as she had done in the past. But all we got was a reminder of how Britney ain't ever gonna have it like she used to. Ever.

Thank God Perfume were performing in L.A with the US leg of their Cosmic explorer tour. The YouTube vids of which were off-setting the mediocrity of the VMAs very nicely.

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