4 Things Wrong With the MTV VMAs

The MTV Video Music Awards are typically wrought with controversy, pop music sensations, and a host of memes that take over the Internet in the days following. But with each successive year, the VMAs are proving themselves to be less and less worth our time and energy. MTV realizes the difficulty in trotting out the same 15 pop stars every year and keeping things entertaining, which is likely the cause of the focus turning to faux controversies and celebrating the most-played songs of the year.

Only the most marketable musicians and artists get a place at the table for the VMAs, and it’s something MTV has no intention of changing. In some ways, it serves its purpose as the quintessential celebration of the mainstream. But in a world where the Grammys already exist, it’s hard not to see the redundancy in having the VMAs at all. The long and short of the matter is that they’ve gone from “entertaining distraction” to full-blown “this might actually be hurting music” status.

1. The manufactured feuds

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If pop music is one thing, it’s controversial, driven by beefs between artists for reasons that barely amount to significant. We saw the Drake/Meek Mill “controversy” escalate over social media, followed soon thereafter by Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj going at it on Twitter. MTV obviously knows their audience, and as such saw fit to play into the manufactured feuds that drive the pop music industry. This year’s VMAs saw a reconciliatory performance between Swift and Nicki, Swift and Kanye making light of their past conflicts, and finally Nicki doubling back to uncomfortably scream at VMA host Miley Cyrus.

When the driving force behind your awards show is soap opera-esque drama escalating over meaningless conflicts, there’s a strong argument to made for that same awards show being disregarded. The current approach diverts the focus away from actually making good music, and instead revels in our favorite artists biting and clawing at each other on a live stage.

2. The pop music feedback loop

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Pop music has a habit of patting itself on the shoulder incessantly, and it’s only exacerbated at award shows. The Grammys is a prime example, but the VMAs may very well have them topped. MTV trots out their most prominent and bankable stars, tag one of these stars to host, and then hand out awards to the most popular 15 artists in the world so that everyone can continue feeding the ego machine. The end result is music that continues this ego-driven feedback loop, the loss of true artistry within the mainstream, and a wasted few hours of television. Millionaire artists get to plug in and feed their own popularity, and it’s even caused Kanye to lose his mind in the form of a bizarre 12-minute diatribe he unleashed upon the world last year.

3. Musical excellence isn’t getting recognized

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

They may be called the “Video Music Awards,” but there’s certainly nothing resembling musicality being celebrated here. Rather, it’s a parade of manufactured and pointless feuds, Kanye-driven philosophical ranting on the state of pop music, and a hyper self-awareness that works directly against artistry. MTV knows exactly what they are, and more often than not, that hasn’t stopped them from doubling down on poor quality for higher ratings. If we’re not encouraging mainstream music to put aside ego for the benefit of the art form, the message we’re sending to young fans is that music isn’t what matters.

4. The VMAs have become a parody of themselves

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

In recent years especially, the VMAs have felt more like WWE Summerslam than a gathering of musical luminaries. Time is blocked out for our yearly Kanye rant, high-profile artists awkwardly trading insults, and needless controversy. In the end, MTV isn’t looking to respect music as much as they’re trying to script a poorly written reality show starring our favorite artists and call it an “awards show.” One could argue that if you’re expecting class and dignity out of MTV, you’re destined to be disappointed. But therein lies the problem: If we can’t depend on the most visible musicians and media outlets to set a good example, we’re only going to continue the poor quality that’s come hand-in-hand with the mainstream these last few years.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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