I Guess... | A running diary of the 2018 MTV VMAs
Nicki goes bold, Cardi takes a title, J.Lo is intimidatingly fierce, Post Malone gets a major co-sign and more, but Kathy Iandoli wonders who this show is for exactly.
‘I Guess’ is Kathy Iandoli’s battle cry of #shruglife. It’s everything that impresses us and unimpresses us—which could be one in the same given the day.
For the last decade or so, it feels like we’ve been hate-watching every award show in existence. Maybe it’s because social media platforms have offered us this undeserving privilege of constantly expressing our opinions, so that when the time comes to award those artists and celebrities we constantly speak about, we spit that hot venom when shit doesn’t go our way. That, and the ceremonies have become super boring.
There was a time when the MTV VMAs meant everything. Back when Dave Grohl got on stage and said “Hi Axl!” in the middle of the most epic Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses beef or when Diana Ross jiggled Lil’ Kim’s single exposed breast or when Madonna and Britney Spears kissed and Christina Aguilera stood there like sloppy seconds. (You can Google all of that in case you don’t know any of it.) The point is, do you even have a memorable moment from the VMAs (or any other award show for that matter) over the last few years? Probably not. With the VMAs though, it’s so meta that it feels like you’re standing inside of a TRL reference while you’re watching it. It’s a ceremony for meme culture, sponsored by Taco Bell and Geico, where you have to tweet and not talk. It’s all so weird. I’m spiraling. Anyway, here we are. The show is about to start, and I’m going to be writing my thoughts in a play-by-play setting.
I didn’t invent this running diary. All praises due to Tom Breihan and his “Status Ain’t Hood” column that started at the Village Voice and moved on over to Stereogum. He started the award show diary thing, and I later stole it for a few other outlets. Now I’m stealing it back from myself for my I Guess column, considering this column is about being unimpressed, and I couldn’t be less enthralled by these awards.
8:50 PM BRB, the Backstreet Boys are performing on the pre-show.
8:51 PM Nevermind, this is already annoying me. It’s not like BSB isn’t a classic boy band, but here they are performing that new song on the roof of Radio City like some artists on the rise. Sing the hits on the real stage, fam! Why can’t everyone just be like David Hasselhoff and perform their hits in Belgium for all of perpetuity? Do we really need new music? The answer is no.
8:58 PM Terrence J is interviewing Migos. What happened to Takeoff? He’s not present. It sure looks like he was left off “Bad And Boujee.” Okay, the real show is starting.
9:00 PM Cardi B is fake-breastfeeding her baby, but it’s a VMA. I love her. Now the camera panned to Pete Davidson in a NASA sweatshirt next to an always-fabulous Ariana Grande. What’s happening here?
9:01 PM Shawn Mendes is dressed like John Cougar Mellencamp and is singing “In My Blood.” If I had friends, we would be playing a drinking game where we would take a shot every time he stops playing his guitar because I’m fairly convinced it’s unplugged like Lindsay Lohan’s in that one scene from Freaky Friday.
9:05 PM It randomly started raining on stage so everyone can see what Shawn Mendes looks like when he’s wet. Neat. The camera flashed to both Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj who both politely smiled.
9:07 PM Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish! Yay! Tiffany made a joke about herpes and The Jersey Shore, while Kevin Hart is scolding Lil Pump and Lil Xan for their face tats. At least Asahd doesn’t have a face tat. Yet.
9:10 PM Tiffany just called Camila Cabello “Camila Cabababillo” and then shaded Fifth Harmony for being at home watching. This is getting good.
9:12 PM The VMA for “Best Hip Hop” goes to Nicki Minaj for “Chun-Li.” I’m happy, and I don’t care if you aren’t. Nicki came on stage wearing a leotard and a lace skirt and bigged up Normani from Fifth Harmony and Queen Radio. She used the word “cocksucker.”
9:15 PM Bazzi performed “Beautiful,” and I only know who Bazzi is because of Shelley Rome from Z100 who interviewed him once and Shelley is my friend. Cool story, Kath.
Okay, so while we’re on commercial break, here’s my question: who is watching this show? Because I’m old as shit and, like, half of this stuff appeals to me and then the other half seems to appeal to the child I would’ve theoretically had at my prom (roughly 21 years old). Someone is going to be bored half the time watching this thing.
9:20 PM Anna Kendrick is standing next to Blake Lively who is like a skyscraper next to her. Blake calls upon The Rockettes, and they don’t come. They have a movie coming called A Simple Favor, and when they start discussing it, The Rockettes walk out and drown them out. You better let Serena van der Woodsen talk, Rockettes!
9:23 PM Ariana Grande wins “Best Pop” for “No Tears Left To Cry.” She thanks Pete Davidson for existing.
9:24 PM Ryan Tedder is yelling at his piano while Logic pulls an Eminem and is walking into Radio City with a legion of kids wearing shirts that say “We Are All Human Beings.” Logic’s shirt says “F*ck The Wall.” Candles are lit. I agree, fuck the wall, but this is awkward.
9:28 PM Ken Jeong just shouted out Barenaked Ladies, Smashmouth, and Chumbawumba. I’ve never felt more seen.
Okay, so back to my question of “who is this really for?” But this has always been a problem with the MTV VMAs. They’ll wedge everything they possibly can into 2+ hours. So, like, in one breath people are making fun of people, then there’s the tender socially conscious moment, then it’s back to jokey jokes.
9:36 PM Jimmy Fallon introduced Panic! At The Disco and made a joke that Post Malone already got a face tattoo in the performance’s honor. Panic! is performing “High Hopes,” and Brendon Urie is dressed like one of the Three Amigos without the sombrero. While we’re on the subject, I am so fucking sick of “anthems.” Can’t we just have songs? Like why does everything have to be so damn triumphant?
9:40 PM Speaking of triumph (I guess), here come the Backstreet Boys. Little girls are screaming. WHY? “This first one is my daughter’s favorite,” says AJ. He’s talking about “Havana.” Now they’re singing a cappella with all of the Song Of The Year nominees. Post Malone won for “Rockstar.” 21 Savage is on stage with him. I’m happy for these guys. Camila Cabello looked annoyed.
9:44 PM Jessie Reyez is performing “Apple Juice.” I need to learn more about her. She’s super talented.
Commercial break again. So here’s the thing: there’s like this weird generational gap happening, that I feel might be filled because everyone is so hung up on the ’90s and shit now. Maybe that’s why people are shrieking at the Backstreet Boys on stage? Because everyone is back on the ’90s now? I just don’t know.
9:51 PM Nicki has a whole Ancient Egypt stage setup performing “Majesty.” Wow, she has a whole other ceremony happening. Now she’s performing “Barbie Dreams”! WOW. This is a BOLD song to perform in the middle of the VMAs. I’m here for it. Nicki gives zero fucks. This is amazing. Ruh-roh. She did the “write my own lines” bit from “Ganja Burn” and then went into “FEFE.” Whew. Nicki did her thing, and the crowd loved it. Queen.
9:57 PM J Balvin won “Best Latin” for “Mi Gente.” These categories are making me uncomfortable. Willy William accepted the award for him.
10:00 PM Hayley Kiyoko is performing “Curious.” This song is catchy. I sound like my mother.
Another commercial break. So after this, Travis Scott is coming up, along with Madonna, and J. Lo. Once again I ask, who is this award show for? We’re already an hour in, and I have no idea what’s going on. I know I’m not out of touch, because literally almost every act or presenter is from “back in my day.” I can’t keep thinking about this. I need a snack.
10:07 PM OKAY NOW IT’S GETTING GOOD. J. Lo is performing “Waiting For Tonight.” Her stage setup is epic; green lights everywhere. Now she’s doing a whole medley. J. Lo is so fierce. It’s so unfair. It’s unfair to us mere mortals, and unfair to anyone who is performing after her. The camera flashed to Travis Scott. Kylie is wearing a business suit. That was a wasted shot. They should’ve just kept it on J. Lo. I’m standing on my couch while she performs “Get Right.” Asahd has on the noise-cancelling headphones and even he’s into it. Wow, J. Lo is belting. I honestly didn’t know she had it in her. Uh oh, here comes DJ Khaled. Now, the stage has a full subway train (The 6, obvs) and the whole hall is full of digital graffiti for “Jenny From The Block.” Ja Rule came out for “I’m Real” and J. Lo has on a diamond-encrusted Yankee fitted. WHAT IS LIFE? J. Lo is shaking her ass to “Bodak Yellow” as A-Rod is filming her on his phone. This is amazing.
10:17 PM Performance just ended, but WHY is Shawn Mendes introducing J. Lo’s Video Vanguard Award? Someone else couldn’t do that? Was Michelle Obama busy? J. Lo is so intimidatingly gorgeous. I need to go wash my face and do some sit-ups.
10:21 PM J. Lo is getting choked up talking about her kids, and now I’m getting choked up.
10:25 PM J. Lo is still talking, but I’d rather hear her than pretend to care about anything else.
Commercial break again. Okay, so what have we learned so far? Well, for one, regardless of your thoughts on Nicki Minaj’s social media behavior, she can still rock a stage. And J.Lo is basically the ruler of the entire planet. Also, it looks like she’s playing the long game with A-Rod, which means there’s hope for all of us to find love. That’s all I got.
10:30 PM Social House is on stage introducing Ariana Grande. Can someone tell me who Social House is?
10:31 PM Okay, yes, Ariana Grande! “God is a Woman” is a great song and so is this performance. It ended with Ariana bringing out her mom and grandma. Awwwww.
10:35 PM Keegan-Michael Key and Olivia Munn are funny. I forgot what they’re even presenting. Oh right, Artist of the Year. Camila Cabello won. This is going to cause controversy on social media. Right?
10:38 PM PRETTYMUCH was just introduced as “everyone’s new favorite boy band.” I didn’t know we were still doing boy bands. Maybe THAT’S why Backstreet Boys were there.
10:45 PM Millie Bobby Brown is here presenting Best New Artist. It’s down to Cardi B and Kayley Kiyoko. Cardi better win.
10:46 PM Cardi won, and Millie did the “Okurrrrrrrrr!” I love it. Cardi didn’t know to kiss Millie twice and then handed her the award to hold it while she spoke. UH OH. I THINK CARDI JUST SHOT A SUBLIMINAL AT NICKI. EEP!
10:49 PM DJ Khaled is introducing Travis Scott and called him a young icon. Travis Scott is in some machine that says “Look Mom I Can Fly.” I’m getting dizzy watching him, but now he just exploded so it doesn’t even matter. Oh, he’s back, and now James Blake is singing and looks confused. Join the club, James. Travis is back, performing “Sicko Mode.” Kylie is awkwardly swaying in her power suit. Travis said Rest In Peace to Aretha Franklin and then announced that Astroworld is No.1. Shots fired? Not to Aretha Franklin, obviously.
Okay another commercial break, but let’s talk about how ‘The Hills’ is coming back, and it’s looking like there’s no Lauren Conrad. Who cares about ‘The Hills’ without LC? Like, what will the show even be about? Spencer and his stupid crystals? Don’t reboot a show like that without its leading lady. I CALL FOUL, MTV. Apparently it’s going to be about their kids having playdates, which is about as entertaining as watching a street performer in the middle of rush hour traffic.
11:00 PM Gucci Mane is presenting for Best Collaboration, and I am so happy he’s here. J.Lo, Cardi B, and DJ Khaled won for “Dinero.” I’m happy for them, but I wouldn’t have been mad if JAY-Z and Beyoncé won for “APESHIT.”
11:03 PM Juice WRLD is performing “Lucid Dreams” and making me all sad. This song is full of broken hearts. Bring back J.Lo!
11:10 PM I was going to start complaining about how sleepy I am, but it’s the Video With a Message Award, so I feel like a bad person if I get grouchy now.
11:11 PM Childish Gambino won for “This Is America,” and his choreographer accepted the award instead. Even Donald Glover was too tired to show up. Now I can complain. I’m sleepy!
11:13 PM Rita Ora and Bebe Rexha are on stage and I low-key can’t tell them apart. Now Maluma is on stage. Hello, eye and ear candy.
Another commercial break. Okay, this is entirely too long for such a disorganized ceremony. This could have been neatly packed into 37 minutes or something, dedicating most of that time to Nicki, J.Lo, and Ariana Grande.
11:22 PM A brief Aretha Franklin tribute came, courtesy of Madonna. She is telling the story of how performing “(You Make Me Like a) Natural Woman” brought her to Paris to be a singer. Beautiful tribute, but I’m not so sure about Madge’s outfit.
11:30 PM Camilla Cabello won Video Of The Year for “Havana.” She bowed before Madonna.
11:33 PM Okay, now we are in overtime, and I’m getting resentful. I’m hate-watching this Lauv performance, even though his “I Like Me Better” song isn’t half-bad. I must muster up the energy to wait for this historical Post Malone performance, or whatever adjective they used to describe it. I’ll just keep reminding myself it’s only 8:30 PM in Los Angeles. But wait, isn’t it like 4:30 AM in London? I should be in bed by now!
11:36 PM Lenny Kravitz, HELLO. He’s introducing Post Malone and 21 Savage, performing “Rockstar.” Post is wearing a suit full of multi-colored smileys. It’s all smoky and there’s an acutal electric guitar present, so that’s cool. 21 Savage sounds nervous. Okay, hold up! Post brought out AEROSMITH. Now, Post is playing guitar alongside Joe Perry while they perform “Dream On” and a whole Aerosmith medley. Okay, this is tight. Wow. What a co-sign for Post Malone.
So the VMAs ended on a pretty high note, but again…who is this for? I’m still so confused. Maybe it’s for everyone?
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