Takeaways from the 2017 VMAs – The Women Rocked It – Especially Pink!

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Takeaways from the 2017 VMAs – The Women Rocked It – Especially Pink!

The 2017 VMAs - Pink performs "What About Us?"

 

As the country was reeling from the 45th President launching the country into a Constitutional crisis and Hurricane Harvey was ravaging Texas, MTV had the 2017 VMA’s (Video Music Awards show). As host Katy Perry said:

Even in the apocalypse, we deserve a great soundtrack.

In that spirit, if you were looking for a soundtrack, the winners of the first ‘Fight Against the System’ Award would be a good place to start.

The mother of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was murdered by a Neo Nazi in Charlottesville on August 13th was there to announce the award and the start on a non-profit organization in her daughter’s name.

 

It was a smart move by MTV to not have the artists compete for this award. I hope they continue in that tradition. There are awards where it’s not a public competition but a selection of the most exemplary works in a category. For an award that is about social justice, it would be counter to the intent to have these various causes competing for which was the best.

The New Rules for the 2017 VMAs

As we know the 2017 VMA’s have decided to make all the categories gender-neutral, which, in theory is lovely. It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where women and were seen as being equal. The reality is that American culture has not achieved gender equality any more so than racial equality.

When you take away a reason to consider the achievements of women they get noticed less, not because they aren’t worthy, but because we have cultural prejudices that skew towards men (as well as towards whiteness.) Vogue notes that gender neutrality hasn’t been exactly helpful for women in Television Critics Association Awards (TCA’s). They also commented that the VMA artist of the year skews male 4 to 2. While Vogue’s comments are anecdotal studies back up their conclusion. As late as 2017 studies have shown that biases of race, gender, age, and sexual orientation are an unconscious reality that unless actively combated, will persist. This “gender-neutral” is an ideal whose implementation hurts the very equality MTV is trying to promote.

The 2017 VMA’s For Better and For Worse: Women Were Still Front & Center

This whole gender-neutral decision resulted in male nominations outnumbering women nearly 4:1. ( You can see the nomination list here.) Despite this, the most talked about parts of the VMA’s were about the women who were (and weren’t) there. Not to say the men didn’t have standouts as well. They did, and not just because of the teenage girls on the internet swooning over Shawn Mendes performing

The show opened with Video of the Year award winner, Kendrick Lamar bringing the fire from his “Humble” video into his live performance of his hits “Humble” and “DNA” was a breathtaking and exciting thing. No one could sit still with him spitting out lyrics like a machine gun, even if you didn’t speak rap and couldn’t understand what he was saying. If you did know the words the performance was even more intense. (Here are the lyrics for “Humble” and “DNA” – but be warned some of the lyrics are sexually explicit and there is graphic language that can be considered offensive.)

Later on the performance of “1-800-273-8255” by singer/rapper Logic (and featuring the singer Alessia Cara and hip-hop artist Khalid) Alessia Cara and Khalid added more depth to a show that both musically and emotionally came off as shallow and staid. The poignant lyrics that address the realities of feelings suicidal and how to move out of it has been a beacon of hope for many.

https://youtu.be/BLe1dddgZrg

Despite these performances being discussed, a pursual of the headlines show that, for better and for worse – the most memorable and talked about parts of the VMA’s were about the women.

For Worse: Katy Perry and Taylor Swift

Katy Perry as host tended to go on and on, but she did get in one good shot. The newspaper with the headline, “The World is On Fire” and the bit about the fiddler. E! did this short critique of Perry as host. It highlights the above scenes, while wondering why the producers didn’t just ask Ellen DeGeneres to host. (Best guess answer: Even if they did, once you’ve done the Oscars everything else is basically slumming.)

https://youtu.be/2rIvv_qNEAY

The E! commentators are right on point that the producers should have just let Perry chat instead of giving her these long scripted monologues. She’s pop star not a comedian or actress. On her own she comes off as light, fun, and sincere, but most of these long scripted bits just didn’t work.

Katy and Taylor

More annoying than the host’s jokes was the negative chatter after the awards were over. he ongoing feud between Taylor Swift and Perry is seen as continuing because Perry didn’t mention Swift name, despite Swift’s new video debuting at the VMA’s. Likewise, Swift didn’t attend the VMA’s where Perry was hosting. On top of that, both of them have new songs that seem to about casting shade on the other. Personally, this seems like the longest publicity stunt ever – at least I hope that’s what it is. Otherwise these woman are stuck in high school nonsense.

For Better: Miley Cyrus

Holy comebacks, Batman! Not that Miley Cyrus has ever not been a headlining star since she was a kid on Hannah Montana, but she’s had some notorious performances at the VMA’s. This time, hers is one of few standouts of night – in a good way!

https://youtu.be/GqUwkSWBV-c

Miley Cyrus is now 24 years old. Hopefully people can stop basing their opinion of her on what she did at 19. I mean, would you want to be judged strictly on what you did in college?

For Worse: Fifth Harmony

Cyrus didn’t reference her performances of the past. Fifth Harmony could take a lesson from her. They started their performance with a move dealing with the bitter departure of Camila Cabello from the group. Why even bring her up? As they say, singing well is the best revenge.

https://youtu.be/b22vPo0_wBg

The four woman of Fifth Harmony gave a polished dance/pop performance. Unfortunately the childish opening distracts from that, and ultimately it’s counterproductive to moving on with the new configuration. So, instead of the headlines being about what a great job they did, the focus was on them casting shade on the singer that wasn’t there .

Obviously though, just like the “feud” between Swift and Perry, this is kind of stunt that makes the news. All publicity is good publicity – right? Especially if you’re a little insecure that you won’t be noticed otherwise. That’s the message their little dig projects. It’s too bad, because the rest of the performance shows they’ve got no reason to be concerned.

Next Up: More of the 2017 VMAs including Paris Jackson and Lorde!

The 2017 VMAs - Paris Jackson

For Better: Paris Jackson Speaks Out

Paris Jackson, the 19-year-old daughter of the late, great, King of Pop, Michael Jackson, presented the award for for best pop video. However, she had a few things to say first and it was a great moment to see this young woman speaking out in a way that would have made her father proud. You can see her entire speech below.

 

The imitation of the 45th POTUS was a nice touch!

For Worse: The VMAs Cut Part of Julia Michaels Performance

That unconscious gender bias thing raised made another appearance when MTV decided it was fine to cut to commercial during the performance of Best New Artist Nominee Julia Michaels. Michaels was one of the two female artists nominated in a category that held six. That the other woman was Noah Cyrus, sister of mega-star Miley Cyrus, made Michaels even more unique as a total newcomer to music scene.

To be fair, MTV also did this to the up-and-coming rapper KYLE, and even more bizarrely, to the tribute for Chester Bennington. The front man for Linkin Park lost his battle with depression and committed suicide in July, yet MTV cut to commercial as Jared Leto was finishing up the tribute. Seriously, who does that?

So, clearly Michaels wasn’t the only artist disrespected at the 2017 VMAs. However, the situation with the singer/songwriter has another component to it that isn’t in the other instances. In Michael’s case the voting for The Best New Artist category was being conducted on Twitter, during the show. Knowing this fact, MTV still decided it was fine for the voting public not to see her performance? There is no excuse for this, so MTV gets an epic fail.

Here’s the performance you didn’t get to see. It’s obvious that MTV didn’t even bother to properly film her, but it’s better than nothing.

https://youtu.be/nRW4eP877u0

For Better & For Worse: Lorde’ Performance

The 19-year-old singer Lorde developed the flu a day or so before the VMA’s and it’s reported that she was put on vocal rest. She made the decision to perform – but to not sing. Maybe it was a contract issue, you know, the show must go on. Perhaps she simply didn’t want to disappoint her fans.

In any event, most performers would have lip-synced their number and called it a day. Lorde, who’s has a reputation for keeping things real and calling out things like airbrushed photos, wasn’t about to do that. Instead she did an interpretive dance to her single, “Homemade Dynamite.” The thing is, Lorde isn’t really known for her dancing. Her fans loved it, but many on social media had fun joking about this performance.

https://youtu.be/M4hUmKZvBBE

Personally, seeing Lorde giving her all in this made me smile. Her joy seemed authentic as she bopped around the stage. It certainly wasn’t a boring performance – and there were plenty of those on the 2017 VMAs. You know if she’d lip-synched people would have been just as ruthless. So, kudos for Lorde being Lorde, and showing up – even if dancing isn’t her greatest strength. That takes real heart!

For Better: Alessia Cara Performance Art of “Scars To Your Beautiful”

When you think about the backlash Lorde got, the message in the performance by Alessia Cara is even more powerful. shows more heart and understanding than some of her older companions on the pop charts. Her video for “Scars To Your Beautiful” featured people of every color and size, some with unusual “disfigurements,” talking about their experience. For the 2017 VMAs she found a new way to get her message across, and it’s a powerful sight.

 

This performance was simple, yet brilliantly compelling. Cara’s message of self-acceptance continues to be one we need to hear. Wouldn’t be it great if we didn’t?

Next Up: The Best Performance of the 2017 VMAs. Pink rocks the house – and not just with music!

The Best of the VMAs – Yes, Mama Pink!

The 2017 VMAs - Pink with her daughter

Pink with her daughter, Willow.

By far, the presence and performance of Pink was the best thing about the 2017 VMAs! Pink was on hand to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and did an amazing medley of her hits! She started out with her early pop hit “Get the Party Started” and the performance included a red convertible flying over the crowd! The performance ended with the full performance of her new song “What About Us?”

https://youtu.be/w_iTJxR_Wb8

This was a good time for the audience and for Pink as well – she looked like she was having a blast! The moment when she high-five’s her daughter Willow while driving by in that little car is priceless!

Pink has always been a rebel and outspoken about it being fine to be different. It’s part of why she was awarded the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. It wasn’t a surprise her appearance at the 2017 VMAs continued that tradition. However, this outing was different. It’s hard to put into words the power Pink’s VMA appearance held – but I’ll try.

In pieces, each moment of Pink’s night is awesome on it’s own. Taken as a whole it’s a picture of a woman’s enormous love for her child, and that woman’s intention to make this world a better place for her, and for all of us. What’s extra special is it’s not until her acceptance speech that the night suddenly becomes not just about the singer.

The evening started out with the red carpet walk with Pink, her husband, Carey Hart and their daughter Willow. There have been many articles expressing how cool this family looked in their coordinated three-piece suits.

The 2017 VMAs - Pink, daughter Willow, and husband Carey Hart

As we saw, 6-year-old Willow was front and center for her mother’s performance. She was there for Pink’s acceptance speech as well. That’s when Pink broke open people’s hearts with a story about Willow. The child had told her mother that she was “the ugliest girl’ she knew and that she, looked, “like a boy with long hair.” If you saw this part of the 2017 VMA’s you saw the best part!

Pink used the entire 2017 VMAs experience to show her daughter that there’s nothing wrong with, “looking like a boy.” being strong, and speaking your mind. They walked that red carpet in three piece men’s style suits,to applause. On stage, Pink was dressed in a stylist and comfy looking white jumpsuit had political messages like “Frump Truck” attached. She was happy and glowing as the crowd cheered – and Willow watched.

Getting to see her mom being so loved and accepted with her short hair and comfortable clothes among the more traditional glitz and glam styles of women that could be seen at the 2017 VMAs was great for Willow. It certainly was a way to get Pink’s message across to Willow about different kinds of beautiful. Pink didn’t stop there though, because she knew that the problem was bigger that what Willow thought of herself.

Pink used her getting an award to remind us all how our unbending judgements about what is beautiful and what is masculine or feminine effects molds young minds. Having Ellen Degeneres give her the award was icing on that cake of how ridiculous such judgements are. All in all it was a call for us to do better in not just accepting the differences in others, but seeing their merit and beauty. It also was a heck of a lot more memorable and experiential than a powerpoint presentation. Willow has one cool mom, and we’re all the better for it.

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