Why Did the MTV Video Music Awards Feel So Unhip?

MTV Video Music Awards 2014: Not
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Even our 14-year-old expert wasn't impressed

If the MTV Video Music Awards looked boring on TV, it was even worse watching the show in person. Sunday night’s ceremony was held at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., a venue so monstrous not even Taylor Swift could fill all the seats. Unlike most concerts, there weren’t any TV screens in the venue that broadcast the performances live, which is why crowds kept looking restless when the camera cut to them. It was hard to see what was happening.

At every commercial break, a VMAs stage manager with a bullhorn would bark at the fans on the ground floor to move as the clunky sets weaved around them. There was a smattering of boos when Miley Cyrus tried to make a political statement by sending a homeless man onstage to accept her Moonman trophy for Video of the Year. When Beyonce finally delivered her showstopper finale, half the crowd was on their feet —  the other half headed out the door because a random wall blocked many in the audience from seeing her.

SEE ALSO: The Best and Worst of the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards

The VMAs are usually packed with pop stars, but most of the bigger names stayed away (like Lady Gaga) or just presented (like Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato and Lorde) this year. Who could tell the difference between Fifth Harmony and 5 Seconds of Summer? To help me navigate, I took along resident music expert Eloise Eller (@Eloiseeller), the 14-year-old daughter of Variety editor-in-chief of film Claudia Eller. Here’s our joint review of the 2014 VMAs.

Ariana Grande, “Break Free”

Ramin: Grande, who is only 21, opened the show by jumping out of a tin-colored spaceship and then belting out her radio hit. It was pleasant, but nowhere as good as VMA openers of years past. Grade: B-

Eloise: I like her, because she doesn’t use autotune or background music. She’s talented. I first became aware of her on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious.” The funny thing is, the main star of that show was Victoria Justice, but Ariana Grande became more famous. Grade: A

Nicki Minaj, “Anaconda”

Ramin: Minaj probably stayed truest to the MTV Video Music Awards spirit of years past. Her performance, which featured a jungle theme and plenty of booty, was well-choreographed. And when she returned onstage for a medley with Grande and Jessie J., clutching the front of her sparkling gown (amidst reports of a wardrobe malfunction), she provided the only controversial moment of the night. Still, it was pretty tame by VMA standards. Grade: B

Eloise: I love her. She’s awesome. It was really racy, and it was all about butts. She doesn’t care what people think. She’s just moving and grooving. It was cool. Grade: A++

Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off”

Ramin: The most memorable performance in the first half of the show came courtesy of Swift. It’s hard to pull off a genre reinvention, but Swift’s pop single is as catchy as her country-pop ballads. I’m not sure if you could see this on TV, but all her backup singers and musicians were women. Grade: A-

Eloise: She needs to go to boyfriend rehab. She’s dating too many guys. I usually don’t like her songs, but I liked this one. It wasn’t as specific about the guys she dated, so it didn’t bother me. As for the girls in her band, I think she was trying to prove a point — that she doesn’t need guys in her life. Grade: A

Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”

Ramin: He’s like the male Adele, and he gave the strongest vocal. Grace: B+

Eloise: He’s awesome. He has the voice of an angel. When I first heard him on the radio, I thought he was a black R&B singer because his voice is so incredibly full and amazing. I was shocked when I found out he was a white British dude. Grade: A++

MTV Video Music Awards Usher

Usher, “She Came to Give it To You”

Ramin: This is where the VMAs started to fall apart. This wasn’t a catchy song for Usher, and the performance wouldn’t have gotten the judges to turn around their chairs on “The Voice.” Grade: C-

Eloise: This wasn’t good. I couldn’t hear anything! The instrumentals in the background were blasting too loud. I first became aware of Usher in the sixth grade. He was in “She’s All That.” I was like, “Ohmygod, that’s Usher!” I didn’t see it in the theaters because I wasn’t born yet. I saw it on Netflix. Grade: C

5 Seconds of Summer, “Amnesia”

Ramin: I don’t know who these guys are. Grade: C

Eloise: Last month, my friends started talking about them and I was like “What’s 5 Seconds of Summer?” My friends were like—“Ohmygod! They are a boy band.” I like them more than One Direction. They aren’t the same gross heartthrobs: 5 Seconds of Summer is more punk rock. But there are only four members of 5 Seconds of Summer, and I don’t get that. I think they should be called 4 Seconds of Summer. Don’t they do math? Grade: A

Iggy Azalea with Rita Ora, “Black Widow”

Ramin: This song plays non-stop on the radio, and I usually don’t mind it. But the performance was so stale — like a bad musical number from “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” Grade: D+

Eloise: Rita Ora is British and she dated Calvin Harris. You know the song with the line, “When I met you in the summer”? Well, that’s him. Eh, it was boring. The other performances had more singing and dancing. I wasn’t amused at all. Grade: B-

Beyonce finale

Ramin: Judging by all the applause and tweets, this 16-minute medley was the highlight of the night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the performance, because there was a giant wall onstage that served no purpose other than to block the view of thousands of fans. Grade: Abstain

Eloise: When I was younger, I had this CD player and I used to listen to Destiny’s Child all the time, as well as the Spice Girls and Hilary Duff. Beyonce has the most amazing voice. She can sing without a mic and everyone would still be in awe of her talents. That’s how you know she’s a good musician. I also loved Jay Z and Blue Ivy coming onstage at the end of the show. They were sweet. Grade: A++

Overall Grade

Ramin: Was this the worst VMAs ever? Maybe! The acts were too safe, and the venue was too big. I felt like I was at the Billboard Music Awards. Grade: C-

Eloise: It was lame. I’m sorry, I’m not just one of those people who can sit and watch the same thing over and over again. That’s why I like the Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards better. Grade: C-

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    1. Did anyone else notice that on the MTV VIDEO Awards, the nominees for Best Video didn’t even have a video clip played? Talk about falling off your mission statement.

    2. Miley wins big but Beyonce makes it bigger. Learn about it on http://goo.gl/PDJ0f1

    3. Annie says:

      What’s with people’s obsession with Taylor’s dating life? Why does it even matter? Other artists write hundreds of songs about the same thing. I don’t think she’s been dating anyone lately anyway.

      • Danys says:

        Yeah. But they wirte just for one person. I dont even know who is her boyfriend, cause shes an ugy bitch who can sing a Little and has good workers song.

    4. ryan says:

      MTV has been hip since they stopped showing music videos and switched to a reality tv crap network.

    5. Bill says:

      Ya.. 5 seconds of summer is punk alright. That is a joke. This quote sums then up perfectly “a kids walks up to a punk and asks “what’s punk?” So he kicks over a garbage can and says “that’s punk!” So the kid knocks over another garbage can and questions “that’s punk?” And the punk looks at him and says “no, that’s trendy!”

    6. dude says:

      Taylor Swift should go to dating rehab?. she dates to meny guys? Taylor hasn’t dated in almost 2 years so what are you talking about? And who the eff are you to decide she dates to much? Statistically she dates less than the average 20 something at Christian mingle or J date. Get off your fake moral high ground and stop shaming another woman for dating or not.

      • “Get off your fake moral high ground and stop shaming another woman…”

        This is how you respond to a 14-year old’s comments? Well, that’s just lovely. Way to expose an aspiring young person to the ugliness of the internet. Continue along with your day and feel that swell of pride, for you are mighty and intellectually superior to a 14-year old.

      • Alex says:

        The music industry is pretty tired now. It just isn’t the same and probably won’t be again. I imagine you have to look deep underground to find fresh music these days.

        I was just listening to Alice in Chains Dirt album. That still works extremely well.

    7. Jodi Jo says:

      The worst VMAs I have ever seen. Musical performances were boring. No big celebrities to watch on the red carpet. Was Jay Pharoah the host??? When was this decided? 3 minutes before air? Why was kim kardashian there and not her musical husband? All around confusing/bad/boring.

    8. Matari says:

      The VMA’s feel unhip because THEY ARE UNHIP! My God, popular music has sucked for years because the only audience the music biz sells to is 14 year olds. What the hell happened to rock?!?!?!

    9. Bob says:

      Pop music is like laundry detergent or bottled water now, disposable or recyclable at least.
      Memorable, original or impressive, that is simply not in the mix, and the masses like it that way.

    10. lirio says:

      Ramin Setoodeh is the worst gay ever. He’s so grumpy and, apparently, music award shows aren’t his thing, since he couldn’t even bother to notice Lorde being the first female artist to ever win that rock category (only there to present? That wall must’ve been set up pretty early into the show, then). And this 14-year-old girl probably is not the best white teen girl there is. 5SOS over 1D? Yeah, right. “Punk rock”? Lmao, spiked hair does not automatically means punk rock.

    11. Phil Esteen says:

      When was MTV ever hip? Perhaps for ten to twenty minutes in 1982?

      • Dynnik says:

        Of course they were hip! …”were”. **What this shows is the displacement of attention in younger audiences. Up to early 2000’s, MTV was setting the trend and music videos were ‘important’ high production value pieces. However, (a) They changed their programming to realities & teen-soaps… music videos were secondary. By 2010’s videos are just taken for granted for marketing, but no-one is *dying* to tune in for watching a new video. (b) Mainstream music is just too repetitive and dull ATM (in my ‘old-school’ opinion) to currently broadcast a hip show. When the closing act is Beyoncé (?!), we know new acts fall flat for creating buzz. There were surely better choices, but well…

    12. androme3 says:

      I would never agree with Eloise’s review if she wasn’t a teenager,
      Plus, the line about 5 Seconds of Summer not knowing math for their name was funny.
      Also, her saying the VMAs was lame is kinda bang on the nose; although I will never agree with anyone who finds the Kids’ Choice Awards better (again if they weren’t a teenager).

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