Through the years, the MTV Video Music Awards have largely been defined by idiotic moments. In 1992, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic brained himself with his own bass and stumbled off the stage in a stupor. In 1995, a wasted Courtney Love crashed a Madonna interview, leading to some delightful cat fighting. And of course, Kanye West certainly did not let Taylor Swift finish her acceptance speech in 2009. The VMAs have almost always been a hot mess, which is why so many people tune in every year. We love seeing stars get drunk, fight, and make terrible decisions.
But with the exception of Miley Cyrus (who easily wins the 2013 Idiot award for grinding up on Robin Thicke), this VMAs was a tame affair. The stars got onstage, sang, danced, and thanked each other. Katy Perry performed a new anthem; Drake smiled a lot; Taylor Swift danced awkwardly. If the 2013 VMAs taught us anything, it’s that our biggest music stars are getting way more professional but way less interesting.
This shift started immediately with the reigning queen of crazy Lady Gaga, who donned a strip steak outfit just three years ago. Gaga provided no controversy this time, instead delivering a crisp, energetic performance of “Applause” that was so flawless it might as well have been pre-recorded.
Several acts later, the normally incendiary Kanye West sang a shortened version of “Blood on the Leaves” almost entirely in shadow. West turned what could have easily been the riskiest performance of the night — imagine him rapping the entirety of “New Slaves” or the apocalyptic “Black Skinhead” — into an abstracted, mellow affair.
But no one represents the flattening and dull-ification of the pop world more than Macklemore, an earnest Seattle rapper who took home two broadcast awards along with his even more flavor-less DJ, Ryan Lewis. Macklemore’s performances and public appearances come entirely risk-free: he’s eloquent, well-dressed, and likeable. His huge presence at the awards pretty much guaranteed that good, boring behavior would rule the day.
Of course, it’s quite picky to be complaining about professionalism. The worst moments in VMA history, from Britney and Madonna’s awkward kiss to Van Halen’s backstage fistfight in 1996, are impossible to erase from our collective memory. Even better, the lack of incidents allowed viewers to focus on the performances themselves, which were mostly great (Justin Timberlake put on a show for the ages). But still, for an awards show that’s driven by spontaneity and delicious misbehavior, it was a little disappointing to see everyone keep themselves together. I guess we’ll have to wait until next year for the next big rant, fight, or meltdown.