The 2014 MTV Video Music Awards didn’t twerk up a controversy like last year’s edition.
Back in California after a year in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the VMAs ran relatively smoothly from the Forum in Inglewood, located just outside Los Angeles. Miley Cyrus captured Video of the Year honors for her ubiquitous “Wrecking Ball” video, and in true Miley fashion, went an unexpected route with her acceptance speech. And to no one’s surprise, Beyonce commanded an authoritative performance to close out the live broadcast.
With Jay Z and Blue Ivy watching proudly from the front row, Beyonce brought 2013’s self-titled, stealthily-released album to life. Her medley included songs rarely played live (“No Angel,” “Haunted”), a resounding feminist manifesto, multiple fan shout-outs, and to wrap up, an onstage presentation of the Video Vanguard Award from her husband and daughter. Jay Z gave Beyonce the awe-inspiring “greatest living performer” title, while Blue Ivy countered with an awwww-inspiring “Good job, mommy!”
The Beyonce mega-mix came minutes after Cyrus surprised the audience with a highly unexpected acceptance speech. When “Wrecking Ball” won her the title for Video of the Year, Cyrus stayed behind, letting a young man named Jesse walk to the podium. “I’ve been an extra in your movies, I’ve been an extra in your lives,” Jesse announced, pleading for attention to his plight amongst America’s 1.6 million other runaway and homeless children. Cyrus’ eyes filled with tears as he told his story.
The show opened with a live rendition of one of 2014’s strongest contenders for Song of the Summer — “Bang Bang” — with Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj all onboard. Grande and Minaj had just performed snippets of their own “Break Free” and “Anaconda,” respectively, but it wasn’t until the trio combined forces that atmosphere got truly hot and heavy. And Minaj narrowly avoided a wardrobe malfunction, as she gripped her top shut with both her hands throughout the performance.
Later on, Ariana Grande won the Moonman for Best Pop Video for her Iggy Azalea collab “Problem.” And of course, the show wouldn’t have been complete without an Iggy performance. The 2014 summer breakout star brought out Rita Ora for a rendition of “Black Widow.”
The VMAs also took a few moments to observe the more serious moments in the recent news cycle. Common asked for a moment of silence to reflect on the death of Michael Brown and the recent events in Ferguson, Mo. And a Coldplay-soundtracked video montage paid tribute to the death of Robin Williams.