It was there, on stage at the just-renovated Forum, that the power twosome took a bow — with daughter Blue Ivy in tow — on the occasion of Bey’s Video Vanguard Award, bestowed to an artist whose career spans decades. It followed a 16-minute performance that ran through all of Beyonce’s self-titled album, in medley form, complete with eye-popping visuals and choreography.
According to Van Toffler, president & CEO of Viacom Music & Logo Group, the idea to feature Beyonce came just after Justin Timberlake took his Vanguard bow on the 2013 edition. “Literally, after Justin left the stage,” says Toffler, adding that two days later, the decision was made. “There aren’t that many artists that can fill up 10-plus minutes and perform the way Justin did — Beyonce can.”
The idea to showcase Beyonce’s most recent release, her fifth studio album, which dropped with no advance buildup on Dec. 13 (and has since sold more than 2 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan), was a way to connect MTV’s visual nature with that of the album, whose 14 tracks each came with an accompanying music video. “When Beyonce put out the record and the way she did it in such a visual way, she was the most obvious choice,” says Toffler. “So it’s really about her artistry, her compelling visuals, that she’s always chosen to work with great people and make great videos. And she’s a killer performer.”
Indeed, her performance — “It was all Beyonce,” says VMAs executive producer Amy Doyle — got high marks for its artistry, but it no doubt left some Beyonce fans bemoaning its dearth of hits. Outside of “Drunk in Love,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, album cuts in place of smashes like “Single Ladies” and “Crazy in Love” seemed to lack the firepower — and even fun — we’ve come to expect from the queen of pop-R&B. One critic described it as a “16-minute commercial,” while another hailed it as a “16-minute stretch of flawlessness.”
As for the grand finale, featuring the Carter-Knowles clan in all its glory, Doyle says Jay coming onstage was planned, “but Blue was an unexpected beautiful surprise.” No matter, it worked wonders when it came to quelling rumors of a relationship on the rocks. The two have not been spotted since the show, igniting new gossip that the couple spent the night in.