Arts & Entertainment

VMAs 2015: A guide to Kanye, Miley, Bieber's appearances and more

Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Host Miley Cyrus, performs onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
The Weeknd performs onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Host Miley Cyrus holding a phone speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Model Gigi Hadid, actress Serayah, Taylor Swift, director Joseph Kahn and model Lily Aldridge accept the Video of the Year award for "Bad Blood" onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Justin Bieber performs onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj perform onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Nicki Minaj accepts award for Best Hip-Hop Video for "Anaconda" from actress Rebel Wilson (L) onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Vanguard Award winner Kanye West speaks onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images


This year's MTV Video Music Awards were the most tweeted about event aside from the Super Bowl, at least since Nielsen started tracking social media data. The award show is built less around making sure to honor respected peers and more about generating attention — and they once again accomplished that goal.

For those who weren't there, and even for those who were, there were several moments in the show that were moderately to extremely confusing. We offer a few choice moments and little context to help explain the swipes, sideshows and other strangeness at this year's VMAs.

Kanye West announced that he's running for president

Kanye West was given the VMAs' Video Vanguard Award, the MTV equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. He was introduced by Taylor Swift, whose award acceptance he famously interrupted six years ago — while drunk — to announce his displeasure that Beyonce didn't win for "Single Ladies." That less-than-presidential outburst immediately spawned a slew of Internet memes and some finger-wagging from the current president, who designated him a jackass.

In her introduction this year, Swift jokingly referenced the incident in several "I'ma let you finish" remarks.

Once Kanye got the mic, though, things seemed to go off the rails — even for a VMA speech — with Kanye taking as much time as he felt he needed. Some of the highlights from the Kanye show:

You can read Kanye's full speech here — or, you can apparently find it on T-shirts produced to commemorate the occasion.

Miley Cyrus talked about her dead pets (and a free album)

Miley Cyrus wore as many attention-grabbing outfits as she could fit into the show as the host. But most Miley watchers were likely more amped by her announcement that she was releasing a free album at the close of the ceremony — a collaboration between Cyrus and psych rock indy darlings, The Flaming Lips, among others.

The project is called "Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz." It's a long album coming in at 23 tracks, and — true to its title — includes several songs devoted to her dead pets. The New York Times got the exclusive with her, doing what they note was a five-hour interview at Cyrus's home studio, which ranged in topic from her pop reinvention to a Chinese healer letting her pet her dead dog.

The high-concept album includes songs which had previously turned up online connected with her charity: the Happy Hippie Foundation. Those released included her performing songs in her backyard in her pajamas. You can watch the one about her dead blowfish here:

Pablow the Blowfish

She also debuted her new single, "Dooo It!," with enough profanity in it to warrant heavy bleeping even from MTV. It has a chorus that talks about drug use, and a video with some imagery that at least could be interpreted as sexual. The album also isn't part of her record deal with RCA, who didn't help fund it either.

Justin Bieber cried

This was Bieber's first televised appearance in years — the first since he had some high-profile legal and personal problems. He executed some popping and locking with a big group of back dancers, but never looked too thrilled to be doing it. At the end of his second song, we heard Bieber briefly talking about spirituality, and we also witnessed him fly (with a harness).

Once he landed, though, an exhausted-looking Bieber bent over and started to cry. We can only speculate at this point about why that might be. Perhaps he was spent after his performance, or maybe over-excited about getting to go back to performing after his controversy, or it may have been a side of cynical manipulation meant to engender sympathy from fans. In any case, it was a memorable moment that seemed to surprise even host Miley Cyrus, who had to transition into keeping the show moving.

Nicki Minaj slammed Miley

Nicki Minaj has had her share of celebrity drama, but she made a big stink earlier this year after her video for "Anaconda" wasn't nominated for video of the year, suggesting it was snubbed because it featured a black woman and celebrated unconventional body types. That led to some back and forth Twitter snipes and bad blood between the two superstars.

Minaj performed early in the show, and joined Taylor Swift for a performance of "Bad Blood" in a choreographed display of unity.

That didn't last long.

After winning Best Hip-Hop Video, Minaj rekindled the beef by tossing back to Miley Cyrus by saying, "And now back to this b---- that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what's good?" 

MTV cut Minaj's mic as she continued speaking.

 

Oh, also, some actual awards were given out.