It’s an industry truism: Watching the Grammys in full will leave you disgusted with the music industry, but watching MTV’s Video Music Awards in full will leave you disgusted with yourself. The 2016 VMA nominations are out today, with the show itself teed up for Sunday, Aug. 28 (where it will clash mad awkwardly with The Night Of’’s series finale, just FYI). The gentlest way to put it: You care just enough to insist to yourself that you don’t care at all. So let’s break down the garish TV event that will be breaking you down soon enough.
The unofficial theme is Taylor Shade. The visceral thrill of seeing Calvin Harris’s “This Is What You Came For” and Kanye West’s “Famous” side by side as Best Male Video nominees is a bit too fan servicey, or hater servicey, as the case may be. On merits (LOL), three nominations for Calvin is three too many, even with Rihanna to prop that song up; had Katy Perry or John Mayer or Bob Lefsetz or the Kennedy family surprise-released a video last night, they all probably woulda made the rolls, too. Will Taylor (unnominated and beleaguered) deign to attend/perform? The audience-reaction-cutaway action will be mumblecore-caliber awkward, if so. You best start practicing wincing at your television now.
Beyoncé will win everything. To ensure that she will attend and perform, MTV lavished Beyoncé with 11 nominations for Lemonade and its various jams, going so far as to invent a new Breakthrough Long Form Video category that might as well be called Best Art/Snuff Film Where Somebody Dragged Their Crap-Ass Husband on HBO. She will open the show with, oh, let’s say “All Night,” and it will be the evening’s only unambiguous highlight; she will go on to win more Moonman trophies than her crap-ass husband can comfortably carry in his feeble arms. (Deservedly, for “Formation” alone.) We’re talking an “Adele at the 2012 Grammys”–style blowout, here. (Adele herself has eight nominations and doesn’t give a shit; if she wins anything, she will likely accept via satellite from a dentist appointment.)
Desiigner will win something, though, just to troll the known universe. He’s up for Best Hip-Hop Video (“Panda” > “Hotline Bling”) and Best New Artist. (Related: If Best New Artist nominee Lukas Graham, the fuckin’ “7 Years” guy, gets anywhere near the stage, I will rush out and buy another television just to throw my existing television through that television.)
Twenty One Pilots will make you feel older than you have ever felt. The bewildering Ohioan pop duo’s Suicide Squad tie-in “Heathens” is up for Best Rock Video, and better they prevail than, like, Coldplay or Panic! At the Disco. Expect some atonal, discomfiting onstage collaboration (probably with Desiigner, actually) that will thoroughly confuse and demoralize anyone watching who was alive in the 20th century. If they do the bone-white–reggae jam “Lane Boy,” there will be indignant cultural-appropriation think pieces for weeks.
The Prince tribute will be ludicrous. Thanks to BET’s delightful war on Madonna, this is the uneasy subtext of every 2016 award show: Prove that you’re the only one who really got Prince. (It must be noted that after talking all that trash, the rolling series of Prince tributes that dominated last month’s BET Awards was legitimately astounding.) His ’80s videos especially were ubiquitous and god-level despite being, in the reasonable opinion of some industry pros, “profoundly bad … like, porn bad.” Who will MTV trot out to handle this? The mind reels; the soul despairs. When Chris Brown in a bad wig is crawling out of a bathtub whilst mewling “When Doves Cry” on your TV screen next month, you will regard The Night Of’s wrenching exploration of life in Riker’s Island as a tropical vacation by comparison. We’ll get through this together, unless we don’t.