And we thought 2013 was a game-changer.
Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke's creepy twerkathon may have still been the proverbial point of no return for the MTV Video Music Awards, the moment where any remaining trace of innocence not stolen by Britney and Madonna was lost, the 'N Sync reunion that was supposed to steal the show struggling futilely to compete against latex and foam.
Yeah, that was nuts.
But this year blew the lid off the whole simmering stew of egos, unmasking the whole charade for what it really is—an every-star-for-herself, you-looking-at-me fest of one-upmanship (or more frequently upwomanship) during which Taylor Swift was alone on that high road (midnight, no headlights). The honesty in the room, for a change, was finally palpable, even during the moments of carefully crafted production. Because thanks to people snapping pics from the audience and backstage, and thanks to pause buttons, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr, not one facial expression goes unnoticed anymore.
More than ever, these shows aren't watched as a whole anymore, but rather they're dissected for parts.
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When Demi Lovato pulled a Taylor Swift this morning and decided to take Pink's comments about feeling "embarrassed" for the music biz after watching the VMAs personally, it hit us just how much this year in particular seems to have left the stars who were there exposed to the elements, like hungover teens straggling out of their friend's parents' house in the cold light of day after an all-night rager.
Pink's tweet last night that she didn't even remember Demi performing said it all. Because while Demi looked hot and performed her big hit, "Cool for the Summer," the 2015 VMAs was pretty much a four-person show—five, if you count Justin Bieber, whose emotional meltdown at the end of his performance seemed pretty genuine and would have been the talk of the night if all that other stuff hadn't happened.
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We had Taylor Swift owning the evening overall, winning Video of the Year and Female Video of the Year, and getting two chances to re-prove how unflappable and above it all she is: First, when she joined Nicki Minaj's show-opening performance and sort-of-berated the rapper with a little bit of "Bad Blood" but otherwise effectively buried the hatchet. And two, when of course she was the one to present Kanye West with his Video Vanguard Award.
If she hadn't, and MTV had picked someone who actually had something to do with Kanye musically and not just someone whose name will haunt him forever, it would have been the night's biggest miss!
Larry Busacca/MTV1415/Getty Images For MTV
The most honest-to-goodness-for-better-or-worse segment of the VMAs was Kanye's acceptance speech. This is not showboating, people—he stands behind every single word that comes out of his mouth and, even if he doesn't end up running for president (it would be a waste of some damn good signage, but we shouldn't count on it), we bet that he fully intended to when he said it.
So Kanye emerged from the VMAs being rightfully applauded for his artistry once again (that's technically why he was there in the first place, remember?) and being taken seriously enough as to launch a dozen think pieces about his possible candidacy. Donald Trump certainly understood that attention must be paid when the zeitgeist strikes.
But back to Taylor for a minute. She had an athleisure-for-the-ages fashion Moment. Her feuds behind her, she got to spend her night comfortably on the side of the gods (Kanye). She arrived cloaked in Squad. She won everything. And it was so contrived, it hurts a little bit to think about it. Lucky for her, she's still on tour and had to hop right back to her regular life, no time to wallow in what this year's VMAs wrought.
Until Kanye picks her to be his running mate in 2020. (We kid. She won't be old enough.)
But even Kanye 2020 wasn't the takeaway.
Host Miley Cyrus criticized Nicki Minaj a few days before showtime for not using the right tone to try to start a conversation about diversity and body image—and MTV couldn't arrange a peace pipe moment in time for them. Nicki, gloves off, wondered "Miley, what's good"? mid-show.
It was amazing, and the visibly shaken Miley tried to pawn the diss off on the "media"—the New York Times, which wrote up her remarks Q&A style, and other sites that just quoted that story verbatim. You know how those verbatim quotes can cause a ruckus!
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Inevitably these two will cross paths again, or perhaps more social media shenanigans will ensue. (Pink was espousing her views on a private Instagram and yet...we all know now, so there's really no hiding your thoughts these days if you decide to put them in writing.)
But they'll never bounce back from this, as far as anyone believing that anything could ever be OK between them again.
Everyone involved has been exposed (quite literally, if you're Miley!) as an island of one who is ferociously hanging onto his or her piece of the pie. Well, Kanye thinks that he is the pie.
But Bieber was just so relieved that people weren't booing him this time (he's still pretty much a child, we shouldn't forget that) that he started crying. Demi is presumably so annoyed that her otherwise fierce-and-sexy performance co-starring last season's controversy, Iggy Azalea, was more or less forgotten that she lashed out at...Pink!
Miley was going to have to do enough to recover from the lame weed jokes (she does know that's the least interesting thing about her, right?) and her blah new album, but ended up on the losing end of a Nicki smackdown and at the center of a very necessary discussion about why Nicki's tone was widely perceived to be too harsh when she took the VMAs-at-large to task about not celebrating a more diverse array of talent.
Miley, what's wrong with that?
Nicki was criticized a bit for going public with her hard feelings, but she also received a lot of support, just weeks after getting all that heat for seemingly going after Taylor. (Point being: The tables, they turn so fast.) But it was exciting and refreshing to see what we've been assured was an unscripted moment, Nicki standing up for herself after Miley made a sweeping generalization about her being a "not very kind" person.
Through it all, Taylor continued to be the epitome of Grace Kelly cool, her preternatural poise only buoyed by her model squadron.
And that must be getting so exhausting! Being the one who always has to be the voice of reason, the cool girl who rolls with others' bad behavior and then just writes a song about it, demons exorcised...
We can't wait until next year, when Katy Perry presents her with the Video Vanguard Award.