Celebuzz’d 23: When Did the MTV VMAs Become a Petty Zoo?

The sun sets on summer as the shade rolls in with the 2016 VMAs in all of its petty glory.

MTV’s award show for music videos has lived at the corner of culture and controversy since its birth in 1984 when Madonna writhed her way out of a wedding cake, clad in a lace maxi bustier, and onto center stage for “Like A Virgin.” It was a time when society had attention spans that appreciated music videos on televisions in their entirety rather than letting them play in the background on a laptop while getting drunk on cheap beer. Then 1989 happened. In the same year that Taylor Swift was welcomed onto the world’s stage, Neil Young took aim at The Man and MTV by performing “This Note’s for You” in protest of the corporate sponsorship of artists.

Shade fired.

Grievances were thrown into the fire pit. RuPaul and Milton Berle aired out their dirty laundry onstage, Nirvana went ballistic and called out Axl Rose, Fiona Apple told us that we were bullshit by the transitive property. It was all rock and roll and nothing hurt, save for Krist Novoselic taking a bass to the head by his own volition. The season of bum-rushing rolled through the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, long before Kanye West’s interruption. But then, sometime soon thereafter — coincidentally after MTV’s least-watched broadcast in 2012 — genuine hostility was infused a processed publicity vile. Twitter exchanges between certain female pop stars played out as a soap opera-inspired trailer to the show in 2015 and we all held our breath until the “Bad Blood” was (sort of) purified, sighing with a sense of wonder if it was ever just about the music.

In this episode of Celebuzz’dCelebuzz editors Mia Lardiere and Matt Russoniello sit down with Idolator’s Rachel Sonis to discuss the intrigue of artist beef as an inextricable part of MTV tradition. We look back at the legacy of controversy from previous shows and hypothesize who will raise their fists, if only on social media.

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