Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, September 25, 2018

VMA 2014: Every performance, ranked and reviewed

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Though the experience of watching this year’s MTV Video Music Awards was often exhausting, the performances hit more than they missed. Plus, Miley Cyrus gave the thinkpiece writers of the world plenty to consider when she let her homeless friend accept her Video of the Year trophy on her behalf.

Here are my thoughts on the night’s performances, ranked from best to worst.

Beyonce, Every song from “Beyonce”

As if there were any other choice. The Queen reigns with the night’s most stunning choreography and the biggest personality in pop on full display. A

Usher feat. Nicki Minaj, “She Came to Give It To You”

Somehow, this shimmering Pharrell-produced jam got buried in the Song of the Summer jam. But Usher and the Queen of Rap delivered it with panache nonetheless. A-

Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”

This performance had so few frills that it almost disappeared among the rest of tonight’s lineup. But Smith’s clear, piercing vocals won out. I’m wary of automatically grading polished vocal performances above unpolished ones, but in this case, the verdict is fairly unimpeachable. A-

Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off”

High-quality vocals used to be higher on the world’s biggest music star’s list of priorities. She’s now putting polished spectacle first and doing it without sacrificing her trademark awkwardness and relatability. Plus, that bit about not jumping was both funny and surprisingly cutting. B

Ariana Grande, Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, “Break Free,” “Anaconda” and “Bang Bang”

Nicki Minaj’s third-act wardrobe malfunction will make all of the headlines, but the real stars here were Jessie J’s passionate vocal delivery, Ariana Grande’s massive range and Nicki Minaj’s fiery stage presence. B

5 Seconds of Summer, “Amnesia”

There’s not much to distinguish this latest boy band craze from the previous 20, but these guys have chops. “She Looks So Perfect” or “Don’t Stop” might have packed a bigger punch, though. B

Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora, “Black Widow”

Five years from now, Iggy Azalea’s 2014 mega-stardom will seem like an unfathomable mystery. Nothing in this flat performance of a mediocre song made me change my mind. C

Maroon 5, “Maps”

Yawn. C


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