A Minute-By-Minute Recap Of The Night The VMAs Reminded Me I'm Old As Fuck

Jay Z and Beyonce with Blue Ivy Carter (Mark Davis/Getty Images)
Jay Z and Beyonce with Blue Ivy Carter (Mark Davis/Getty Images)

I have never been less interested in pop music than I was this year. Part of this lack of interest is practical. I barely listen to the radio when driving, choosing instead to rock to one of the 1500 songs (and no, 1400 of them are not Kanye tracks) on my iPhone. I don't watch videos because, aside from sports and maybe one or two shows my wife and I have decided to watch together (right now it's The Strain), I don't really watch any TV.


Also, I'm kinda at the "no new friends" point in my life in regards to new music. Unless something or someone completely blows me away, I just don't see the point in introducing them to my life. My iPhone only has but so much space. If I add new songs, I'll need to either delete old songs or the bachelor party pics my wife will never, ever, ever see. And since I'm never deleting the bachelor party pics my wife will never, ever, ever, see, and I'm definitely not deleting Supreme Clientele, I just aint got no room for Rita Ora.

But I still watched the VMAs in full this year, I still live-tweeted the show, I'm still writing a recap about it, and those of you whose thoughts about today's pop music mirror my own will still read and comment on the recap. Because we're all old as fuck, and there was nothing better to do Sunday night.

9:00: A theme for the night, the show began with a performance from a White, er, Mexican woman whose name I did not know until I consulted with Twitter. Apparently, this is Ariana Grande, who looks like she should be a junior counselor at someone's summer camp and is reportedly dating Big Sean, the charter school gym class of rap. She was joined onstage from someone named Jessie J…who I was actually very impressed with. She's the Babe Ruth to Janelle Monae's Josh Gibson.

9:05: I don't know if I've ever done a 180 as quickly as I have with Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda.' I hated this song when I first heard it. Like, hated it the way I hated Wendy's breakfast menu. Hated it the way fat crackheads hate kickball. (Trust me.) But, in the week since its release, it hasn't so much grown on me as I've just come to realize I was looking at it in the wrong context. It's not 'Paper Thin' because it's not meant to be. It's campy vamp rap from rap's campiest vamp. And watching her "It's ok that you're staring at my ass…because your wife is too"-VMA performance just reinforced the idea that it's not sex that sells. It's the idea of it, the marketing strategy behind it. She's Peggy Olsen with a 16 and a twerk kit.

9:10: Katy Perry won an award for a song I've heard six million times this summer and had no idea it was Katy Perry. I assumed it was a Black chick. Which is a good thing, I guess, for Perry. But if people like Katy Perry are winning awards for making Black-ass songs — And yes. If Juicy fucking J is on your song, it's a Black-ass song — is there any space left for "actually Black" singers who don't happen to be Beyonce or Rihanna?

9:15: I don't have answers to that last question, but fortunately Jay Pharoah was here to distract us with even more questions, most notably…


1. Why is Jay Pharoah here?

2. Why didn't he find a way to work either his Denzel or his Will Smith impressions in there?


3. Why do I feel bad for saying anything bad about Jay Pharoah?

4. Why am I asking myself questions about hypothetical questions I'm asking myself?


9:20: My wife asked if I wanted some corn on the cob. We had some leftover from Friday night, and was going to put a couple stalks in the microwave. Remembering how tasty it was the other night, I said yes, please. Three minutes later, the corn on the cob was ready. My wife put butter on hers. I prefer butter and pepper. Sometimes a little salt. We both devoured our stalks, and then gave the leftovers to our dog. Next to piles of random dog shit, this might be his second favorite food.

I'm sharing all of this because I thought you'd find it more interesting than Taylor Swift's performance. I know I did.


9:25: Something named Ed Sheeran wins for Best Male Video, confirming the rumor that men apparently still make pop music. Who knew?

9:33: Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey appear on stage for the sole purpose of reminding me and everyone else over 35 watching this show (again) that we're old as fuck and should not be watching this show but are watching the show because we're old as fuck and don't have anything better to do.


9:38: Kim Kardashian receives the biggest cheer of the night. This is all that needs to be said about that.

9:45: Common comes out dressed like Dr. Spock to talk to us about Ferguson. I don't remember what he said. But I do know that if you're a light-skinned entertainer, and you're NOT cashing in on your light-skinned militant points this week, what the hell are you doing with your life?


10:00: Usher is on stage now, dressed like he's about to host one of those all-White Omega Psi Phi boat parties I never attend. He performs a nice-enough song that reminds me "U Don't Have to Call" was released 13 FREAKIN YEARS AGO!!!

10:05: Okay, I'll say it. I like "Royals" and I like Lorde's unique brand of "just got resurrected" chic. It's endearing in a perpetually undead sort of way, like a zombie hamster or something.


10:45: The last 40 minutes of the show were a blatant attempt by MTV to troll Black Twitter. You had an Iggy Azalea performance. Iggy Azalea's surprisingly robust (and possibly enhanced) hips and ass. Taylor Swift dancing like Elaine Benes. Lorde dancing like The Master from The Strain. Sam Smith. Miley Cyrus practically saying "I dare one of you motherfuckers to say something bad about me now." The ageless (and unfortunately, assless) J-Lo. Jason Derulo, whose only Black fan apparently is Jordin Sparks. Jay Pharoah, again. Adam Levine. A five-person girl group where everyone except the Black girl got an opportunity to speak.

10:55: And then Beyonce happened.

In the last couple of years, Beyonce's performances have evolved past artistic and into messianic. She is not God. (Obviously.) But the reactions to her appearances — the tears, the shouts, the chills, the praise dancing — evokes the same type of reaction you associate with church. I was not old enough during Michael Jackson's prime to know if he induced a similar reaction from his fans and peers, but I can't imagine an artist having more of an impact on her entire industry than Beyonce does today.


Also, at 32, she was one of the oldest performers on the entire show. This is not an unimportant fact. Those of us also in our 30s have watched her grow up with us. She was a box-braided kid in Destiny's Child, sharing screen time with Latavia Roberson and Wyclef Jean. She is a grown-ass woman now, with a kid and a husband and a trademarked accent mark and a pair of grown-ass woman hips. And perhaps her messianity is due to the fact that she's it. Of all the people making popular music in that late 90's, early aughts span, she's the only one still at the top of her game. For Black millennials, she is our cultural messiah. Perhaps her staving off wave after wave of Taylor Swifts and Katy Perrys is an analogy for us in our attempts to prove we still matter. That our voices count. That age and relevance aren't mutually exclusive concepts.

And perhaps we're all just old as fuck, and get more excited over leftover corn than new music.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



1. Ariana Grande is going to be dope when she finds a stylist and stops looking like its her Quinceanera
2. I swear Nicki Minaj wasnt doing sh t in like April and somehow was on every track in 2014
3. Jay Pharoah would've been funny if they were ready on time and his jokes didnt go on 5 minutes longer than they had to
4. If Jim Carrey needed a reminder hes old, Ariana hugging him like Mickey Mouse was pretty profound
5. If 30 year old Usher tried as hard as 35 year old Usher is now, we might still care about him
6. Royals is not rock music, but they seem to like to give Wednesday Adams trophies
7. It was weird that the entire Maroon 5 crown shots are ppl recording it for the vine
8. I watched the Strain so i missed Iggy, Miley and whatever else happened in that hour
9. I guess I should date a Bey stan cuz i kinda really wanna see her live and thats the only way thats finna happen
10. Who can they possibly give that MJ award to next year now