If we’re tired of celebrities, what do we need award shows for?

The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards proved that awards shows are still stuck in the 2010s 

The MTV Video Music Awards are falling behind the times.

The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards were streamed to our living rooms on Aug. 30. A socially distanced event that had been largely pre-taped, the award show was a new frontier for the entertainment industry in a pandemic-adapted world. 

There were some messy moments, like Doja Cat losing her train of thought and Machine Gun Kelly nearly doing the splits to get close enough to the mic. Messy moments are something we expect from the VMAs, which are the grounds for iconic and cringe-worthy moments like Kayne’s interruption of a 19-year-old Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech in 2009 and Miley Cyrus’s infamous twerking performance in 2013. 

This year, however, the parts of the show that were live were far from exciting, consisting mainly of awkwardly distanced hosts and interviews that left much to be desired. 

The VMAs have been struggling for years, with ratings and viewership dropping annually. This year’s show couldn’t shake that downward trend, with linear viewers down 5 per cent from 2019. Even with little to watch on television right now, people didn’t tune in. 

The peak of the VMAs was nearly ten years ago, with the 2011 show bringing in almost double the viewers of 2020. It isn’t difficult to guess why viewership was higher nine years ago: in 2011, award shows were a special treat wherein fans would get to see their favourite celebrities on screen for a night. It was easy to get excited about Beyonce’s baby bump when your Twitter feed wasn’t already full of speculation and paparazzi pictures. 

In 2020, we live in a world where it’s hard to get celebrities off of our screens. Social media has changed how we interact with the rich and famous, making those once-exciting moments of celebrity content feel like they’re being shoved down our throats. 

While celebrity gossip used to be something people actively sought out, it’s become impossible to ignore. Social media treats rumors and tabloids like the news; a Twitter user might get a notification about Keeping Up with The Kardashians alongside an update about corruption in the White House.

If MTV really wants to hold on to their 36 -year-old tradition, it's  going to have to make some big changes. 

A simple place to start would be inviting more artists with large fanbases to drive up viewership.  Bringing in a group like BTS may not be guaranteed to excite a general audience to tune in, but it does, at the very least, help prevent the number of viewers from slipping even further. 

What MTV needs to focus on is reviving the show for a new era.

A real change to the VMAs would be one that adapts the show to a social media-driven world.  Although once upon a time the VMAs was iconic for its big celebrity moments, the key to saving the show in the present is putting more focus on the music and videos themselves. Even if the public has grown tired of hearing about Miley Cyrus’s dating life, we can still appreciate her powerfully written music. Imagine the excitement if Taylor Swift had announced and debuted Folklore on live television rather than our social media feeds.

An exciting VMAs in 2020 might look like an awards show that debuts new music in real time or gives viewers a first look at the newest music video from our favourite rising stars. Bringing us behind the scenes on a music video set would be eons more interesting than watching artists get in verbal sparring matches with each other live on stage—especially when we can watch them beef on Twitter any day of the week. 

If the VMAs and similar award shows don’t push themselves in a bold new direction, they run the risk of becoming a relic of the past. As they exist right now, it’s hard to imagine they would even be missed.  


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