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An Entertaining Look at the Rhetoric of MTV’s VMAs

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

By Calvin Dimmig | September 20, 2021

Last Sunday, 6.4 million Americans tuned in to watch MTV’s Video Music Awards hosted at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Viewers were met with the MTV Moon Man in all his gigantic glory. The night was chock-full of notable events: the always iconic smashing of the guitar by Machine Gun Kelly, Doja Cat’s lurid “worm” costume, and Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters reuniting for another performance.

However, this year’s VMAs will be remembered not for their notable moments, but their return to what some would consider “normalcy.” This year the VMAs held a large, live audience (say no more to pre-recorded performances). Members of the audience were required to wear masks while artists and performers were not.

As with any awards show, an artist's acceptance speech goes out to the people they address directly as well as everyone watching on the flat screen. The artists’ comedic, questionable, and inspiring words from their acceptance speech to an America in need of some entertainment.

Video of the Year: Lil Nas X “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)”

Lil Nas X, the writer of the hit “Old Town Road,” proves he was not a one-hit wonder by winning one of the top awards presented at the VMAs.

Lil Nas X: First...first I want to say...want to say thank you to the gay agenda!!

Song of the Year: Olivia Rodrigo “drivers license”

Olivia Rodrigo received this award immediately after her on-stage performance. She is currently dominating the pop genre after releasing her debut album, “Sour.”

Rodrigo: I want to thank you guys..all the fans you’re so incredible. […] I want to thank this award to all the other girls who write songs on their bedroom floor. There are a lot of people who will try to dim your light, but speaking your mind and sharing your heart are the most beautiful things in the world. Here’s to that. Thank you again.

Best Pop Song: Justin Bieber w/ Daniel Caesar and Giveon “Peaches”

The Canadian star worked with RnB artist Daniel Caesar and Giveon, an artist famous for his collaboration alongside Drake on “Chicago Freestyle.”

Giveon: Justin randomly called me on FaceTime one day and said, “Do you wanna do a song?” And I said, “Yeah, sure, let's do the song.”

Video for Good: Billie Eilish “your power”

Billie Eilish’s abusive relationship was the central theme to her song “your power.”

Eilish: Alicia Keys just kissed me on the cheek. I have a mark. [...] And if I was going to say anything about this song, I feel like I was trying to write this song for a really long time and then I feel like I finally did and it was so satisfying and freeing and also really sad, sorry. And I just want to say we need to protect our young women at all costs. For real. We need to remember we all have power and we need to remember to not abuse it. Thank you.

Best Collaboration: Doja ft. SZA “Kiss One More”

Doja Cat: This is always left field for everybody isn’t it? [...] Thank you, everybody, you guys have made this so fun. So fun. And interesting. [...] I look like a worm. That’s dope. I never thought I would be dressed as a worm while getting an award.

Best New Artist: Olivia Rodrigo

Rodrigo: I want to thank Laroi (Kid Laroi) who inspires me every day to be a better artist. I love him so much. I just feel so grateful that I get to write music and make stuff that I love and call it my job. So thanks, guys, again.

Best Hip-Hop: Travis Scott “Franchise” feat. Young Thug and MIA

Travis Scott: I LOVE YOU NEW YORK!!! [...] I just want to tell y’all love is the biggest thing we can ever hold. Just spread love and everything will be ok. Everybody to your left and to your right is your friends.

Best Alt: Machine Gun Kelly

Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) went from rapper to alternative rockstar. He is currently dating actress Megan Fox. He got into a beef with Connor McGregor before the event started.

MGK: And the director of the video, Van, I haven’t talked to you since because we got in a fight on set, but it was a great video. We won! We won!

VMA Global Icon: Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters (probably your dad’s favorite band) lead by Nirvana’s Dave Grohl reunited for another performance. Drummer Taylor Hawkins’ drums had “Charlie R.I.P.” written on it in black marker. This is referencing late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.

Dave Grohl: But we’d like to thank all of the people at MTV, past and present. [...] We’ll see ya in 26 years.

Artist of the Year: Justin Bieber

Bieber: As we know there’s so much going on in the world as we speak. I know you guys have probably heard it a lot but we are in unprecedented times right now with this COVID thing. It’s not a COVID thing. It’s a big deal, y’know? I just wanted to say that music is such an amazing opportunity and an amazing outlet to be able to reach people and to be able to bring us all together, and that’s why we’re here right now, right? We’re all here right now, and we got more in common than we don’t. I look around here and see all these beautiful faces. [...] I look over here and I see my beautiful wife and I want to thank her so much.

Push Performance of the Year: Olivia Rodrigo “drivers license”

After the dust settled from the main event, Rodrigo was awarded with a surprise.

Interviewer: I want you to do me a favor, Olivia, if you will. I want you to look right there into the camera, okay? You see your millions of fans, what would you like to say to them as you accept this award?

Rodrigo: Oh my gosh. Huge thank you. I couldn’t be more grateful. All of this is because of you guys. Thanks a million.


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