2016 VMAS Highlights

For the majority of the 2016 VMAs I forgot that I was even watching an award show.  That might seem strange but if you were watching the same show as me you’d understand.

You see, even though the VMAs stand for the MTV Video Music Awards there were maybe only three awards handed out during the entire how. I guess the rest were off-screen? Or maybe I was just so dumbstruck by Beyoncé’s performance that I forgot the more run of the mill aspects of the show.

I haven’t previously covered an award show on Violet Roots but I thought the 2016 VMAs would be a perfect excuse to give it a shot! For this feature, I’ll be breaking it down into highs, lows, and fun bits in a similar way to my festival coverage. 


The Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award

Just in case you’re out of the loop, the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award is given artists who make an impact on the MTV culture. It’s also considered a Lifetime Achievement award which might seem odd since this year, Rihanna was the 2016 VMAs award recipient. She’s only twenty-eight. Still, in her eleven-year career, no one can deny that she has left quite the impression.

I’m seeing her later on in September at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park and I CAN NOT WAIT! Plus, it’s free (like what?!) so I’m even more excited. 

Past award recipients include David Bowie, The Beatles, Madonna, Bon Jovi, The Rolling Stones, Michael and Janet Jackson, Hype Williams, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Kanye West, and more. It’s not an annual award but when the recipient is announced they typically perform multiple times throughout the night. 


Rihanna’s Performances

  • 1st – “Please Don’t Stop the Music”, “Only Girl”, “We Found Love”  & “Where Have You Been” (Watch)
  • 2nd – “Pon De Replay”, “Rude Boy”,  “Whats my Name” & “Work” (Watch)
  • 3rd – “Needed Me”, “Pour it Up” & “BBHMM” (Watch)
  • 4th – “Stay”, “Diamond” & “Love On the Brain” (Watch)

Out of her four performances my favorite was the third closely followed by the fourth and first. She opened with her fun poppy hits, closed with full on ballads and mixed it up in the middle with dancehall vibes and vixen trap style. It was the full spectrum of her career and catered to all her fans aka #RihannaNavy.

Her set design, costuming and the backup dancers all looked great. The third look she wore was my favorite and I really want the sweater the dancers were wearing during that performance. If someone can point me in the right direction that would be awesome!

Get a taste of performances here.


  • Beyoncé did a live rendition of her visual album Lemonade. I gave my in depth opinion on the album already so I won’t go into that again but it was fantastic guys! It might have even stolen the show! Who am I kidding?! It did!
    • She hit a camera with a baseball bat and folks in the crowd legit had to be pulled away from her. It was that serious. Which kinda sucks since Rihanna did perform four times. She held her own but you can’t really compete with a Beyonce choreography and set design. 
  • This might seem like a small thing but Troye Sivan and Alessia Cara introduced The Chainsmokers and Halsey before they performed “Closer.” You know how much I love Troye! If you don’t I’m seeing him again in November so you’re about to find out! #Fangirl
  • Drake gave a really great speech as he gave the 2016 VMAs Vanguard Award to Rihanna. It was pretty much what Tumblr dreams are made of. 




  • Future . . . what did he even say?! I might get some hate for that but I can never understand him. Ever. I would say his songs are fun but I might change my mind if I ever looked up the lyrics. In other news: I really liked his outfit. 
  • This one pains me to say but I have to be honest. Britney Spears performed her new song, “Make Me” with a mashup of G-Eazy’s “Me, Myself & I” and it was hella awkward. I wanted to love it but I did not. Plus, Bebe Rexha was in the building. She sings that song with G-Eazy so I don’t get why she wouldn’t just sing it. Britney also performed this directly after Beyoncé . . .
  • Fifth Harmony beating the below songs for an award makes zero sense to me. Nothing against them but please explain.
    • Calvin Harris “This is What You Came For”
    • Ariana Grande (ft. Lil Wayne) “Let me Love You”
    • Beyoncé (Ft. Kendrick Lamar) “Freedom”
  • As far as I’m concerned there was no host for this event. Key and Peele were in one booth as two Twitter-obsessed alter egos. Nicole Byer was backstage giving recaps. Jay Pharoah was doing impressions of various actors and rappers. DJ Khaled was in a sky booth and there were countless celebrity presenters.





FEMALE VIDEO || Beyonce “Hold Up”

MALE VIDEO || Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna “This is What You Came For”

HIP HOP VIDEO || Drake “Hotline Bling”

COLLABORATION || Fifth Harmony Ft. Ty Dolla $ign “Work From Home”


ART DIRECTION || David Bowie “Blackstar”

VISUAL EFFECTS || Coldplay “Up & Up”

SONG OF THE SUMMER || Fifth Harmony Ft. Fetty Wap “All in My Head”

Fun Bits:

  • Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj performed “Side to Side.” 
  • Alicia Keys read/sang a poem advocating for peace.
  • Kanye West premiered his video for “Faded.” It might seem like the typical dancing beautiful woman (Teyana Taylor) clip but wait until the very end for a surprise.
  • Nick Jonas performed at an NYC diner and then worked his way through an outdoor crowd to a stage, back into a crowd and up on another stage. I don’t know how I feel about the song but I can appreciate all the choreography that goes into a live performance like that. 


What do you think of this 2016 VMAs highlights? Should I do it again for other music award shows?

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