Opinion: Socially Distanced VMAs Made up for Lack of Shocking Moments with Equally Shocking Snubs

Photo Courtesy of MTV.

While the MTV Video Music Awards are usually known for their iconic, out of nowhere moments — such as Miley Cyrus’ infamous performance with Robin Thicke in 2013, or when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech in 2009 — this year’s ceremony was a little different. 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many portions of the show were pre-taped, lessening the chances of an explosive moment like those aforementioned. Performances were aired, but without a live studio audience.

Despite this, the show managed to be fairly entertaining thanks to performances from Doja Cat, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and DaBaby. Doja Cat stunned with a sparkling bodysuit and a performance of her songs “Say So” and “Like That,” while Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande unveiled the first live performance of their Song of the Year and Best Collaboration winner: “Rain on Me.” DaBaby brought out the Jabbawockeez — a well-known dance troupe — for his performance, which evoked imagery and commentary about police violence.

There was, however, something off about this year’s ceremony, and it wasn’t just the fact that interviews were done six feet apart, or that background dancers were all wearing masks. Two of the biggest artists of the year were notably absent from the show — Harry Styles and Dua Lipa. The two were rumoured to have been asked to perform at the VMAs, but declined.

Former One Direction member Harry Styles had a phenomenal year, cementing his status as a solo artist. His second studio album, Fine Line, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and spawned Styles’ first No. 1 hit with his single “Watermelon Sugar.” The video — which was released on May 18, dedicated to “touching” and filmed on a beach months prior to the pandemic — made everyone yearn for a social distance-less summer. 

“Watermelon Sugar” wasn’t Styles’ only hit off Fine Line. “Adore You” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was also treated to a music video. The video features Styles singing to a fish, and a narration cameo by Rosalía in the extended version has an endearing storyline.  

Similarly, Dua Lipa has had an amazing year. Her album Future Nostalgia topped the charts in thirteen countries, and reached top ten in 31. While Future Nostalgia has produced many music videos, the one most worthy of praise was very obviously “Physical.” The video is an extraordinary production, with elaborate choreography and effects.

While “Watermelon Sugar” was nominated for Song of the Summer and “Physical” won the award for Visual Effects, the two artists were notably absent from the major awards. Personally, I would’ve loved to see Styles and Lipa in the Best Artist category. I think either “Watermelon Sugar” or “Adore You” could’ve been nominated for Video of the Year for Harry, and that “Physical” deserved a spot as well. 

Regardless of their snubs at this year’s VMAs, I have confidence that future award shows will recognize the talent of these two. I believe that both Future Nostalgia and Fine Line have a good shot at being nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. I cannot wait to see where the careers of these artists will go. Until then, I will continue to stream both on Spotify until their next releases come out.