On August 26, in Newark, New Jersey, the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards were held. While most people are still buzzing about the performances, there is one question that a few have been asking. What happened to rock ‘n’ roll? If there is one thing that has been painfully obvious over the years, it’s the overall lack of rock ‘n’ roll in award shows.
In the past 10 years, rock ‘n’ roll has seemingly disappeared from the award show scene almost entirely. While there is a “Best Rock” award at the VMAs—this year it went to Panic! At The Disco for “High Hopes”—when it comes to performances, rock ‘n’ roll fans are pretty much out of luck.
The last real rock performance happened at the 2009 VMAs. That year, the host was Russell Brand. Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Green Day took home the most awards. It was the last time that rock had a place on the occasion. There were even two rock artists on the bill that year: Green Day, who not only performed “East Jesus Nowhere” and took home three awards, but Muse was also on-site to deliver a performance of “Uprising.”
— billboard (@billboard) August 26, 2019
Over the last decade, rock music has been phased out. Pop, hip-hop, and Latin music have taken over and are now completely infused into the VMAs. Imagining a popular rock band of today taking the stage is somewhat difficult to envision.
Rule the World
Even though rock music wasn’t represented as well as it could’ve been, other highlights made this year’s show enjoyable. The evening was filled with throwbacks that gave off an air of nostalgia. One of the most talked-about performances had to do with the reemergence of Missy Elliott.
Elliott was given the long-overdue honor of becoming the first female rapper to receive MTV’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Along with it came a medley of songs including some of her greatest hits from the ’90s and 2000s. The occasion even prompted an appearance from Alyson Stoner—the now grown-up dancer from Elliott’s “Work It” video.
While those who clearly remember Elliott’s greatest hits got a pretty cool trip down memory lane, there was a much younger audience who thought she was a new artist. Elliott has kept a presence on Twitter over the years, but up until “Iconology” (her newly released EP) the rapper/producer/songwriter hadn’t put out an album since 2005’s “The Cookbook.”
In My Feelings
Elliott’s act wasn’t the only throwback of the night. This year’s VMAs included another hip-hop treat. Queen Latifah, Naughty by Nature, Redman, Fetty Wap, and Wyclef Jean, came together to perform a medley filled with old school favorites. It was mostly a ’90s dream, apart from Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen.”
The whole thing conjured up memories of when hip-hop was in its heyday. “O.P.P.,” “Gone Till November,” “No Woman, No Cry,” “U.N.I.T.Y.,” and “Hip Hop Hooray” were all included in the mash-up. Rapper turned actor, Ice-T even introduced the set. His appearance had an entire generation wondering why “Detective Tutuola” from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” was onstage. The moment prompted some pretty funny memes.
As is usually the case, there were plenty of standout moments at the VMAs. Some of those include performances by Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift, and Lizzo. The latter’s homage to Prince is one of the things people still can’t stop talking about. Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Billie Eilish were the big winners of the night. They took home the majority of the awards—tying with three each.
Thank U, Next
This year’s show was actually a low point for the VMAs. The numbers are in, and they are down. Not as much as in recent years, but down nonetheless. While people are still talking about the performances and the wins, the ratings hit an all-time low for the third year in a row.
Still, there is no doubt that the social media presence and online engagement is up. Social and video views rose 85 percent to be exact. This is mainly thanks to the young-adult demographic. Certainly, the GIFs and memes that have been generated will likely be circulated for years to come.
Meanwhile, the show was hosted by comedian Sebastian Maniscalco. Choosing an older comedian to command the night and mixing in some old-school favorites might have had something to do with the fact that the numbers were up 6 percent with adults between the ages of 25-54.
Other award shows are also trending in the same direction. While 2019 is not as bad as years past, it still might be a sign that these events should try something different; like adding rock n roll back into the mix. No doubt fans will appreciate it.