Sunday night’s MTV VMAs will mix a serious social message in along with Nicki Minaj’s snakes and Iggy Azalea’s much anticipated appearance.
MTV President Stephen Friedman said in a statement Sunday just hours before the show that the network would air a 15-second spot focusing on race in hopes of spurring a discussion about the events surrounding the Aug. 9 police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was killed.
He became an instant symbol of racial injustice as protesters flooded into the streets of Ferguson, Missouri after his death, and the federal government has launched an investigation.
“It’s a call to action to our audience that we have to confront our own bias head-on before we can truly create change,” Friedman said.
The announcement only added to the buildup to what is annually one of music’s most dramatic and unpredictable awards show. Already there have been snake bites and stage slips.
Days before the big show, Iggy Azalea slipped offstage while performing “Fancy” at a MTV benefit concert, later posting the video on Instagram and making fun of herself. More seriously, a 6-foot-long boa constrictor bit a background dancer during a rehearsal for Nicki Minaj’s performance of “Anaconda,” MTV News reported. MTV said Minaj was onstage, and the female dancer was treated onsite and transported to a hospital.
At another rehearsal, a show worker fell from one of the winding, sloping platforms on the stage at the Forum in Inglewood, California, which reopened in January after a $100 million makeover. And rap mogul Suge Knight was injured in a shooting early Sunday at a West Hollywood nightclub for an unofficial pre-VMA party hosted by Chris Brown.
The back-to-back drama is making the popular awards show, airing Sunday night, a trending topic on social media even before an award is handed out, though trophies often take a back seat at the VMAs, which are all about the moments. And the show will likely provide even more memorable moments once it kicks off, much like last year’s VMAs, which we will call the Video Miley Awards.
Miley Cyrus is returning Sunday, this time as a nominee for video of the year with “Wrecking Ball.” She isn’t set to perform, but the outrageous singer, who has kept quiet recently, could surprise with another twerking moment that could own the night and steal the spotlight from the slew of A-list pop divas.
Beyonce will perform and receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award. She’s the leading nominee, competing for eight awards, including video of the year for “Drunk In Love.”
Taylor Swift, who is fully venturing out into the world of pop music, will sing her new song “Shake It Off” for the first time. And Ariana Grande, who is releasing her sophomore album, “My Everything,” minutes after the VMAs wrap, will perform twice, including opening the show with Minaj and Jessie J for “Bang Bang.”
“I’m so excited. … MTV has been so supportive to me and I can’t thank them enough,” said the 21-year-old Grande, who is nominated for three moonmen for best pop video, female video and collaboration for “Problem” with Azalea.
Azalea, like Eminem, has seven nominations. The Australian rapper is nominated twice for both best female and pop video thanks to the success of “Problem” and “Fancy.” The latter will compete for video of the year.
Charli XCX, who co-stars on “Fancy,” said she first met Azalea on the set of the “Clueless”-inspired music video after they recorded the No. 1 hit separately. The 22-year-old English singer, who was also featured on last year’s summer smash “I Love It” with Icona Pop, is nominated for the artist to watch award for her breakthrough solo hit, “Boom Clap.”
“I mean it’s cool, that’s for sure,” said Charli XCX, who said she’s got four outfits lined up for Sunday. “I’m excited to be there because I haven’t done an awards show like on my own, if you know what I mean.”
She’ll battle girl group Fifth Harmony and rising acts who have topped the charts this year, including boy band 5 Seconds of Summer, rapper Schoolboy Q and pop singer Sam Smith, who will also perform Sunday night.
“My dreams are coming true this weekend. I’m performing at the VMAs,” Smith said at the MTV benefit concert also featuring Azalea.
Smith’s “Stay With Me” is also up for best male video, pitting him against Eminem, John Legend, Ed Sheeran and Pharrell, whose “Happy” is also nominated for video of the year.
Sia’s “Chandelier,” which has helped the singer-songwriter achieve a musical breakthrough this year, will battle Pharrell, Azalea, Beyonce and Cyrus for the night’s top trophy.
AP entertainment writers Sandy Cohen and Nicole Evatt in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Follow Mesfin Fekadu at twitter.com/MusicMesfin