Heading into pretty much any awards show, you have to prepare yourself to come away feeling that the voting block messed up somewhere. As they showed once again in 2017, the MTV VMAs are no less frustrating in that respect than the Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes, or the Emmys. While there were many areas where it seemed that critical consensus, cultural impact and populist spirit collided to produce winners in a number of different categories that we we could all agree on, there were more than a few head-scratchers littered throughout the three-hour program as well. Here are the list of all the biggest upsets and most blatant robberies from this year’s ceremony.
Ed Sheeran Takes Home The Artist Of The Year Prize
This one just did not make sense on any level. Heading into the evening, while I’d hesitate to call this a full-on Kendrick Lamar coronation ceremony, there was a whiff of destiny that seemed to trail the rapper as he ended the Forum. He was up for the more prizes than any one else, with eight total. His latest work DAMN has already been certified multi-platinum and currently sits atop many critic’s list as the best full-length musical work of 2017. Artist Of The Year seemed like his for the taking, especially considering that he hadn’t even been nominated in that category before.
Then, Millie Bobby Brown, aka Eleven from Stranger Things, opened the envelope, pronounced Ed Sheeran the winner and suddenly it felt like we were all transported to the Upside Down. Look, I’m not going to denigrate Sheeran here. He seems like a nice person. His new album ÷ sold millions of copies, and people really seem to like the song “Shape Of You.” That. Being. Said. In what world does ÷ carry the same kind of cultural, political or artistic heft as DAMN?
I have nothing against shiny pop songs, but the VMA voters had the chance to reward an artist who consistently puts themselves out on a limb; who stretches his voice to its absolute limits and creates music that soundtrack movements. They had a chance to align themselves with history. They chose to go in another direction. Kendrick has been spurned one too many times at award shows through the years. With the added baggage of Macklemore text messages weighing him down, this one felt especially egregious.