The past¸ present and future of black female artistry were on full display at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards and ladies, we’re tracking at optimum on black excellence.
Normani goes full repertoire on us
Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19
The Atlanta born singer’s VMA performance happened on a Basketball court set but she did not come to play. She came to give us three and a half minutes of fierce choreography, clean vocals, and that jaw-dropping gymnastic twerk solo near the end?!
Performing her chart-climbing single Motivation, the 23-year old brought 90s nostalgia to life not only visually but also by transporting us back to a time when singers danced like professionals and didn’t hold back on choreography (think Aaliyah, JLo, Ciara, Missy Elliot…more on that just now). The Internet says she’s been dancing, competing in pageants and gymnastics since an early age, it shows.
Normani’s a beacon in the RnB scene right now, and her MTV VMA debut performance marks a critical moment showcasing the appeal of full repertoire talent backed with showmanship and great artistry (the songwriting credits on Motivation include Ariana Grande and read like a future Hall of Fame list). This isn’t another pretty face, banging body, minimal substance roadshow that needs to be propped up by overstimulating visuals, she’s the real thing.
Lizzo captures the current mood of the times
Forget the giant booty floatie in the background, it’s what Lizzo brings to the foreground of popular culture that deserves to be on repeat. From the opening line of her hit song, Truth Hurts: “Why men great ‘til they gotta be great?” we knew church was open and she preached, literally. Truth Hurts is a welcome stage anthem on any day but her new single Good As Hell infected all of New Jersey with positive vibes punctuated by this Shirley Caesar interlude:
“Let me talk to you for a second. I’m tired of the bulls–t and I don’t have to know your story to know you’re tired of the bulls–t too. It’s so hard trying to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back, am I right?”.
Not only did she show off her vocal range (she had the sing/rap/belt triple threat on lock) but her call for women to self legitimise and be imperfectly great continues to be vitally soothing in the age of filters. While H.E.R served us a poignantly curated version of the anti-establishment mood that’s taking over pop culture, Lizzo delivered the same powerful narrative in plain, cut the BS, say it louder language. Her performance gets two fists up for accurately capturing the turn of the zeitgeist.
Missy Elliot remains the Vanguard of Futurist Cool
The Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award (did MTV discreetly change the title?) archives the musical achievements of our time while cementing the recipient’s “this is why I’m a legend” status. No other moment put an accent on the video in MTV Video Music Awards than Missy Elliot receiving her Moonman this year. She’s been giving us Hype Williams backed, futurist imagery since her ’97 solo debut Supa Dupa Fly and we’ve come to expect epic visuals from her.
Her electric medley performance included a post-human-inspired delivery of her new single Throw It Back, an all too real looking indoor rainstorm and a mid-air Missy in THAT iconic inflatable bodysuit. It says mouthfuls that her videos from the 90s and 00s are still considered to be leading from the frontier’s edge in 2019. This is the hallmark of a true visionary, we never doubted her but it’s always good when history takes a moment to celebrate and document black female genius.