The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards aired on Sunday, August 30 from New York City and Black Lives Matter and get out the vote messages were sprinkled throughout.
As with everything during the coronavirus pandemic, this award show was not what we are accustomed to seeing. Many locations were used for the performances and for most there was no live audience. Also of note – the performers were not subject to the quarantine guidelines that any other visitor to New York City would be under. The artists and performers were given special treatment.
Host Keke Palmer began the evening by devoting the broadcast to actor Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) who recently passed away from cancer. Then she launched into a Black Lives Matter riff. I suppose it was to be expected, given her past remarks on racial equality and how President Trump is trying to start a race war.
Palmer: “And with the Black Lives Matter movement, we've seen our generation step up, take to the streets, and make sure our voices will be heard. Enough is enough. What we just witnessed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is yet another devastating reminder that we can't stop, that we can never tolerate police brutality. Or any injustice. We must continue the fight to end systemic racism. The leaders of that movement are you, us, the people watching tonight. It's our time to be the change we want to see."
During a performance by DaBaby, a cityscape burned while he jumped on the roof of a police car (see image above). At one point a “Stop Killing Us” sign was visible.
Musical artist The Weeknd won two awards and both times very briefly said, “It’s really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment. Justice for Jacob Blake, justice for Breonna Taylor.”
The Black Lives Matter message was frequently delivered but not as much as expected, considering how much of a focus it's been in sports lately. Most of the time devoted to promoting BLM and getting out the vote for Joe Biden happened during the commercial breaks. One ad that was shown twice was sponsored by Black Lives Matter. It exploited the shooting of Jacob Blake. Seven descriptions of Jacob, like father, son, uncle, were used to parallel with the seven gunshots used in his apprehension by police in Kenosha followed by a message to "Demand Justice Now."
Biden for President ran two campaign ads for the Biden-Harris ticket. One tried to make both candidates cool with music and dancing. No one thinks Joe Biden is cool. It began by saying, "Now a word from #TheNewAdministration." Another featured a BLM activist telling people to vote for Biden. There was also a commercial from Vote For Your Life that ran twice, and a Pepsi commercial promoting Rock the Vote. The effort to get young people to register and then get out and vote was strong. A random VOTE mask made an appearance.
Actress Sofia Carson made a plea for people to register to vote after presenting the Video for Good Award, sponsored by Pepsi. Pepsi is donating $100,000 to the NAACP Defense Fund as part of the award. H.E.R. won for the social justice song, “I Can’t Breathe”.
The awards show ended with a performance by the Black Eyed Peas who finished their set saying, "Wakanda forever!" (a reference to Boseman and Black Panther) and "Black Lives Matter!"
So, the evening was filled with musical performances and get out the vote efforts. Most of the audience was likely young people and they don’t have a good record of voting, traditionally. We’ll see if 2020 is any different.