MTV VMAs Adapted To Pandemic: Did It Work?

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The 2020 MTV VMAs, which aired Sunday night, adapted to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic by using social distancing, masks and a lot of technology.

Unlike a typical VMAs show, this year’s performers and presenters were able to tune in from the comfort of their homes, just like we did. (“Red carpet” arrivals were shot at the same time stars taped their appearances.)

MORE: Full Coverage Of The MTV VMAs

Host Keke Palmer and presenters like Kelly Clarkson and Bella Hadid taped their appearances in front of green screens. Fans (and their cheers) were digitally added.

Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Doja Cat and Black Eyed Peas taped their performances on a soundstage in Los Angeles and BTS recorded their segment in South Korea.

The Weeknd taped his performance last Thursday night atop the Edge at Hudson Yards and Maluma and CNCO recorded their drive-in performances last Wednesday night at Brooklyn’s Skyline Drive-In.

The pre-taped performances made lip-syncing by Cyrus, DaBaby and BTS glaringly obviously. There were some live vocals during the Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande performance of “Rain On Me,” which was part of a nine-minute medley by Gaga.

Reviews of the show were mixed.

“The show was often charming but frequently surreal and unhinged,” declared Patrick Ryan of USA Today. At the New York Post, Chuck Arnold opined that "like much of 2020, this will go down as a VMAs to forget."

Billboard writer Jason Lipshutz described the VMAs as “a dynamic display of artistry across the mainstream.”

“It's not MTVs fault the show was cringey at times,” sniffed Cosmopolitan. “Between the fake audience screams, green screens, and just overall lack of fun candid moments, this year's VMAs left something to be desired.” 

TIME’s Andrew R. Chow opined: "The socially distanced setup actually improved the show in some respects: there were no agonizingly slow walks to the stage or stifling bleeps of live audio, and the runtime was a relatively brisk two and a quarter hours. But the show also missed the scale and spontaneity that has previously made the VMAs so unpredictable and compelling."

Ellise Shafer of Variety noted the pandemic didn’t stop MTV “from trying its best to keep the spirit of a live show, well, alive … It was a valiant effort, with some artists pulling out all the production stops, and others falling flat.”

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