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The VMAs opening number with Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Jessie J and more: What did you think?

How many rhinestones were on Ariana Grande’s Barbarella-call-girl onesie?  How bouncy is her ponytail? How freaked out was the PA who had to man the censor button during Nicki Minaj’s NC-17 celebration of snakes and a special kind of salad?

These and many more questions came to us during an opening medley that featured Grande performing “Break Free” direct from space (kind of), Nicki Minaj not using her previously scheduled reptile muses during the Sir Mix-a-Lot-sampling “Anaconda,”  and Jessie J looking sane and moderately amused during “Bang Bang,” while Grande strutted in yet another future onesie and Minaj clutched at her decency when a wardrobe quick-change wasn’t quick enough.

But you tell us, readers, what did you think of the VMAs opener?

 

VMAs: The 2014 Winners List

Too busy playing VMAs Bingo to notice who’s actually winning the awards? Check back here throughout the show for a continuously updated list.

Best Lyric Video (Pre-show award): 5SOS, “Don’t Stop”

Best Female Video: Katy Perry, “Dark Horse”

Best Male Video: Ed Sheeran, “Sing”

Best Pop Video: Ariane Grande ft. Iggy Azalea, “Problem”

Best Hip Hop Video: Drake ft. Majid Jordan, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”

Best Rock Video: Lorde, “Royals”

Artist to Watch: Fifth Harmony

Video of the Year: Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”

Video Vanguard Award: Beyoncé

Surrealism meets avant-crunk in Shabazz Palaces' '#CAKE' video

Shabazz Palaces’ 2011 debut Black Up had a luxurious sleekness to its sound and a fiery political charge to its lyrics—qualities that it shared with Watch the Throne, which was released just a few weeks later—but with far less concern for pleasing a pop-oriented audience. For their new album, Lese Majesty, the duo has responded to Black Up‘s surprising success by pushing even further out with even more political intensity, even weirder beats, and much weirder promo photos.

Lese Majesty isn’t as easily accessible their first album, with song structures that consistently refuse to follow standard pop blueprints. But beat-maker Fly Guy ‘Dai and MC Palaceer Lazaro (aka former Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler) make sure to provide enough hooks to help listeners get on their deconstructionist level. A lot of them come on “#CAKE,” which is the closest thing to radio-friendly that the album gets, with a warped take on an old-school electro-rap beat and lyrics that walk a line between club-friendly sing-along and psychedelic chanting.

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Diplo discusses Madonna, Usher, and more in 'Billboard' cover story

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Billboard‘s Fall Music Preview gives credit to the man who is truly everywhere in music (except country) at the moment: Diplo. From drunk recording sessions with Madonna to a week in the studio with Usher, working with Skrillex and Chris Brown, it’s all here—along with, of course, his own music and tours and residencies. (Diplo is on track to top last year’s 221 live performances.) Over the course of the interview, the Mad Decent label head goes into detail about all of the above and proves that not only is he a compendium of musical knowledge, but really does have, as the cover line says, “the Midas touch.”

Discussed at length is how spending his teen years in South Florida, a densely varied music scene, still shapes his approach to music: the more diverse, the better. It’s clear from who he works with (Madge and Skrillex go as well together as bare feet and broken glass) as well as what he puts out himself, from dance tracks to his reggae-inspired group Major Lazer to Jack U partnership. He doesn’t understand people who stick to their genre bubbles. Speaking of the EDM community in particular:

“All the DJs were at my Vegas night one night—I’m not going to name names, but all the big EDM guys—and I played a Juicy J record,” he says, shaking his head. “They’re like, ‘Where do you get these records?’ I’m like, ‘They’re on the radio! You can buy them off iTunes!’ They really have no idea. They live in these bubbles. I’m like, ‘Damn, dudes, use your imagination a little bit.’ “

And the picture that overwhelmingly emerges is one of a savvy, nomadic businessman. Most of his earnings are invested back into Mad Decent or savings accounts, Mad Decent HQ is itself a bare-bones building, and home is wherever he keeps his “stuff” (he does not own a house); he scoffs at the notoriously lavish EDM lifestyle, “A lot of DJs don’t realize they’re here today and gone tomorrow. They’re literally taking jets to every show. It’s crazy how much money they’re spending.” Instead his—and many a current musician’s—most valuable possession is the backpack where he carries his two laptops, the storage facility for hundreds upon hundreds of tracks.

Play EW's MTV VMA Bingo game

Awards show drinking games are so passé. It’s just too easy to get black-out wasted, especially when it comes to downing a shot whenever Taylor Swift gesticulates wildly in a fit of seat dancing, or Nicki Minaj throws shade at insert-name-of-fellow-rapper-trying-to-steal-her-thunder. Add some variety to the awards show game arena by playing EW’s MTV Video Music Awards Bingo—because it’s guaranteed that one of the following things will occur: Kanye West gets caught in a humble brag (minus the humble); someone wears sunglasses indoors.

Plus, this is a game that the non-drinking, under-21 crowd can also get in on. Because let’s face it—they’re the ones who can understand what is really going on behind Ariana Grande’s worried face.

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Kanye and Kid Cudi unveil berserk signature shoe designs

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There’s little doubt that Kanye West is the most influential fashion icon in hip-hop right now. While he’s frequently, loudly, and lengthily detailed his struggle to earn respect in the fashion world, he’s succeeded in turning legions of fanboys into couture-loving goth ninjas and minting fortunes for labels like Hood by Air and Been Trill in the process. His shoe fixation has resulted in one of the few big successes he’s had in his pursuit of a career as a fashion designer: the Nike Air Yeezy, which has become the center of an entire cult of fervently devoted sneakerheads.

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Juicy J teams up with Nicki Minaj, Young Thug, and Lil Bibby for 'Low'

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One of the perks of being an artist who spent their youth pushing hard against every boundary you encountered is that years later, when the rest of the world catches up, you basically have a free pass to coast as much as you damn well please while you cash in on your hard-earned reputation. Few such artists take as much advantage of that unwritten rule as Juicy J, who’s spent most of his time since “Bandz A Make Her Dance” reignited his career recording guest verses that have given new meaning to the phrase “phoning it in” and often leave the listener under the impression that Juicy didn’t even listen to the rest of the song before jumping in the booth, dropping a quick 16, and grabbing a check on his way back out the door.

For all the uninspiring but presumably lucrative features he’s spat recently, Juicy possesses much of the skill that he displayed during his zeitgeist-rattling run with Three 6 Mafia, which he shows off a little more than usual on his new single “Low.” The reasons why aren’t hard to discern: by inviting Nicki Minaj, Young Thug, and Lil Bibby–three of the biggest talents in the game right now–on as guests he couldn’t take a chance trying to get by on cruise control.

Miley Cyrus concert banned in Dominican Republic

Miley Cyrus is going to have to keep her tongue out of the Dominican Republic.

The government commission of the Caribbean island is banning the crotch-grabbing singer’s Sept. 13 concert for her, well, frequent crotch grabs, among other signature Miley antics that have gone against the country’s morality laws, which are punishable offenses. Tickets have ranged from $27 to $370 so ticketholders in the Dominican Republic will just have to hope for a refund and comfort themselves with a twerk and a foam finger. (Too risque?)

From Madonna to Miley Cyrus: The most memorable VMA performances ever

Creating a memorable VMA performance can be done any number of ways—shocking collaborations, wardrobe malfunctions, on-stage intruders, on-stage makeouts, and then there’s always the option just to put on a really, really great show. And since the MTV VMA Awards first aired in 1984, all of those things have happened on the show’s stage … and more.

In honor of this year’s show, here are some of the most memorable VMA performances of all time:

1984: Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” performance
An obvious first choice was Madonna kicking off the VMAs by debuting her single, “Like a Virgin.” But because she’s Madonna, she didn’t just sing the song. She sang it in a wedding dress, on top of a wedding cake, and later, rolling around on the floor (as all good brides do).

1992: Nirvana’s “Rape Me”-into-“Lithium” fakeout
This performance is also known as that time Krist Novoselic knocked himself out with a guitar toss.

1995: Michael Jackson’s 15-minute performance
Fifteen minutes of Michael Jackson meant we got a taste of numerous songs, from “Beat It” to “Billie Jean” and “Black or White,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and more. Add in moonwalking and Slash on guitar and there’s a very small chance anyone who saw it has forgotten this performance … ever.

2000: Eminem’s army of Slim Shadies
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? When Eminem performed his hit song, followed by “The Way I Am,” he brought a few friends with him. Specifically, he and about 50 look-a-likes came into the show off the streets of New York to liven things up (bleached hair and all).

2000 & 2001: Britney Spears’ back-to-back naked outfit and snake performances
In 2000, all the buzz surrounded Spears’ scandalous nude outfit that she wore during a performance of “Satisfaction” and “Oops I Did It Again.” But in 2001, she decided to add a few accessories to her outfit, namely a very large snake, for her performance of “”I’m A Slave 4 U.”

2003: Madonna/Britney kiss
In a callback to Madonna’s iconic 1984 performance, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera both wore replicas of Madonna’s wedding dress for a performance of “Like A Virgin,” followed by Madonna coming out on stage in a black pantsuit—get it? she’s the groom—to sing her song “Hollywood.” Before Missy Elliott joined the ladies on stage, Madonna smooched both of her brides. So why did the Spears kiss cause more discussion? Two reasons: 1) There was more tongue; and 2) The camera man cut to Justin Timberlake’s reaction face when Madonna kissed Aguilera.

2005: R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” performance
R. Kelly performing “Trapped in the Closet” live was one of the most fascinating things that’s ever happened at the VMAs. It was just one man, on one stage, sing-talking, making a lot of gestures, playing multiple parts, and ultimately, succeeding at life.

2007: Britney Spears biffs “Gimme More”
In 2007, Spears was not in typical VMA shape. At the time, the singer was in the middle of a public meltdown and seemed to fake her way through a painful performance with obvious lip-synching, very little movement, and even less joy.

2009: Lil’ Mama crashes “Empire State of Mind”
Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” performance almost went perfectly. If you cut to the 5-minute mark of the video, you’ll see they got a last-minute visit from Lil’ Mama, who crashed the stage just in time for Jay Z and Keys to strike their final pose. If Jay Z’s body language doesn’t say “get off my stage,” then nothing does.

2009: Lady Gaga “Paparazzi”
In typical Lady Gaga fashion, she made this a performance to remember by hanging from the ceiling, and more notably, throwing fake blood on herself.

2011: Beyoncé’s mic-drop baby reveal
At the beginning of Beyoncé’s “Love On Top” performance, she asked the audience to stand up and “feel the love that’s growing inside of me.” That sentence didn’t make all that much sense until the end of the song, when Beyoncé would drop the mic—after a killer vocal showing—and unbutton her blazer to reveal her growing baby bump. It was Blue’s first performance!

2013: Miley Cyrus’ plushie porn
There’s so much about this performance that’s burned into viewers’ brains. From Cyrus’ tongue to her twerking, this combination of “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines” was the performance that launched a thousand GIFs. Oh, and Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz were also there (if you could see them behind the perverse teddy bears).


2013: Justin Timberlake’s Video Vanguard performance
Timberlake took fans back through just about all of his biggest hits in this 15-minute performance. The most buzzed about moment was, of course, the very brief ‘N Sync reunion.

This year’s Video Music Awards air Aug. 24 on MTV.

This week in Diplo: The kandi debate goes on, the Block Party takes Vegas

This week in Diplo was all about the shows, their after-shows, their after-after shows, and the continued debate over the kandi ban.

Diplo played his Friday night set in Toronto with Walshy Fire (as mentioned last week, one-third of Major Lazer),

and then back-to-back after-party sets, first at Parts and Labour’s basement club and later at The Hoxton.

Saturday, he took himself to Detroit and the trip was not without incident. There, a fan snuck in some kandi (yes, people are still salty over the ban) and threw it at Diplo during his set.

Kandi is primarily plastic, colorful beads woven into bracelets or onto backpacks and clothing and has long been a part of the rave and dance-music scene. PLUR (stands for Peace Love Unity Respect) community members promote them as a bright, positive way to send messages, start conversation and give gifts at relevant events—someone who doesn’t have any kandi gets some from someone covered in it, starts making their own to share, and the tradition grows.

While it all may seems harmless, the flip side of the equation is that kandi has also traditionally been a way to identify a drug dealer at a rave or EDM event; someone covered in kandi might be selling various party favors and could easily be found due to, well, being covered in neon, plastic beads. They are also another apparatus by which people can sneak in drugs (i.e. molly/ecstasy pills which can look like a bead) for personal use.

After the two deaths early in the MDBP tour, organizers needed to take special measures to ensure the safety of concert-goers and banning kandi was one of the steps chosen, to the consternation of many.

In Detroit, however, Diplo responded as we all should when bearing witness to a child throwing a tantrum: He told everyone to give the dude who’d thrown kandi at him a hug.

After Detroit, Vegas happened. On Sunday, the Block Party.

On Monday, Mad Decent Monday at XS Nightclub with RL Grime.

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Most of the photos can’t be posted. But here are a couple that won’t get you fired from work.

Outside of live music, Diplo also released a new Major Lazer track,

changed his Twitter name,

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invented a new word,

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and found time to go swimming.

The Mad Decent Block Party continues this weekend with stops in Denver and Nashville. Get excited (for it or your weekend) with MDBP Official Spotify Playlist.

 

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