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VMAs 2015: A guide to Kanye, Miley, Bieber's appearances and more

This year's MTV Video Music Awards were the most tweeted about event aside from the Super Bowl, at least since Nielsen started tracking social media data. The award show is built less around making sure to honor respected peers and more about generating attention — and they once again accomplished that goal.

For those who weren't there, and even for those who were, there were several moments in the show that were moderately to extremely confusing. We offer a few choice moments and little context to help explain the swipes, sideshows and other strangeness at this year's VMAs.

Kanye West announced that he's running for president

Kanye West was given the VMAs' Video Vanguard Award, the MTV equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. He was introduced by Taylor Swift, whose award acceptance he famously interrupted six years ago — while drunk — to announce his displeasure that Beyonce didn't win for "Single Ladies." That less-than-presidential outburst immediately spawned a slew of Internet memes and some finger-wagging from the current president, who designated him a jackass.

In her introduction this year, Swift jokingly referenced the incident in several "I'ma let you finish" remarks.

Once Kanye got the mic, though, things seemed to go off the rails — even for a VMA speech — with Kanye taking as much time as he felt he needed. Some of the highlights from the Kanye show:

  • Mr. Kim Kardashian talked at length about his MTV VMA moment where he interrupted Taylor, particularly how it gave the wider public the impression that he was a bad guy. Kanye seemed that he still took it somewhat personally, as he wanted to be perceived as someone worth of respect, and instead had to deal with things like people booing him.
  • He compared himself to Jesus with a crucifixion reference — but, that's not new for Kanye. (He did something similar in his Rolling Stone cover where he sported a savior-inspired crown of thorns).
  • He admitted that he was high. He said that people would probably think he was high based on his speech, and he said yup, they're right, as if to usher that speculation right out of the way. 
  • Kanye claimed he was a millennial, even though he was born in 1977. Even the most expansive definition, the millennial generation is considered to include those born beyond the 1980s. (Taylor Swift introduced him by saying the first album she bought on iTunes was Kanye's "College Dropout" — when she was 12.)
  • He closed by announcing he would run for president in 2020, then dropped the mic. It seemed clear that he was joking, but then again, given Kanye West's huge ego and huge ambitions, you never know. Astute minds would note that he had earlier explained in his speech that he didn't always know how to say the right thing — as he's not a politician.

You can read Kanye's full speech here — or, you can apparently find it on T-shirts produced to commemorate the occasion.

Miley Cyrus talked about her dead pets (and a free album)

Miley Cyrus wore as many attention-grabbing outfits as she could fit into the show as the host. But most Miley watchers were likely more amped by her announcement that she was releasing a free album at the close of the ceremony — a collaboration between Cyrus and psych rock indy darlings, The Flaming Lips, among others.

The project is called "Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz." It's a long album coming in at 23 tracks, and — true to its title — includes several songs devoted to her dead pets. The New York Times got the exclusive with her, doing what they note was a five-hour interview at Cyrus's home studio, which ranged in topic from her pop reinvention to a Chinese healer letting her pet her dead dog.

The high-concept album includes songs which had previously turned up online connected with her charity: the Happy Hippie Foundation. Those released included her performing songs in her backyard in her pajamas. You can watch the one about her dead blowfish here:

Pablow the Blowfish

She also debuted her new single, "Dooo It!," with enough profanity in it to warrant heavy bleeping even from MTV. It has a chorus that talks about drug use, and a video with some imagery that at least could be interpreted as sexual. The album also isn't part of her record deal with RCA, who didn't help fund it either.

Justin Bieber cried

This was Bieber's first televised appearance in years — the first since he had some high-profile legal and personal problems. He executed some popping and locking with a big group of back dancers, but never looked too thrilled to be doing it. At the end of his second song, we heard Bieber briefly talking about spirituality, and we also witnessed him fly (with a harness).

Once he landed, though, an exhausted-looking Bieber bent over and started to cry. We can only speculate at this point about why that might be. Perhaps he was spent after his performance, or maybe over-excited about getting to go back to performing after his controversy, or it may have been a side of cynical manipulation meant to engender sympathy from fans. In any case, it was a memorable moment that seemed to surprise even host Miley Cyrus, who had to transition into keeping the show moving.

Nicki Minaj slammed Miley

Nicki Minaj has had her share of celebrity drama, but she made a big stink earlier this year after her video for "Anaconda" wasn't nominated for video of the year, suggesting it was snubbed because it featured a black woman and celebrated unconventional body types. That led to some back and forth Twitter snipes and bad blood between the two superstars.

Minaj performed early in the show, and joined Taylor Swift for a performance of "Bad Blood" in a choreographed display of unity.

That didn't last long.

After winning Best Hip-Hop Video, Minaj rekindled the beef by tossing back to Miley Cyrus by saying, "And now back to this b---- that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what's good?" 

MTV cut Minaj's mic as she continued speaking.

Oh, also, some actual awards were given out.