The 2015 MTV VMAs: Everything you need to know


If the Grammys are the beautiful year-end prom filled with magical dresses and the boy you’ve always wanted to dance with, the VMAs are the kegger at some sophomore’s house where three girls get thrown in the pool.

But hey! Summer is over! Now is no time for elegant dresses and well-rehearsed speeches. Now is the time to do jello shots. And by jello shots I mean watch the MTV Video Music Awards.

Here’s probably everything you need to know to watch this year’s awards:

What day are the VMAs?

The VMAs are on Sunday, August 30. Sunday is the day that comes after Saturday and before Monday.

What channel are the VMAs on?

MTV. The MTV VMAs are on the channel called MTV.

One million years ago before he internet existed, MTV used to be a channel that aired music videos. Now its a channel that one might get accidentally stuck on watching repeats of 16 and Pregnant.

But tonight, you should turn to MTV to watch the VMAs, because the VMAs are a celebration of youth and absurdity!

But what exact channel is it on my TV?

Listen, I’m not your mom. But here are some channel listings by major service provider:

Time Warner. Verizon. AT&T. Comcast.

If you don’t know your service provider, either ask your actual mom to help you, or try flipping through the guide. The VMAs will be a huge 4 hour block of time.

Who is hosting the VMAs this year?

Miley Cyrus is hosting the 2015 VMAs. According to an interview Cyrus gave to New York Times Magazine, this year’s show is going to be “Raw.” Not like Lady Gaga-in-a-dress-made-of-meat raw, but raw in a whatever that term means for Miley Cyrus way.

“I didn’t want this VMAs to be like they’ve been in the past,” Cyrus told the Times. And, luckily for her, it doesn’t seem like she has to be!

She told the Times that Van Toffler, who runs MTV, is leaving after this year, “so he can’t get fired. He was like, ‘I want to do something crazy — I want you to host the VMAs, because I want that to be my last shebang.’ It’s like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Cyrus also mentioned that she wants to make the show look and feel like her Instagram. I follow her on Instagram and it’s mostly out-of-focus photos of her eating snacks, so I can only assume that is what the show will be like.

Backstory: At the 2013 VMAs, Miley performed with Robin Thicke, to her song, “We Can’t Stop” and his song, “Blurred Lines.” During the routine, she wore a small nude colored suit (scandal!) and culturally appropriated a fair amount of black culture.

Cyrus made pretty clear in the Times interview that she doesn’t really have any context for why that performance caused outrage, so who knows what will happen on Sunday!!!!

What time do the VMAs start?

Because the VMAs are for adults, the VMAs start at the totally chill time of 9 p.m. EST. I will not explain time zones to you because frankly, I don’t understand how they work or why they exist.

Okay, now that we have the basics down, let’s run through who’s performing in case you’re old or don’t pay attention to drama. MTV doesn’t do a great job of telling us who’s going to perform when, so let’s just do our best here.

Nick Jonas will kick off the pre-show

What’s the pre-show, you say? The pre-show is like the pre-game for the VMAs. Generally, a star who is talented and has a lot of potential is chosen to perform the pre-show because they might not be able to bring in the same viewership as a bigger star who will perform during the real show.

Having a pre-show also allows for a break from the red carpet chatter which, with musicians, is always particularly uninspired.

If you truly live under a rock, Nick Jonas used to be one of the Jonas Brothers (a boy band), but has since become the Justin Timberlake of that group and started his own pretty successful solo career. He’s going to be performing his new song “Levels,” which, unsurprisingly, sounds a good deal like “Sexy Back.”

High five for Jesus, I guess.

Nicki Minaj will open the VMAs

Nicki Minaj, fresh off her sold-out Pinkprint tour, will open the VMAs. This is the second year in a row that Minaj will open. In 2014, she performed “Bang Bang” with Jessie J and tiny cat-ear wearing baby Ariana Grande, as well as “Anaconda.” She hasn’t announced what she’ll be performing this year, but I personally would put money on “Hey Mama” with David Guetta.

It is possible that Minaj will perform “Feeling Myself” with Queen Beyoncé. Maybe, if we all pray really fervently, this will happen. The VMAs are known for surprises, so who knows what Minaj will pull off.

There is some backstory drama with Minaj that you should probably know about too. In July, Minaj called out MTV’s Video Music Award nominations. Her music video for “Anaconda,” released last summer, wasn’t chosen as one of the 5 nominees for the night’s biggest award: Video of the Year.

But the real drama is that Taylor Swift thought Minaj was calling her out,  since Taylor’s video was nominated, and kind of freaked out on Twitter. This led to a whole conversation about the way race is handled in music and particularly in award shows.

We crunched the numbers and Minaj was 100% right. Music award shows rarely honor people of color, particularly women of color.

The Weeknd can’t feel his face

The Weeknd splashed into public perception this summer with his song “Can’t Feel My Face,” which hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts.

He could choose to play “Can’t Feel My Face” in order to help people who might have heard his song on the radio learn what his face looks like. But he could also perform “Tell Your Friends,” which Kanye produced, off his new album.

Tori Kelly will play guitar

Tori Kelly is being touted as the next superstar. She’s managed by Scooter Braun, the dude who found Justin Bieber and now represents a whole slew of popular artists. Because she’s got good management, she’s had some pretty prime spots to garner a fan base.

She sang her first single “Nobody Love” at the Billboard Music Awards in the spring. I can’t imagine she’d play something else, but I guess it’s possible.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will do whatever they do

Remember these guys!? A hip hop duo of two supremely white guys who wear pastel shirts? You don’t? Do you remember this song that was really really popular for a while?

“Thrift Shop” won some Grammys and was incredibly catchy. To Macklemore’s credit, before this song hit wide audiences he was already working hard. He played dozens of sets at South by Southwest for a couple of years straight. And now he and Ryan Lewis are coming out with a new song called “Downtown.” They are supposed to play it at the awards.

Demi Lovato will perform

Former Teenage Hearthrob Demi Lovato will also perform. She will probably sing  “Cool for the Summer,” which was the Song of Summer we needed, but refused to adopt.

Her new album is expected to drop in October.


Every year at the VMAs there is a band that takes the stage and causes all of America go “WHO.” 21 Pilots is that band this year!

Twenty one (21, TWENTY 1, 20 one) Pilots is actually just two dudes named Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. They have performed at a bunch of music festivals this year and are fairly popular with the #teens and #snakepeople. They released their second signed album in May of this year. I don’t know what song they will play, but the track of theirs you should know is “Tear in My Heart.”

JUSTIN BIEBER will sing his new song

After crashing a car, getting a full-sleeve tattoo, and disappearing for a fair amount of time, Justin Bieber is back. He’s supposed to perform his new single “What Do You Mean,” which was released Friday morning.

It’s actually pretty good. And Bieber has always been a good performer, so I’m looking forward to this one.

His new album comes out November 12.

Pharrell Williams will also perform

I don’t know what Pharrell is doing! His Grammys performance of “Happy” was strange and sad, so maybe he will do that again?

His most recent single is “Freedom,” so I could see him doing a rendition of that. But he could also just do something completely new. You never quite know with Pharrell, which is part of why he’s so fun to watch.

Kanye West will receive the Video Vanguard award

The biggest award of the night each year is the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, which is awarded to a single artist each year who has a history of great work. According the MTV website, Kanye’s “creative depths have never ceased to amaze us, and some could argue that his videos are complete masterpieces in their own right.”

West has had an album in the works for a little over a year now and the rumor is that it’s pretty close to finished. I imagine he will probably play a medley of already-released work, but this is also a time he could use to showcase new material.

West has also been known in the past to give impassioned speeches at award shows, so it’s exciting to think about him being given a microphone and air time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the most “raw” part of the night was a truth-telling moment from Kanye West.

The final spot is an artist’s chance to make a killer statement. Last year, Beyoncé received the award and took it as an opportunity to not only perform in a glittery leotard, but also to stand in front of giant letters that spelled out FEMINIST. Afterward, her family (Jay Z and Blue Ivy) came up to greet her.

That means we could get a sighting of North West, Kanye’s baby with Kim Kardashian!

What about the awards? What should I know about that? Isn’t this a show about awards?

Here’s the thing about the VMAs: The VMAs aren’t really about the awards. The biggest voted award of the night, Video of the Year, is fan-chosen, so literally none of them matter. If you win a VMA you get a moonman statue and give a speech. It is possible that there will be some drama during the speeches, but it’s unlikely that there will be many surprises during the awards themselves.

The wild card to watch out for is every body’s best friend Taylor Swift, who is carrying the most drama coming into tonight’s show. In addition to her little tiff with Nicki Minaj in July (which she apologized for), Swift also has history with Kanye West. In 2009, West interrupted her after she beat Beyoncé for the Best Female Video Award. That drama, though, seems to be resolved.

Swift is nominated for nine VMAs, the most of any performer. Second most goes to Ed Sheeran, whom I will try to ignore.

Should I watch the VMAs this year?

I mean. Probably?

Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.

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