Originally published on madamenoire.com
Many of us tuned into the 2015 VMAs in the hopes of seeing the way Nicki Minaj would respond to all the madness surrounding her controversial tweets about the inequity that Black women deal with in the entertainment business. Some tuned in to see if Minaj would blow up Miley Cyrus’ spot for basically calling her an angry Black woman last week. And she did. But that barely matters when you look at the bigger picture.
I think we all really just got duped by Taylor Swift.
Minaj opened the show with a performance of the catchy single “Trini Dem Girls” that led into “The Night is Still Young,” which culminated with Swift taking the stage in an act of pop solidarity. The performance ended with the formerly beefing pair singing Swift’s hit single, “Bad Blood.” What a well-orchestrated publicity stunt. Well done.
It was pretty odd that after all her pushback, Minaj decided to take the opening slot at a show that she claimed had done her wrong. So it should have come as no surprise that she would do so to wave a public white flag to Swift. I imagine that after Swift injected herself into Minaj’s tweets, the singer recognized damage control needed to be done and wasted no time getting Minaj on the phone to orchestrate a superficially huge water cooler and girl power moment for the 2015 VMAs.
Or, it’s possible that the entire beef was designed to give the music network ratings and relevance for its annual magnum opus. We mustn’t forget that the entertainment industry is all smoke and mirrors. Swift fans will welcome Minaj back into the fold while Minaj continues to dominate the pop-rap game, and all goes back to normal.
So who loses here? Everyone but Taylor Swift.
I suppose that at the end of the day, if it weren’t a stunt, Minaj couldn’t keep it really real even if she wanted to. She is a mainstream artist with a primarily White fanbase nowadays. But just as I started to come to terms with the whole publicity stunt thing, Minaj won Best Hip-Hop Video Award and things got even weirder. Minaj did her usual dance in her acceptance speech, thanking her fans and big upping independent boys and girls. Then she took a breath and thanked her pastor before launching into an assault on Miley Cyrus, the evening’s host, who was standing on the other side of the stage.
“And now back to the bitch who had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?”
The petite singer barked at a visibly startled Miley Cyrus, who wasted no time in her rebuttal. Miley responded to the MC while asking viewers to vote for the Artist To Watch award.
“Hey, we’re all in this industry. We all do interviews and you know how they manipulate shit. Congratu-fucking-lations.”
The camera cut to Minaj during Cyrus’ rebuttal, and she seemed to be popping off. She was nowhere near the microphone, but she definitely told Cyrus “don’t play with me, bitch.”
Now for all intents and purposes, this entire exchange seemed real, and MTV even issued a statement clarifying that the moment was not staged. But that’s not really saying much.
Either way, Minaj loses.
Cyrus merely comes off looking dismissive and ignorant, but she gets attention, which is her only goal. Minaj has now taken a major blow to her credibility, which is critical at the end of the day. Beefing with Cyrus is a means to an end; she’s a buffoon who is not taken seriously. But in a perfect world, Minaj would have used her acceptance speech to further address disparities and clarify her original tweets that Swift misconstrued and Cyrus brushed off. It would have been a standout moment in her career, an important turning point. But alas, Minaj didn’t have time for that.
There is only one clear winner in this trifecta of beef: Taylor Swift. She managed to take a moment of cultural interference and transform it into a showcase to serve her perpetual victimhood. She started the show with a moment of redemption. In the middle of the show, she presented Kanye West with the Video Vanguard award, and half of West’s speech was dedicated to her. And to top it all off, she won Video of the Year with Kendrick Lamar as her supporting act. She has successfully stolen moments from all these people, and it is completely unacceptable, but of course, nothing will be done about it.
Going forward, we can only hope that Swift’s reign will not run over any more of the artists we enjoy. But most importantly, going forward, we all have to embrace the fact that our pop stars are not going to end our societal ills and that they will often use major issues, even ones as important as racial disparities, simply for attention. We have to keep doing the work ourselves and remember not to let the Taylor Swifts in our lives, hijack our moments.