The MTV Video Music Awards are built on spectacle. Audiences politely clap Best Sound Editing at the Grammys or the Oscars; at the VMAs, they stand and scream as Lady Gaga rides in on a chimera made of Andy Warhol's soul fragments. Or something. And I love it. The VMAs know that the Song of the Summer category isn't quite an Ivor Novello, so it doesn't pretend to be. Nobody there is taking it seriously, and as a result, I have a much better time watching Miley Cyrus ride a disco ball than I do when Best Actor recipients thank God and their agent Larry for 22 minutes.
But given the pandemic, the 2020 VMAs were oddly audience-less. Performances were pre-recorded. So were the acceptance speeches. We'd never seen so much wanton usage of a green screen, to be honest, and the spectacle of VMAs past had to be upped without a baying mob that resembled the last days of Rome on fillers.
Lady Gaga did impress. Not on a steed made from cosmic energy, granted, but in a duet with Ariana Grande that had a fireman's pole and a gas mask. More impressive still, though, was Maluma's turn on the red carpet (whatever that means anymore). The Colombian crown prince of reggaeton has enjoyed a meteoric rise to global star proper, and he's done it in a slew of looks that are a) refreshing and b) unafraid to upset menswear's chattering classes. That means neon suits, and neon hair dye, and neon Versace shirts. It might not be to your tastes, but it is to Maluma's, and the appetite for showing off a bit extends to the 26-year-old's jewellery.
It's probably the best jewellery in Hollywood. And Medellín. For there is no balance or restraint. No, you don't take off the last thing you put on. Like Maluma, you stack it high. More is more. Diamond-encrusted Cuban chains (in the widest diameter possible, please and thank you) fight against fistfuls of gold rings that contend with double gold earrings that complement the sheen of one gold tooth that sits front and centre. That's a lot. Which is precisely what the VMAs is all about, and is exactly why its guests go all in on the theatrics. This is MTV, the channel that once aired a full show dedicated to 19-year-olds in Wisconsin recreating their favourite Ricky Martin video for absolutely no end reward whatsoever. It's silly.
And, in turn, that's what makes Maluma all the more memorable. If jewellery is to be a nuance – a finer detail to quietly lift your look elsewhere – then the singer's choice of gold-gilded bijouterie isn't even a talking point. It's shouting, like the missing crowds of the VMAs when Kanye torpedoed a Taylor Swift acceptance speech, or like the time Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears turned up in denim and Katy Perry and Riff Raff paid homage to that same his-and-hers over a decade later. The VMAs know that you're sneering at it, and Maluma's hoard is breaking the rules of every other awards show ever produced. That might not be your thing. But personally, I'd take a boxy satin suit and a Versace knuckleduster any day of the week.
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