MTV VMAs producer: Rihanna to deliver 'holy crap VMA moment'
And more of what to expect from this Sunday’s awards show
Between Britney Spears making her return to the VMAs stage and Rihanna’s career-spanning medley, this year’s MTV Video Music Awards ceremony is already stacked with must-watch performances. But that’s just a fraction of what producers have in store for this Sunday’s show, where surprises and spontaneity rule. Below, executive producer Jesse Ignjatovic breaks down what to expect:
Rihanna’s performance will be a “holy crap VMA moment”
Rihanna will accept the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award not by delivering a speech but by getting to work work work work on stage. “I’m really excited because she’s taken this opportunity to inject her own creativity into it,” Ignjatovic says. “If we’re talking on Monday the 29th or after the show Sunday, everyone will be surprised with what she’s done to make this honor her own and something that’s extremely impactful.” Rihanna’s medley will touch on “the biggest tracks of her career” as well as music from her latest album, Anti. “I can tell you it’s going to be one of those holy crap VMA moments,” he says. “She’s not playing. She’s bringing it.”
There will be a star-making performance from somebody
Though the biggest names in music routinely take the stage at the VMAs, sometimes it’s the up-and-comers who offer the biggest surprises. In 2009, Lady Gaga made her VMAs debut with a performance of “Paparazzi” that left audiences literally gasping. In 2013, Miley Cyrus upstaged the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry with her twerking. And last year, Tori Kelly earned rave reviews for a rocking performance of “Should’ve Been Us” that proved she had the range. Ignjatovic says another rising star will get people talking the morning after. “Looking at what’s in store and what the artists are planning, that will be the case on Monday,” he says.
Spontaneity won’t just be allowed—it’ll be encouraged
Some of the best VMAs moments from the past few years were unplanned. Last year, producers didn’t know until the last minute whether Kanye West would perform or deliver a speech as he accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Nor did they see Nicki Minaj’s now-famous “Miley, what’s good?” call-out coming. “If an artist at the last minute has something they want to bring to it—when Gaga dressed as a male artist or when Beyoncé had the baby bump—we want to support them to do that,” Ingjatovic says. “Artists are going to want to do something to have a moment. This show more than any other is the show where that seems to happen. We don’t get so locked into it that it has to be this way or that way.”
Madison Square Garden will raise the stakes
For the first time in the show’s history, the VMAs will take place in New York City’s historic Madison Square Garden. “As much as I look forward to particular performances, I think being in the Garden is for me the most exciting [thing] because we’ve talked about wanting to do it here for so long,” says Ignjatovic. Artists are also feeling the pressure to deliver at one of the most iconic venues in the country. “As much as they always look to the VMAs—‘I’ve got to step it, I’ve got to make a moment’—everyone’s going to raise their game and beyond [in the Garden],” he says. “We’re going to be at the Mecca.”