Miley, Taylor and MTV Comebacks: 7 Lingering Questions Ahead of Sunday’s VMAs

Gregory E. Miller
MTV-Miley-Cyrus
MTV

Perhaps more than any other awards show, the MTV Video Music Awards are shrouded in mystery. It wasn’t even until this week that we had any idea who’d be performing. So what do we know about Sunday night’s show, and what’s still up in the air? Let’s break it down.

Which Miley is going to show up?

After dropping the mic in 2013, Cyrus curiously showed up to the 2014 show much more subdued, using it as a platform to promote her charity work with homeless youth. But by the looks of the promos for this year’s show, which she is hosting, she’s back to her old ways. So just how badly will she behave? Let’s just say we’re sure the Parents Television Council can’t wait to find out.

Adding to the intrigue is that we don’t know yet if she’ll be performing new music—she hasn’t released anything since her 2013 album Bangerz, so she’s poised for a return. She’s been working with the Flaming Lips on a project, so the band could appear with her; or maybe she’ll deliver the first single from another solo album. Either way, Internet sleuths are speculating that she’s been rehearsing with several queens who have appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race (Cyrus is a vocal fan of the show). If that's the case, well, she better werk.

<> at LA Sports Arena & Exposition Park on August 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Kanye West performs at LA Sports Arena & Exposition Park on August 22, 2015 in LA.

Will Kanye and Taylor address “I’mma let you finish”?

In one of the VMAs’ darkest moments, Kanye West infamously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for best female video in 2009, saying “I’mma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.” But earlier this year at the Grammys, the two were photographed politely conversing, and Swift has since said that they’ve made up. That all sets the stage for what could be a major moment at this year’s VMAs. Swift is one of the most nominated artists of the night and the frontrunner for video of the year, while West will accept the Video Vanguard Award, the show’s version of a lifetime achievement recognition. He’ll also likely perform some kind of extended medley, as did the last two winners, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce. Billboard has suggested that Swift should be the one to present him with the award, but we’d be just as happy with her interrupting his acceptance speech.

Taylor Swift on tour in LA on August 24.

Christopher Polk/TAS/Getty Images

Taylor Swift on tour in LA on August 24.

Will Taylor Swift perform?

As of press time, the reigning pop queen still had not been announced as one of the night’s acts. She’ll certainly be there, but she’s no stranger to showing up to award shows and not performing. All we know for sure is that the music video for her latest single, “Wildest Dreams,” will debut during the VMA pre-show, which begins at 8/7c. But will she really pass up the opportunity to perform the single during the show, surely enhancing its chances of climbing the charts? And what about “Bad Blood”? The singer has never performed the song live with its remixer Kendrick Lamar, and it could be because they’ve been saving it for the big night. Futhermore, given her penchant for guests, we wouldn’t put it past Swift to welcome to the stage a few of her many “Bad Blood” video co-stars.

How will the Nicki/Taylor/Katy beef play out?

The drama at this year’s VMAs started way back on July 21, the day the nominations were announced when Nicki Minaj and Swift started a tweetstorm:

 

 

Minaj claimed she was talking about institutionalized racism, not Swift specifically.

And Swift’s number one enemy Katy Perry decided to get in on the fun.

So Swift apologized to Minaj.

Minaj accepted the apology, but then also tweeted this to Perry:

https://twitter.com/NICKIMINAJ/status/624256807750496256?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

So is it over? Maybe not. In a New York Times interview published Thursday, Miley Cyrus disagreed with the way Minaj approached the issue, saying "Nicki Minaj is not too kind." Swift is probably cringing over the argument's resurgence, and it wouldn't be on brand for her to say anything about it at the VMAs. But it seems quite possible that the outspoken Minaj, who is opening the show, might bring it up with some subtle shade. Keep a close watch.

Which rookie will stand out?

Sometimes it’s not the biggest stars that make the most noise at the VMAs, it’s the younger acts who have something to prove. So who’s going to stand out? Tori Kelly is a vocal powerhouse who could steal the spotlight, while the band Twenty One Pilots has a secret weapon in A$AP Rocky, who is joining them on stage. But our money’s on rising R&B singer The Weeknd, who in the last year has turned into a consistent hitmaker. He’ll be performing his zeitgeist-y single “Can’t Feel My Face” on TV for the first time, and it should be a doozy.

Will Demi Lovato have a Miley Cyrus moment?

The former Disney teen queen has always felt like a bit of an also-ran compared to her peers Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus. But her current single “Cool for the Summer” is her biggest hit in years, and certainly her most adult. The time seems ripe for her to pull a Miley, who murdered Hannah Montana for good at the 2013 show while performing with Robin Thicke. Lovato seems acutely aware of her place in the pop spectrum right now, and it wouldn’t be surprising for her to take advantage of the show’s spotlight.

Who will have the biggest comeback?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis rocketed to fame with their 2012 album The Heist and its earworms “Thrift Shop,” “Same Love” and “Can’t Hold Us.” But while taking some time off, Macklemore, who is a recovering drug addict, relapsed. Newly clean, he’s ready for a triumphant return. He and Lewis dropped a new track with Ed Sheeran earlier this month, “Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)” and the new song “Downtown” made its way online Thursday. Expect to hear one of those.

Pharrell Williams hasn’t really left the spotlight thanks to his gig on The Voice, but he hasn’t been able to create a hit since his inescapable song “Happy” dominated the radio last year. He’s surely hungry for another smash.

But the star whose performance has the most riding on it is probably Justin Bieber. The YouTube prodigy turned international heartthrob has not performed on the VMAs since 2010, nor has he released a studio album since 2012. But boosted by the surprise success of his collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo, “Where Are U Now,” he’s planning a major comeback with the new single, “What Do You Mean,” which he’ll perform for the first time at the awards show. He enlisted the help of loads of celebrities on social media to count down to the release of the single—out today after leaking online. The VMAs could take it to the next level.

The MTV Video Music Awards air live, Sunday at 9/8c.