The end of summer brings forth a number of annual happenings: the dreaded “back to school” TV commercials that haunted your childhood, Labor Day weekend ragers, bidding RIP to the color white and your summer wardrobe (finally) and, of course, the MTV Video Music Awards. Often dubbed as the “Super Bowl for youth,” the ceremony, which first aired in 1984, has played a pivotal role in dictating what artists are breaking grounds in the music industry, awarding the coveted “moonman” statuette to musicians with the most impressive feats in the music video medium.

This year welcomes the VMAs’ 33rd ceremony, and like every year prior, the epic event is expected to rein in millions of viewers and countless unpredictable (often “WTF”) moments. While last year’s extravaganza was held at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater, 2016’s ceremony, for the first time ever, will take place at seminal New York City concert venue, Madison Square Garden.

Ahead of Sunday’s celeb-infested shenanigans, MTV invited Highsnobiety to attend an exclusive press junket where we were offered a first look at the contents inside this year’s celebrity gift bag, a tour of the venue’s seating layout and a bevy of eavesdropping moments to satiate our gossipy appetites for what might go down – but this is the VMAs we’re talking about, so anything can happen really.

The Swag Bag

When I first arrived at the junket, I noticed a cluster of media personnel hovering over this rather modest-sized ping pong table with a bunch of items meticulously sprawled out over it. In general, the “gift bags” at these mammoth ceremonies are usually the stuff of legend; this year’s Oscars, for example, gifted A-list attendees over $232,800 worth of free swag (yet we still can’t cure world hunger). The VMAs’ goodie bag, however, wasn’t quite as grand.

Here’s everything that was included inside: a pair of Bose Quietcomfort 35 wireless headphones, Crane & Co. engraved correspondence cards, “Crush by Rihanna” perfume, a Dooney & Bourke bag, a bespoke Indochino suit, a two-night stay at the JW Marriott Essex House New York, a Kinross cashmere scarf and beanie, a one-night stay and 60-minute spa treatment at Langham Place New York, an MTV logo tote and tee by Marc Jacobs, MCM sunglasses by Marchon eyewear, a two-night stay at the Nobu Hotel Miami Beach, a Perpetual Shade sleep mask, a stay at Rosalie Bay Caribbean Resort and Infinity Playstation 4 controllers custom-made by Scuf Gaming.

Alright, so it’s not entirely tragic, but given MTV’s colossal budget, I think they could have afforded something better than a Dooney & Burke bag or some mid-priced suit by an online made-to-order website.

Seating Politics

The politics of assigned seating continue long after high school, and since the VMAs is basically a celebrity version of high school where everyone in attendance was voted “most likely to become famous” in their senior yearbook, the protocol about who and where you sit next to is of the upmost importance. “We try to adhere to a coherent code when seating our artists,” MTV’s senior vice president, Garrett English, told me. “Who’s fighting or hooking up with who, what musicians are most relevant at the moment, etc. But in the end, nothing ever goes according to planned, so we’ve learned to deal with it. It’s what makes the VMAs, the VMAs!”

Most of the appointed accommodations were predictable. Plopped smack dab in the middle of the front row were none other than Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, while Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande and Britney Spears book shelved them. Amber Rose was placed in nose bleed territory (poor Amber), Alicia Keys and Nick Jonas will be getting a direct view of RiRi’s head, Diddy’s going to have a jolly old time listening in on Nicki and Ariana’s juice cleanse conversations and Michael Phelps will be getting a new plug contact via Future by the end of the night.

But, please, can someone tell me how and why Lance Bass and Nick Cannon got invited? Also, who the hell is Fifth Harmony?

Unpredictably Epic

If the Video Music Awards can be summed up in one word, unpredictable is the first one that comes to mind. Throughout its 32-year history, the gathering has had its fair share of spontaneous mishaps, controversies and downright shocking moments, and this year certainly won’t prove any different.

Word on the street is that Kanye, who was presented with the prestigious Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award by sometime enemy Taylor Swift at last year’s show, will have four minutes to “do as he pleases” at the show. It’s been whispered that he’ll most likely perform his Taylor-bashing track “Famous,” which is also nominated for Video of the Year, but we’re low-key hoping for a Madonna, Britney and Christina Aguilera 2003 performance type of deal with ‘Ye, Kim and Taylor involved. Fingers crossed.

Beyoncé, who’s nominated for 11 moonmen this year, will surely bring some sort of heat onstage, while Rihanna, who will taking home the Video Vanguard Award, is set to tear it up with several hits, most of them cut from her latest album ANTI.

Other confirmed performances include Britney Spears, Nick Jonas, Ty Dolla $ign, Future, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande, but best believe that won’t be all.

Be sure to check out everyone nominated at the 2016 Video Music Awards and tune in on MTV Sunday, August 28, at 9 p.m. ET.

Words by Nico Amarca
Fashion Editor, North America
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