The MTV Video Music Awards telecast, which has been known for stellar musical performances and plenty of drama, returns Sunday, August 28. This year’s show promises to be just as memorable as past years, with performances by Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Pitbull, and special tributes to Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to the show’s producer, Jesse Ignjatovic to find out more about what to expect from this year’s show.
The Hollywood Reporter: The VMAs are back at LA’s Nokia Theater where last year MTV put on a visually stunning show. When it comes to the performance numbers and artists’ production requests and grandiose ideas, do you find yourself saying “no” more than “yes”?
Jesse Ignjatovic: We really try we try to avoid the word “no.” I feel like this is the “yes” show. Artists come with ideas that sometimes are beyond imagination and we always want to try to go there with them. That’s why this show has so many musical moments that stand out for people… It’s about working with the artists to create something they can’t do anywhere else, plus they come to out-do each other. Everyone wants to push it as far as they can.
THR: So no host, huh?
Ignjatovic: We talked to different people and ultimately, it just didn’t feel like we needed one this year. Other years, like in 2007, we’ve gone host-less and it worked. If it’s not the right person then [we feel it’s] better to go without. It means better presenter moments potentially, but I don’t think it necessarily changes the landscape of the show.
THR: Did you approach Chelsea Handler about returning this year?
Ignjatovic: No. We talked with Chelsea about being involved and potentially doing some other stuff, but she was touring and doing a bunch of things. I loved Chelsea [last year]. I thought she was hilarious, her team was one of the best teams I’ve been involved with — they were totally committed and brought everything. It was a total joy for me.
THR: What can you tell us about the Britney Spears tribute?
Ignjatovic: It’s about her videos, her dance, and what she’s done on the VMAs stage, because she’s had some iconic performances and we want to tribute that. The people participating will reference that and you’ll be seeing a representation of those videos and big moments. It will all make sense when you see it.
THR: The VMA build-up has been largely focused on Lady Gaga, who’s opening the show. What does she mean to MTV?
Ignjatovic: She’s a gem. She’s that muse. She’s sort of the artist that’s really pushing boundaries that mean so much to our audience. And she is the artist that everyone is looking to. Like, what is she going to do next to outdo herself and take it to another place? I think she’s inspired other artists to push themselves. I know she’s inspired me and the VMA team.
THR: Chris Brown is another act that’s been promoted heavily. In fact, he’s having the best year of his career, how do you reconcile his controversial past?
Ignjatovic: I look at it as an artist. In terms of that particular situation, I’m not getting into a conversation internally about it. Everyone has an opinion on it, but we felt this year was the right time for him to come and perform again. He had a great impact this year musically and we have a great history with him on the VMAs. In 2007, he came on and did what I considered one of the most amazing VMA performances ever when he danced on tabletops. He absolutely blew away everyone in the room. So I see it that way. I am all about Chris as an artist, dancer and performer, and what he’s putting together for this year is on another level.
THR: Lil Wayne is singing ballads on pop radio, dance DJs are today’s hitmakers — what is going on in music right now that’s allowing for so much crossover?
Ignjatovic: We have to look at music differently today. All music is available to everyone now so I don’t think that the typical lanes of hip-hop, or rock, or pop are valid anymore. Now it’s just all about music, and that’s sort of a theme for the show this year. The idea of all music blending into one experience. Wayne, he can do a love song, then do a traditional hip-hop song and then do a rock song. He’s versatile and he’s one of those artists that’s a creation of the way we engage with music today. He touches all of it.
THR: What can viewers at home expect of this year’s show?
Ignjatovic: Boldness. Impact. Scale. Grandness. It’s colorful, celebratory and thrilling… It’s a big show and I’m really excited about it.