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MTV VMA 2018 Recap

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For an awards show that has taken steps in recent years to de-emphasize gender — retiring the Best Male and Best Female categories, rebranding its signature astronaut-inspired trophy as a Moonperson — the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards were practically split in a guys’ portion and a ladies’ portion, with a string of male performers warming up the stage for a group of women who clearly ruled it.

The 35th iteration of the show, which returned to Radio City Music Hall for the 12th time, kicked off with not a bang but something more like a monsoon: Shawn Mendes held his own wet t-shirt contest with a rain-soaked performance of “In My Blood.” Newcomer Bazzi had no shortage of national-TV exposure as he followed up with “Beautiful,” his second performance in the evening following a bout during the pre-show not long before. Logic, with the help of Ryan Tedder, aimed for yet another statement-making moment with a performance addressing U.S. immigration policy. And then Panic! at the Disco made a stylish and energetic performance that began suspended in the air. The performances were solid, sure, but at times they didn’t feel any more vital to the show than presenters’ bits and banter, or some of the evening’s early acceptance speeches.

You also may notice that all of those performers have something in common. It took almost 45 minutes for the show to get to a performance by a woman: rising star Jessie Reyez, one of several Push Artist of the Year nominees who were given brief time slots — and even smaller stages — to introduce themselves to a larger audience. (One highlight? Hayley Kiyoko, the category’s ultimate winner, who breezed through an abridged version of her song “Curious” after charming the red carpet with shout-outs to her #20GAYTEEN slogan.) And it wasn’t until Nicki Minaj performed a medley of songs from her Queen album in a pre-taped, remote segment that it felt like the VMAs truly got started.

That’s no shade to Mendes by any means — it’s just that, when you think of classic VMAs moments and performances, you probably don’t think of young instrument-playing pop-rock artists showing off their musical chops and credibility. You think of the spectacle, which is what Minaj delivered with her phalynx of dancers and monarch-inspired attire from New York’s Oculus transportation hub. Minaj’s pal and frequent collaborator Ariana Grande had a similar sumptuous set, recreating an all-female version of The Last Supper with slow-motion choreography that turned the VMAs stage into a living music video during “God Is a Woman,” from her just-released Sweetener LP.

 

And then there was J. Lo. When MTV announced that Jennifer Lopez would be this year’s recipient of the Video Vanguard Award, many on the Internet seemed more concerned with crying justice for Missy Elliott, who was the subject of such inexplicably persistent rumors about the honor that she felt compelled to shoot down the chatter on Twitter. But as the first Latinx recipient of the video Vanguard Award — and during a year in which MTV introduced a Best Latin category — Lopez’s latest accolade isn’t insignificant. And in her first VMAs performance since 2001, she offered an abridged version of her Las Vegas residency show with a career-spanning medley that served the choreography you expected and the impressive live vocals you probably didn’t.

The only part of Lopez’s crowning moment that felt off was the person who introduced her and handed her the award: Shawn Mendes, whose connection to her as an artist is… well, what exactly? It was hardly the only odd-couple pairing of the evening: Producers shoe-horned in a tribute to Aretha Franklin by having Madonna come out and monologue about what Franklin meant to her. The Queen of Pop has a personal connection to the Queen of Soul beyond their shared Detroit roots — in typically wry fashion, Madonna shared a story about how singing Aretha Franklin helped her make an impression at an audition that set her career in motion. But the optics weren’t great, considering Madonna’s award-show history of delivering occasionally self-centered homages to black legends, and indeed, most of her tribute to Franklin was spent celebrating her own tenacity during her early days as a starving artist.

 

It wasn’t hard to figure out what Madonna’s original primary purpose was: handing out the video of the year award, which went to Camila Cabello for “Havana.” The singer was hardly the frontrunner in the category, which saw her go up against Childish Gambino’s much-dissected “This Is America” clip and the private Louvre party that was the Carters’ “Apeshit” — competitors who also weren’t in attendance.

But as surprising as it may have been, viewing the win as an at-large endorsement for Cabello is consistent with the show’s waning emphasis on actual music videos. That’s a perennial MTV complaint, sure, but that shift has certainly been reflected in the categories: Last year, the show introduced the artist of the year award, and the song of the year award followed this year — two star-studded categories whose nominees aren’t attached to particular videos. And the most teased and hyped award of the night wasn’t video of the year, either — it was best new artist, which came down to Cardi B and Hayley Kiyoko and, in what was no great shock to anyone given her unstoppable year, went to Cardi.

By the time Cabello won the evening’s big honor (her second award of the night), the show had returned to a male-performances-only third act with mixed results. Travis Scott’s tech-heavy Astroworld medley never quite found its footing, while a sponsored Lauv performance that played during a commercial break after the Madonna-Cabello segment was jarringly anticlimactic. (A Madonna monologue is a tough act to follow for anyone, let alone a still-rising artist fulfilling a brand partnership.) The home stretch wasn’t without bright spots, including Aerosmith — who, despite all the head-scratching news of their performance probably inspired, pulled off a lively grand finale by teaming up with Post Malone for a ripping rendition of “Toys in the Attic.” Still, when it came to this year’s oddly segregated run of show, it’s clear that — to paraphrase the song Grande performed — the women were the deities.

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Police arrest stepfather of 4-year-old girl he claims was kidnapped

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The stepfather of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis was arrested and charged in connection to her disappearance, one week after he told Texas police that she was kidnapped by three men who assaulted and knocked him unconscious.

Derion Vence, 26, was arrested by the Houston Police Department at a relative’s home and charged with tampering with evidence, human corpse, in the disappearance of his stepdaughter on the night of May 4.

Although a police source told ABC News that the young girl was still missing, they would not say whether she was believed to be dead or alive.

Police said in a statement on Saturday that they had obtained blood evidence linked to Maleah from Vence’s apartment and that he was seen leaving his apartment with a full laundry basket, which was found Thursday along with a gas can in the trunk of the silver Nissan Altima that he reported missing following the kidnapping.

At a late night hearing, the district attorney said cadaver dogs reacted to scents in the trunk and the laundry basket.

Vence reported the abduction on May 5, nearly 24 hours after it occurred, claiming that he had been unconscious for much of that time, according to the statement.

He told police that he was driving with Maleah and his 2-year-old son on the night of May 4 to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in north Houston to pick up the girl’s mother, Brittany Bowens, who was returning from a trip to Massachusetts, police said.

He said that on the way there, he heard a popping noise coming from his car that made him believe he had a flat tire, so he pulled over to check on it. When he got out of the car, he said that a blue pickup truck pulled up behind him and two men got out, police said during a news conference on May 5.

He told police that one of the men commented on Maleah’s appearance as the other hit him in the head, knocking him out, police said.

Vence told police that he kept going in and out of consciousness, but at one point realized that he was in the back of the pickup truck where there were actually three men and that he also saw Maleah and his son in the truck, police said.

He said that he regained consciousness the next day with only his son in Sugar Land, nearly 22 miles southwest of central Houston, and walked to Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital where he received treatment and reported Maleah missing, police said.

Although he told police that his car was taken during the kidnapping, surveillance footage showed someone in the Nissan dropping Vence off at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital on May 5, police said.

Vence’s public defender asked for a $5,000 bond, while the district attorney proposed $500,000.

Instead, the judge ruled Vence be held on $1 million bond since the ongoing investigation “is likely to result in a significant upgrade to this second-degree felony.”

Houston police are asking anyone with information about the case, the whereabouts of Maleah Davis or the person who sold the gas can to Vence to contact the department’s Homicide Division at 713-308-3600.

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In Mexico, 35 bodies found in mass graves

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Local authorities have discovered the remains of 35 people in mass graves in violent Jalisco state, on Mexico’s central Pacific coast, officials said Saturday.

Prosecutor Gerardo Octavio Solis said most of the bodies were located at a ranch in the town of Zapopan.

Among the dead, “27 of the bodies had been tied up when killed. And we have two people identified at this time,” Solis told a news conference.

The number of dead could still rise as the forensics team wraps up processing of the site, he warned.

“We are digging more than three meters deep. We are also using heavy machinery, with engineers to do structural calculations as we don’t want to weaken some of the perimeter walls,” he added.

Solis said the skulls of seven other people and other human remains were discovered on the premises of a house located in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second most populous city.

 

Families with missing kin have rushed to authorities in Jalisco asking for details on the exhumations.

More than 40,000 people have gone missing and are presumed dead since Mexico’s war on drugs was militarized with federal troops in late 2006.

More than 250,000 people have been killed in violent crime in Mexico since then, according to government data. The data does not say how many cases were linked to organized crime.

Last year in Jalisco state alone there were 2,418 homicides.

From January to March this year there were 720 murders in the state, official data show.

 

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Special Mother’s Day Edition of ‘LIVING BY DESIGN WITH JAKE AND JAZZ

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Just in time for Mother’s Day, Jake and Jazz makeover the home of single mother, Shay, who recently relocated to Los Angeles from the Midwest. Her parental duties and daily grind leave her with little time for redecorating, so she enlisted the help of Jake and Jazz. The duo turn Shay’s quaint home into a “mommy and me” wonderland with refurbished, multipurpose furniture and rose gold accent pieces. For the post-reveal meal, Jake cooks up Vegetable Fried Rice with Garlic Soy Fried Shrimp and Jazz bakes a Vanilla Rose Pound Cake decorated with dried rose petals.

Tune into the next episode for a special Mother’s Day edition where Jake and Jazz give a deserving mom a sprinkle of design magic and a gift of a lifetime.

LIVING BY DESIGN WITH JAKE AND JAZZ is a hot new home design show with a culinary twist featuring Jake and Jazz Smollett. The sibling duo team up to transform the living, work, and play spaces of millennial families and create simple solutions to everyday home design dilemmas. Each episode features inspirational stories of participating guests, an exciting reveal of the new space and a shared meal with recipes curated by Jake and Jazz.

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