6 VMAs Moments You Probably Appreciated If You're an Older Millennial

For an older millennial — someone typically born between 1980 and 1990 — watching music award shows can be a glaring reminder of your mortality. I know I sound dramatic, but nothing has made me feel older in the past year than trying to tell the difference between Lil Xan, Lil Yachty, Lil Pump, and Lil Uzi Vert. And while watching the MTV VMAs on Monday night, I felt like I was finally understanding what it must have been like for those older than me, watching the same show in the late '90s and early 2000s and side-eyeing me for bopping along to the boy bands and pop princesses who were seemingly taking over the music scene. I found myself feeling particularly nostalgic for the VMAs of my youth: Britney Spears dancing with a python; Diana Ross jiggling Lil' Kim's boob; Fiona Apple telling the crowd that "this world is bullsh*t."

We're always going to feel strongly about the trends and pop culture moments of our adolescence. The "best" Saturday Night Live cast is usually going to be the one you watched when you were in high school, and the "golden age" of music is likely whichever age you grew up during (shout-out to the gangster rappers, bubblegum pop stars, and female singer-songwriters who influenced my own teen years). And as much as I enjoy a lot of the current popular artists who performed and presented on stage at the VMAs this year (you guys, I'm not a regular old millennial, I'm a cool old millennial), I was still hoping for some signs of the old MTV — before Teen Mom and YouTube personalities and having to distinguish between 20-year-old mumble rappers.

In small ways, MTV delivered on that. There were subtle nods to those of us old enough to remember cringing as Courtney Love threw her compact at Madonna during an interview with Kurt Loder (how '90s is that?) and cringing even harder when newlyweds Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley made out on stage. This year's show welcomed iconic musicians to perform, reunited the cast of a beloved reality TV show, and honored the career of one of our generation's true triple threats. Here are the six things I identified with while watching the VMAs as an old millennial.

01
Jennifer Lopez's Vanguard Performance
Getty | Kevin Mazur

Jennifer Lopez's Vanguard Performance

Jennifer Lopez was the first Latin artist to be honored with the coveted Video Vanguard Award. During the show, she performed a medley of her hits, many of which sent a jolt of pulsating nostalgia through the hearts of older millennials everywhere.

She did "Jenny From the Block." She did "Waiting For Tonight." She even brought Ja Rule on stage for a bit of their 2001 song "I'm Real." It was a '90s girl's dream — and somehow J Lo has barely aged. She deserved that milestone moment, and it was really exciting to watch (especially as someone who vividly remembers worrying that Y2K was going to end us all).

02
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Aerosmith Rocking Out

Confession time: I love Aerosmith. I love them so much that I can't even really explain why. So when they hopped on stage to perform with Post Malone and also sang "Dream On" and "Toys in the Attic," I was pleased and impressed. Steven Tyler's voice is still incredible, his stage presence is still off the charts, and Joe Perry? Joe Perry shoved his guitar through an amp, for goodness sake. It was like the '90s all over again. I only wish they had more stage time. Now that I'm thinking about it, why doesn't Aerosmith have a Video Vanguard Award?

03
The Hills Sort-Of Cast Reunion
Getty | Paul Zimmerman

The Hills Sort-Of Cast Reunion

Will I actually watch the upcoming reboot of The Hills? TBD. Was it nice to see some of the original cast members come together on the red carpet? Sure it was! Would I have been significantly more excited if Lauren Conrad, Kristin Cavallari, and Whitney Port had shown up? You bet!

04
When Backstreet Came Back
Getty | Theo Wargo

When Backstreet Came Back

The Backstreet Boys performed during the VMAs preshow, 20 years since making their debut at the show in 1998. Inside, they hit the stage again to present an award, and gave fans a bit of that old boy band razzle dazzle by playfully harmonizing the nominees' songs. Full disclosure: I'm an *NSYNC girl. But BSB's appearance was still a nice way for MTV to give an older millennial like me a thread to her pimply, lovestruck teenage past.

05
Madonna Being . . . Madonna
Getty | Michael Loccisano

Madonna Being . . . Madonna

Just hear me out: yes, her long-winded tribute to Aretha Franklin was pretty dreadful. But nothing says "MTV VMAs!" like Madonna getting up on stage and appropriating another culture or finding a way to turn the attention to herself. She is an icon who lives on a level of "no f*cks given" that has always been unmatched.

Madonna's presence at the VMAs is going to be a big, slightly offensive deal, every time. Remember when she performed a Hindu-inspired number in 1998? And rolled around in lingerie during her infamous "Like a Virgin" debut in 1984? Seeing her there doing her classic Madonna stuff made me feel a weird level of nostalgic comfort; like no matter what decade it is, she'll always have us talking, or cheering, or rolling our eyes, or shaking our heads.

06
Travis Scott's Von Dutch Hat
Getty | Jeff Kravitz

Travis Scott's Von Dutch Hat

I wish I could sit here and tell you that I've never spent $60 on a Von Dutch trucker hat in my lifetime. I really do. But that just isn't the way my life unfolded. I perched one of these patterned, carefully distressed caps on top of my head with pride, guided only by the decade's patron saints of trucker hats, Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton.

I won't be getting in on the trend this time around, but I appreciate Travis bringing the style back and giving anyone who was a teenager in the 2000s a tiny spark of shameful nostalgia.