The Weeknd 2020 VMAs
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 30: The Weeknd performs at Edge at Hudson Yards for the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, broadcast on Sunday, August 30, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/MTV VMAs 2020/Getty Images for MTV)

In case you missed it, Jerry Seinfeld wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times last week titled “So You Think New York Is ‘Dead’”. The 66-year-old American comedian’s words were a direct rebuttal to “some putz on LinkedIn” who had proclaimed “Everyone’s gone! I want 2019 back”.

That putz wasn’t wrong. Everybody is gone (myself included) – but as Seinfeld points out, this waiting period isn’t forever and New York indeed will bounce back just like it has time and time again.

“Real, live, inspiring human energy exists when we coagulate together in crazy places like New York City,” wrote Seinfeld. “Feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t go to the theatre for a while is not the essential element of character that made New York the brilliant diamond of activity it will one day be again.”

This year’s MTV Video Music Awards did a very good job at bringing this point to life. The VMAs organisers weren’t taking cues from the fashion world; there were no surrealist films a la Dior’s 2020 haute couture collection or Schiaparelli’s wondrous sketches. No, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and many more brilliant musicians performed at various outdoor spots across NYC’s five boroughs. There were no fans and some were pre-taped – but damn, there was atmosphere. There was fire. There was energy.

The Weeknd VMAs 2020
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 30: The Weeknd performs at Edge at Hudson Yards for the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, broadcast on Sunday, August 30, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/MTV VMAs 2020/Getty Images for MTV)

Take for instance this performance of “Blinding Lights” from The Weeknd which took place at The Edge at Hudson Yards in Manhattan, AKA the highest outdoor Skydeck in the Western Hemisphere. The spectacular footage, captured by a roving helicopter, showed the 30-year-old surrounded by huge beams of light before a series of fireworks erupted on the Hudson River below – and the apt lyrics “I can’t sleep until I feel your touch” rang out.

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On April 24, veteran Times journalist Roger Cohen talked about this same NYC energy. He asked his readers, “When, when will New York come back? It’s a city of energy. Energy defines New York. And how will that energy reconstitute itself?”

Well, The Weeknd’s performance certainly breathed some of that vigour back into the city last night – and reminded the world how resilient and innovative New York really is when faced with hardship.

Watch the moment below – 2.36 is the climax point that you need to see. A brilliant diamond of activity, indeed.

thoughts?