There was a time where the innovation of music on television was a novelty. “It will never last,” they said. Never. Then, it launched. The beautifully simple concept of making a visual art, that accompanied our favorite songs. After that, it took off. We couldn’t get enough.
This amazing Pop Culture phenomenon went global and became a staple of morning, afternoon and nightly consumption for the youth of the world. As kids we couldn’t stop watching; MTV and VH1 had monopolies on us. Shit, this was where reality TV was born (again, another thing that was awesome and innovative in its inception, that has now become a plague on the world).
Unfortunately, like reality TV itself, Music Television has become practically obsolete. With fledgling programming and an affinity with playing anything but music videos, MTV should no longer be called Music Television. It should jut simply be called TrendyTV, or maybe, PopTv. This is a recap of the once great and mighty VMAs.
The night was being broadcasted from the refurbished Forum in Inglewood. A historical venue with a great reputation. The show started off as you would have expected, with the showcase of young stars being held together by one who has made a name for being able to stick around.
The young stars were Jessie J and Ariana Grande. Nicki Minaj was the one who was tying the two other performances together. The meteoric rise of Grande from a pre-show performer to an award show opener is something of lore, no? It only took her one year to get the stage. This could be an omen for the night, no? Yes. It was clear, MTV was pushing a new group of musicians and semi-celebrities to recapture the audience that they so desperately need to continue their reign as the voice of the youth. Grande came out from a spaceship in a sequence outfit and knee high boots. Yum.
Then Nicki Minaj…Nicki, Nicki, Nicki. You looked bored. The performance was OK. You know, I mean it was what I expected–some rapping, some booty clapping–done. Yeah. Sure. Good. Then, I realized the sound sucked. I mean, I literally had trouble hearing what they were saying and my volume was up. High. Something that was an issue the entire night. After that, Jessie J came out. What a voice. Powerful, beautiful. She could sing. She was the best part about the entire opening performance. Of course, they all did a song together, in which–I’m sure you’ve heard by now–Nicki Minaj had a wardrobe malfunction. Broken zipper. Moving on. Ariana was OK. Nicki was Nicki. Jessie J was great. She relied on her voice, instead of wardrobe and back up dancing.
The VMAs also lacked a clear cut host, which did speed up the tempo of everything, but left it feeling more like a montage of performances with a couple of guest appearances by random people in between. The closest thing they had to a host was the SNL comic Jay Pharaoh, who was only there to present The Artist To Watch Award. He appeared occasionally throughout the night, to remind the viewers to vote, and do spot on impressions of rappers. Seriously, his Jay-Z and Kanye West impressions had me dying. Dying.
Speaking of the random people. MTV had this thing in which they would let the viewers know about an exclusive web cam that they had posted in the hallway of one of the back rooms of The Forum, where you could see the Celeb guests walk amongst each other, and have awkward exchanges. It was hilarious. My favorite was the Miley-J.Lo exchange. So, awkward.
The first presenters who were bonafide stars finally came along. Gwen and Snoop. See, I didn’t even have to say their full names and you know exactly who I was talking about. That’s fame. They presented Best Female Video. Their exchange was marred by a very odd mic check from somewhere off stage. Another weird sound snafu. This shit used to never happen. Anyway, Katy Perry won the Moon Man for Dark Horse (Who should have one? Beyonce. Another acceptable answer would have been Lorde. Those were original videos, not remakes of Old Michael Jackson videos.) Blah. Forward and onward.
Speaking of Lorde, she pops up in the night from time to time. She introduced her new BFF, Taylor Swift. I’m a fan of Lorde–now hear me out. I love her originality and fresh take on things. I am also a fan of Taylor Swift. Wait. Wait. Just listen–Jeez. I like Taylor herself. Not her music. Although, her music isn’t as terrible as some others. Taylor swift had a great performance that evoked Marilyn Monroe and Madonna throw back accentuations. She sang her knew single and became even more endearing as she infused her humor into a situation which made it look like she was going to jump off a giant 1989 sign (the year she was born) into the waiting arms of her male dancers. At which point, she stopped and played to the crowd, saying that she didn’t care if it was the VMAs or not, she wasn’t jumping. She referenced the craziness of people getting bit by snakes (Nicki Minaj was to have a Boa Constrictor in her earlier performance, but scrapped the idea after one of her back up dancers was bitten during rehearsals earlier in the week.) It was playful, fun and cute. Taylor is all legs and danced like a young woman without a care, awkward and clunky, but it makes you love her more for her genuine existence in the spotlight.
Chelsea Handler presented Best Male Video next. She’s funny. Winner: Ed Sheeran. Who did he beat out? John Legend for ‘All Of Me.’ Sam Smith for ‘Stay With Me.’ Eminem. Pharell Williams. This creepy little ginger had a puppet modeled after him for the video, that looks very real. Probably because the kid looks like something that Jim Henson created and not like someone that was grown inside of his mother’s uterus. They figured no one would know the difference. Anyway, who should have one? John Legend. Sam Smith is also an acceptable answer. Why? Because the puppet video concept, which people said was innovative, has already been done to death. Much like the ‘Dark Horse’ video, this video is copying the concept done by Genesis in the ‘Land Of Confusion’ video from the 80s, or ‘The Brighton Port Authority’ video featuring an Iggy Pop puppet kicking the shit out of everyone. Recycled existence. Once again.
Next came the Best Pop Video. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels came out as presenters to drum up some publicity for their upcoming and surefire super hit, ‘Dumb and Dumber To.’ Jim and Jeff began riffing and messing around immediately, at which time, Jim began his patented style of comedy, which caused him to fall on his ass. MTV of course, cut away in the West Coast feed to hide it. Jim popped up and laughingly claimed “I meant to do that!” obviously not meaning it. He then went in for a second, purposeful tumble. After all that, they presented Best Pop Video. The winner? Ariana Grande. She thanked her fans, her management, oh and MTV specifically, for supporting her music. Weird. A Nickelodeon star jumps to Pop star? Well, that was really fast. Oh what? Her album dropped the same night. Oh what? She got her start on Nickelodeon. Oh what? Nickelodeon is owned by the same corporation as MTV. I’m sure it’s just coincidence. I mean, she is signed to a Universal Music Group label so, there’s that being a deterrent to a conspiracy. Whatever.
Sam Smith performed after that. His performance was endearing, subtle and quite good. You could tell he was nervous, and full of the moment. But it was not too big for him. His eyes welled and he felt every note in him. You could tell he finally settled down, and enjoyed the energy of the accomplishment of going from Bartender, to a musical performer on a world stage, in as little as three years, if that. It was a great moment to watch.
Common came out to present Best Hip Hop Video. He gave his speech about unity within communities and how the events in Ferguson, Missouri have affected us all. They then turned to a moment of silence (it was literally a moment, the producer hurried it along. They had a show to do.) The winner, Drake. You know who I wish would have won? Childish Gambino. Why? Just for the curve ball.
Usher performed. Again, it looked almost forced. Like he was bored and tired of performing. It wasn’t until the end was near, did it look like he was having fun. But, that was after he had slapped Nicki Minaj’s ass as she came back out and helped with his performance (with a horrible microphone to couple with Usher’s), which until that point, looked and sounded like another imitated Michael Jackson performance while covering a Prince song. He wasn’t covering a Prince song. It just sounded like he was.
Best Rock Video came next. Winner? Lorde. Lorde. For Royals. I know you can’t see my face, but I’m staring at you blankly, blinking slowly like an owl. Rock Video. Lorde. I love Lorde, but I didn’t know she played Rock‘n’Roll. I didn’t realize how lost on the music scene I was. This must mean that Megadeth plays Jazz then, right?
Speaking of Rock, the 5 Seconds of Summer performance was up next. The presenters, some people who are supposedly famous (Thanks Disney, I think), came out and basically told us about the 90s and how the music scene then was all about being Rock‘n’Roll. How young people all over, including the band about to play, were inspired by bands like Green Day and Blink 182. Blink 182? Don’t get me wrong, I like Blink. They had a string of hits and cool little albums in ’99 and beyond, but to mention them and Green Day in the same breath. Not to mention, to talk 90s rock and not even gloss over G’n’R or Nirvana is blasphemy, and should be punished. By the way, the kids presenting and the band about to perform were born in the 90s–not coming of age in the 90s–born in the 90s. Don’t try to tell me, about my shit. God damn MTV was trying hard to invoke thoughts of their glory days. Crash and burn, dude. Crash and burn.
Speaking of crash and burn, that’s what the performance was, a crash and burn. It was like watching children hump their instruments as they performed for their families in the living with the presents that Santa just brought them. No awareness of the moment. They looked like a cliche 90s cover band that replaced the actual band they were supposed to be covering. It was like when you were a kid and you played dress up in your mom or dad’s work clothes, and you pretended to do whatever their occupation was. It hurt to watch. Their song sucked, too.
Artist to watch winner: Fifth Harmony. Who cares.
After that, Iggy Azalea performed her new single in a debut release of Black Widow with Rita Ora. I know, I didn’t know who she was either. I had to look her up. Rita Ora. She’s British. Whatever. The performance was OK. Nothing noteworthy other than the curves on Iggy Azalea. Sticky icky Iggy. I digress.
Then came the saddest moment of the night. A tribute to Robin Williams. It wasn’t sad because of his death. Although, as we all know, that was extremely heartbreaking. No, it was sad because they used it as a segue to go to commercial and didn’t display an ‘in memory of’ or even his name. Really? Seriously? A five-second montage of three pictures and nothing more? Na-NO! Na-NO!
Video of the Year? Wrecking Ball. Miley, I’m tired of your face. But, you did manage to pull off something classy for once. You let an at risk youth, who represents the homeless population of kids that fade into the background of Los Angeles because this city has ice water in its veins and doesn’t care about the huge number of homeless people, accept the award. Good for you. You may now stick your tongue out in celebration.
The closing of the night came with a performance by Beyonce that was absolutely incredible. I mean truly once in a lifetime. The woman is quite possibly the greatest performer on Earth, right now. I mean this was a performance of epic standards and execution. She was on point. She truly is the Queen Bee. The woman sang masterfully, while dancing in 6 inch heels, and completely engaging the audience. They looked on mesmerized by her romper and her romp around stage. She changed rhythms between songs without skipping a beat on any of the dance moves, or song notes. You know you’re a true Entertainer when the star studded audience, clad with bright shiners (most of them) and longer than normal careers, were up on their feet and completely enamored. Completely. Entranced. Completely….Entranced. Did I mention they were completely entranced?
She was then presented with the MTV Vanguard Award by Jay-Z and Baby Blue Ivy. It was cute. But–I take issue with one thing, and here’s where I may lose some people. For the past three years the Vanguard award has been given to–in chronological order–Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and now, Beyonce. OK. Listen, I’m not saying those people didn’t deserve it. If anyone amongst those three does deserve it, Beyonce would be the first before any of the other two. My point is simply this, the Vanguard Award was given to those who have historically changed the music scene over a lifetime. LIFETIME. Past recipients: The Beatles, Guns-N-Roses, Madonna, Hype Williams, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, The Red Hot Chili Peppers–You see where I’m going with this? It’s like MTV wants to speed up time and date the superstars of the 90s and 2000s, so they can hurry up and try to get the kids back on their bandwagon by making way for a new wave of famous people that they can personally control. Ultimately, MTV has proven that they are a mainstay. It’s just unfortunate now.
The VMAs is no long the Oscars of the music videos. It has now become a weird mixture of SAG awards and The Razzies. It’s like the worse of the worse as voted by their peers, the people. I feel bad for even saying that about the SAG awards. And The Razzies. But, it’s true. This night truly was MTV’s attempt to introduce its new stable of young up and comers as bonafide celebrities in an attempt to control the holy music empire by introducing people as if we should already know who they are. It was like they were a sports team trying to revamp their roster after they just won a championship with a team of aging players, that seem to be retiring by the dozen. It was bizarre watching famous people who aren’t even famous yet. It felt like watching home videos of children kill lizards before they were to become serial killers. Celebrity f**king before their careers are even of age. I felt dirty the whole night. And old–I’m only 28 for Christ’s sake.