I watch music videos for a living. While that’s generalizing and simplifying the exact context of my work, it’s the bottom line. So while I can dispute the winners of last night’s MTV Video Music Awards with a flair of knowledge, it’s best to understand that to argue is a moot point. The “best” videos are rarely the winners, and even rarer, ever nominated. So, we take what it is at face value (as with most awards shows) and pretend we’re content with what has become the ‘norm’.
The show itself was a promise of a better-than-usual affair. I haven’t watched a full VMA in years – precisely because I’m often loath to succumb to its pop-culturism. Chelsea Handler as hostess (the first female host since Roseanne Barr helmed the 1994 cheese-apalooza) was a sign that perhaps MTV has finally stopped taking itself seriously. Handler is part of the pop culture machine, but more as an agitator…skewering the very machination she’s a part of with an undeniable fervor and abandon. While comediennes like Kathy Griffin relish dishing on the D-List society we dumb-downed Americans have sadly embraced wholeheartedly (e.g. the Kate Gosselin’s of the world, the Khardasian’s, the Britney’s, the Lohan’s, etc…), her innate adoration of those targets is palpable. Handler seemingly genuinely and deliciously disdains. So, when she risked her very health by dipping into the Jacuzzi with the sub-humanoid denizens of the Jersey Shore cast at one point mid-way through the show, it was simultaneously to partake in the absurdity of their pop culture ascension and to obliterate it with an intelligent irony those morons could never understand.
The aforementioned better show promise barely materialized. While Eminem’s opening medley of “Not Afraid”/”Love The Way You Lied” was a stunner (even with “surprise guest” Rihanna’s atonal droning on the latter), he skipped the rest of the ceremony to fly back to the East Coast for his concert with Jay-Z, hence unable to accept the few awards he won. And why saddle Lady Gaga as the most nominated performer in VMA history only to have her sit out the performances? She’s an attention whore, we get it, but her outrageous shock-frock’s are a tired cliché and it’s been played out ad nauseum for nearly two years running already, so her nightmare runway sashays with every Moon Man she collected doesn’t really count (I should add that, while no fan of Gaga’s retro-90’s Club MTV musical leanings, her steadfast stance and intestinal fortitude on basic equal rights is incontestable. By showing up with 4 American soldiers – heroes – recently discharged under our governments heinous Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as her ‘dates’, she’s not only educating the youth masses of the injustices within our flawed system, but the hypocrisy of President Obama’s confounded positions on said rights).
The performers of the night were hit or miss (mostly miss). We all learned back in 1992 that WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP, but who knew that white boys also couldn’t sing!? Or dance? Or best/worst of all, even lip-synch? So, salutations, Justin Bieber, and thanks – your poorly mimed “Baby”/“Somebody To Love” was unintentionally comical enough, but losing your drumstick during that solo was the cherry on top! Meanwhile, Bieber’s sensei Usher’s proclivity toward a Michael Jackson hierarchy is taxing – he’s too far into his own career for the incessant terpsichorean mimicry. His (also, frustratingly, lip-synched) medley of his “DJ Got Us Falling In Love”/“OMG”, while visually all razzle, was far from a dazzle, despite it’s TRON-meets-KILL BILL milieux.
While I’m betting that hipsters the blogosphere over were rejoicing after Florence + the Machine’s FELLINI SATYRICON-like performance of her Vid Of The Year nominee “Dog Days Are Over”, it was dynamic and ethereal – the evening’s most vivid recital. The Drake/Mary J Blige/Swizz Beatz Rat Pack-inspired take on Drake’s “Fancy” was fanciful in ideal, not necessarily in execution – though Mary’s perfect imperfections are always a joy to behold…even though she (finally) learned how to sing a few years ago, it’s that rampant almost-punk aesthetic that always trickles in which takes the non-believers like me to church.
Instantaneously, I was impressed that MTV and TLC agreed on a cross-channel agreement until I realized that, no, it was not the lost member of LITTLE PEOPLE, BIG WORLDs Roloff family in Little Richard drag tinkling at the ivories, but R&B sensation Bruno Mars, which begat Atlanta’s latest superstar B.O.B.’s “Nothin’ On You”, before segueing into “Airplanes” with Haley Williams of Paramore. We learned earlier that Williams and B.O.B. never met before the VMA rehearsal (technology allowed their recorded duet to happen), and it couldn’t have been more apparent. Williams was Paramore-less during their “Only Exception”. Linkin Park headache-inducing attempt to stop their spiraling descent into irrelevancy with “Catalyst” was, well, loud and, let’s face it, ludicrous – there’s never a cliche these nimrod’s don’t like to hold tightly.
But lest anyone foolishly believe otherwise, the 2010 VMAs leant no creed to anything as inconsequential as, say, the winners (it never is, though Gaga took home 8 Moon Men), nor even about the fashion which, due to the frivolous insignificance of the award itself, is usually this show’s main metier.
Nope – nothing else meant anything – not on this day – the 1st anniversary of Taylorgate!!! A year ago, West morphed from pompous talented blowhard to pompous talented douchebag blowhard in an instant swoop – by bum-rushing the stage (inebriated, no less) as Swift accepted her Best Female Video Moon Man and proclaiming (correctly, I might add, at least historically) that Beyoncé was robbed of the statue.
West’s only ‘crime’ was classless, sure, but in the realm of MTV, his statement was hardly erroneous. Perhaps “Single Ladies” wasn’t “…one of the greatest videos of all time, of all TIME!”, as he stupidly clamored, but it certainly is one of the medium’s all-time greatest hits – it remains its own zeitgeist even almost two years later – probably unarguably the most parodied – mimicked, homaged, revered – in this YouTube age. And MTV, as noted earlier, is almost always about the “most popular”, so its loss to Swift’s teenage ramblings was a head-scratcher at the very least.
Meanwhile, West’s actions jettisoned Swift into stratospheric new heights. Already a crossover country superstar, she became the poor rich little white girl attacked by the drunk, scary black man – America went bonkers and suddenly Swift became the most famous victim in the country and became a megastar, a household name.
Flash-forward a year – and incalculable West apologies – later, and the controversy’s come full circle. All eyes, ears and even the noses of the gossip hounds, the blogosphere, the press and viewers, were simultaneously glued to MTV – the world seemingly waited with an inflated inhalation.
Swift’s public statement wasn’t nearly as provocative as it could have been; in lieu of an incendiary verbal scolding, “Innocent” approached the topic more with a condescending finger-pointing of a mother reprimanding her child with lessons-to-be-learned affirmations:
It’s alright, just wait and see, your string of lights are still bright to me
Oh, who you are is not what you’ve been
You’re still an innocent
It’s okay, life is a tough crowd
32 and still growing up now
Who you are is not what you did
You’re still an innocent
Solipsism was always West’s best friend so “Runaway” seeped of his favorite subject of course, but despite the heralded chorus, independent of the controversy you’d never know that there was a controversy to begin with:
Let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the assholes
Let’s have a toast for the scumbags, every one of them that I know
Let’s have a toast for the jerk-offs, that never take work off
Baby I got a plan, runaway as fast as you can…
But delving further, he, uh, “sings”:
Used to find pictures in my e-mail
I sent this bitch a picture of my dick (he censored himself and sang “HEY”)
I don’t know what it is with females
But I’m not too good at that shit (see above)
See I could have me a good girl
And still be addicted to hood rats
And I just blame everything on you
At least you know that’s what I’m good at…
You couldn’t find an insinuation to Kanye/Taylorgate with a fine-toothed comb, but that won’t stop the masses from trying. Remember, again, West didn’t hobble on stage and pull a Chris Brown on Swift last year – merely stated his belief in an ugly manner. He offered no musical apologies, nor did he owe one (to anyone other than Swift). What MTV did was build the controversy to a fever pitch (they announced his “comeback” throughout the program) and, hoping West would sequel Swift’s earlier part 1, he instead displays an action that is perfectly aligned with his history – he makes it all about him Such is the genius of Kanye.
That the much-anticipated water cooler redemption was as arid as dry ice (spoken in brief, almost passing tones this day after) it was a lost moment for a possible pop culture landmark.
So, instead of elongating the already prolonged feud, it ended with last night’s anti-climax.
Besides, who would’ve thought that the topic of conversation today would be this:
Let it suffice to say that Lady Gaga is not the new white meat.