Every year as autumn approaches I wait in perverse anticipation for the MTV Video Music Awards. Who will win the coveted Obviously On Something award? Which Rock Legend will be awkwardly paired up with Today’s Hot Star for a little bit of that MTV generation glad-handing and grab-assing? And which musical performance will make me want to reach for a sedative? Awards shows offer writers and critics fodder ripe for various potshots and sarcastic swipes.
The problem is that I am a notoriously slow writer. A sentence here, a sentence there, and the end result is usually a fantastically mediocre collection of cheap jokes, bad puns, and shallow, fairly-obvious observations. So, without further boasting, here is my belated recap of this year’s awards.
- The Raconteurs as house band – A high point of the show came very early, as the Raconteurs and Lou Reed (yes, that Lou Reed) ripped through a passable version of White Light White Heat. Although Reed at times sounded breathless (but nowhere near as bad as the dusty corpse of Axl Rose that was propped up and moved by marionette strings last year) and his face looked like a worn-out catcher’s mitt, the version was suitably rough-around-the-edges and was played at chaotic top speed. Although I can’t help but wonder how many Laguna Beach-age viewers thought the song was about Jack White.
- OK Go’s synchronized treadmill dance – I still don’t know whether this performance was meant to be taken seriously or as a finely-orchestrated put-on. Sure, the idea of four guys carefully maneuvering around several rolling treadmills is absurd, but there was something visually appealing and interesting about this performance. In college I attended a performance of a university-funded “high art” troupe that essentially danced like David Byrne, in Stop Making Sense, while a giant amplified radio slid up and down the dial. They even wore oversized suits and synchronized their movements. What’s the difference?
- Chamillionaire’s acceptance speech – Although I was expecting Tupac to win the Best Rap Video award, Chamillionaire’s acceptance speech was probably the most sincere speech of the night. In fact, it was so sincere and devoid of the shameless self-promotion that typifies the VMAs that it appeared out of place.
- Christina Aguilera’s performance – Somehow in the past year or so Aguilera has managed to transform herself from the whore-like gutter rat of Stripped into an intriguing pop musician. Her (ahem) stripped-down performance was completely out-of-step with the ridiculous, faux-Gilbert and Sullivan theatricality of the other musical performances.
- Bands that look like Todd from Wedding Crashers – Somewhere there must be a factory churning out quasi-feminine, face-ring-studded, skinny, pale-faced, pseudo-goth boy musicians. At some point, A.F.I., Fall Out Boy, and Panic At The Disco all blend together into some sort of weird David Bowie-meets-Marilyn Manson abomination.
- Justin Timberlake – Remember that kid in elementary school who patterned himself after the cool crowd? He was always trailing a step or two behind the popular kids, imitating their speech, style, and clothes. Well, that’s Timberlake, whose latest inspiration is apparently Purple Rain era Prince, as displayed in his performance. Given the trajectory of Timberlake’s inspirations, I calculate that he will adopt a Kurt Cobain persona sometime around 2009.
- Nicole Richey – She already looks like her own South Park caricature.
- Ringtone of the Year award – Some group named Fort Minor won for a song I’ve never heard before. And I had always thought Fort Minor was a Civil War battle.
The Even Worse
- Jack Black as host – Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Jack Black fan. I thought he was great in School of Rock and turned a potentially cheesy movie about the (breathe deep) Saving Power of Music into a truly hilarious flick. But toward the end of the show, when he looked at himself in the mirror and said “you didn’t bring the thunder,” it was difficult to believe he wasn’t going through a brutally honest self-examination. His shtick, which seems to consist solely of wild-eyed facial contortions and Heavy Metal shouts, began to grate almost immediately. When Jack White failed to laugh at Black’s painfully obvious “both named Jack with different last names” joke and just stared blankly at him, Black said White was just playing it cool. I must have been playing it cool then as well, because that joke, like most of Black’s throughout the night, fell flat.
- Pussycat Dolls acceptance speech – When Pussycat Doll #4 (I’m sure they all have names like Kiki, Melanie, Amber, etc.) thanked Generic Big Music Executive for “seeing this before anyone else did,” I nearly fell out of my chair and spilled Diet Code Red on my newly-carpeted floor. And somewhere, I suspect, so did the remnants of the Spice Girls, whose carefully orchestrated and marketed blend of vacuous bubblegum pop and empty-headed sexuality has been regurgitated as the Pussycat Dolls.
- JLo’s dress – Tell me she didn’t look exactly like Zool from Ghostbusters in that thing.
The Butt-Puckering Worst
- Jessica Simpson’s heartfelt speech – She claimed it was a highly personal story. So personal, in fact, that she had to read from a prompter and botched several words. No one will ever accuse Simpson of having stayed in a Holiday Inn last night, but if it’s such a personal story, for chrissakes at least glance away from the teleprompter occasionally.
- Shakira’s pop belly-dancer debacle – A sure sign that a VMA performance will degenerate into a mess of explosions and writhing dancers is that it starts slowly, with a quiet, semi-cultural flare. Shakira’s performance started thus, with a mellow, swaying rhythm. Wait for it… wait for it… and bam! It hits like an unexpected Slurpee brain freeze. Suddenly the stage floods with a small army of, yes, writhing dancers. While Shakira is a tremendous dancer (though let’s be honest: that “chest thrust” thing she does is a little creepy), she was hopelessly out of tune. Watching this performance was a little like watching a spider in a toilet bowl: you know it’s ending in disaster for the spider, but you can’t help but feel pity for the spider and you hope it somehow makes it.
Like Kanye West’s meandering and largely incomprehensible tribute to Hype Williams, it’s time to put this recap out of its belated misery. If you’ve read this far, you either have some free time or are going through some sort of penance of punishment. Me, I’m going to visit a barber and tell him to give the Fall Out Boy look.Powered by Sidelines