Monday, September 14, 2009
2009 VMAs Wrap Up
Remember when the MTV Music Awards had cultural relevance? Back when music videos ruled the air and Christian Slater hosted?
Ok, so maybe they never had real cultural relevance, but it did give us an alternative to the stuffy Academy Awards and Emmys. Stars could come out and let loose, wear crazy clothing, give borderline off-color acceptance speeches and get drunk before the show.
Oh how times have not changed...
Full disclosure. Because last night was an awesome night of television for me (Pedro pitching for the Phillies against the Mets in the back end of a doublheader; Clijsters looking to cement an incredible run in the finals of the U.S. Open), I couldn't devote 2+ hours of my evening to a bunch of people I didn't know singing songs I didn't know. Luckily, however, in this day and age we have the internet, and using its power I can comment on the highlights of the evening...
Michael Jackson Tribute
Flipping over early, I heard a snippet of conversation between two people on the red carpet saying the Michael Jackson tribute scheduled for the awards show was going to be moving, and spanned his entire career.
I'm still waiting for it.
Look I'm not saying I need a tribute to a recently deceased global icon who may or may not be a pedophile to be a somber affair, but I'm not 100% sure what we were supposed to get out of this either, since it hardly touched on Jackson's songs other than 4 or 5. A dance troupe with members portraying the many looks and styles MJ had over the years is fine and dandy for someone being honored while living, but seems a tad sensationalistic when the performer is dead.
But whatever, I understand celebrating his life, so let's move on. I enjoyed the choreography of the dancers to the video, right up until the point Ms. Jackson came out. And this is where it perhaps gets at least a tad morbid, seeing as her brother died roughly a month ago. To see her dancing to a video of him dressed as a sexy penguin made me feel a bit icky.
Thankfully, I still had the awesomeness of the dancer at the 3:30 mark, trying to perform the forward lean that MJ is known for, and failing miserably. Seeing this live I rewound numerous times and laughed. Either he got hurt earlier in the dance number or just got a case of nerves, because he is right up in front, and you can clearly see that while his dance brethren have no problem with it, he is doubled over at the waist, shaking uncontrollably. It's fun to watch!
The next part of this video appears to be a tribute to Janet Jackson, which I don't understand. Obviously out of context it comes out of nowhere, but even with context - why couldn't they use the time here to further pay tribute to Michael? It's not as if he didn't have enough songs.
Anyway, Pink Mya and Usher were called upon to do more of the dance along with the popular videos which Pink and Usher seemed to get; Mya on the otherhand, danced to her own beat (and reflection) and appeared to use the time to get an audition for Fame. Good for you Mya. Hope you don't mind serving me my fries hot in 2 years or so.
But my favorite part of the Michael Jackson tribute was Madonna's "heartfelt" speech. If Heartfelt means "about me."
I particularly enjoyed the nugget about MJ throwing his sunglasses out the window. You know, because that sounds plausible. And don't get me started on the "date" anecdote. They held hands? Madonna does more for the guy who pumps her gas (not a euphemism).
If only the Michael Jackson tribute was what everyone was talking about today, however...
Look, we all know Kanye is batshit crazy, so this stunt shouldnt' be too surprising. Sure, it's not nice and Taylor "don't call me Hicks" Swift appears genuinely shocked and crestfallen. I feel bad for her in the sense that she looked to be taking getting a metal statue of a logo seriously. And I don't fault her for that.
Still, I wish she could have responded. I don't know who to blame for that. Her? She might have been in shock. Producers? If that's the case then they should be fired for cutting before giving her a chance. All she had to do is say something like, "Sorry Kanye, I didn't expect you being that your light show hasn't been set up yet." Ok, that's obscure. So maybe something like, "Thanks Jay-Z!" Ok, that's borderline racist. How about, "Kids, never drink and go to awards shows, or you can end up like that. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle." Short, clever, true (Kanye was seen with a bottle of Hennessey on the Red Carpet), and she could have nabbed a part in the inevitable sequel to the GI Joe movie.
Instead, Beyonce had to play the role of Jimmy Carter and bring peace back to the Lower East...side that is! (Note: I have no idea if this was on the lower east side of Manhattan)
Aside from looking like she's wearing a fanny pack, Beyonce scored huge points with everyone (she's definitely taking notes about PR from her husband) by handing her mic over to Taylor Swift. Now, had she known Swift was in red does she do the same thing? Tough to tell.
I do wish Swift would have acknowledged Beyonce's gesture, but once again she got caught off guard so I won't hold it against her.
So, that was the big stuff for the night, right?
I watched the Jay-Z performance because I generally enjoy Jay-Z and wanted to see what he would pull off. I think he's a masterful entertainer, and the tops when it comes to PR and marketing. And while little of that was shown off in the above video, there was plenty of other things I noticed, such as...
Alicia Keys was ready to fuck Jay-Z right there on that stage. He commanded everyone in that room, and she was ready. I was really wondering what Beyonce, mere steps away from the both of them felt when...
Beyonce Cam Camera Operator was on the ball, getting right up in Beyonce's grill to give us her expression, which was to be singing right along with Jay-Z. And you know what, there might not be too many things sexier than to have your wife singing along to a song you're currently performing. Could she have been jealous of Alicia Keys up on that stage? Sure. Was she? Absolutely not, which made it that much better.
And if only Jay-Z and Alicia Keys banged it out, took their bows and ended the evening there, we could have gotten out on a high note; instead we're left with the bizarre images of Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and an unannounced woman getting a standing ovation. Apparently, Lil Mama, she of "America's Best Dance Crew" judging fame, felt the closing number needed just a little extra oomph - and figured she was it.
Jay-Z, ever the professional, didn't seem fazed and kept on going. Perhaps unannounced cameos from fringe type rap artists is a more common occurrence at hip hop concerts than we are led to believe.
The night wound down quickly after that, and the curtain fell on another MTV Video Music Awards show. Did the bizarre controversies of the evening help or hurt the event? I can't tell you. I think at this point we almost expect one or two weird things to happen, and have become desensitized to it. I woke up this morning to debates about whether the entire Kanye thing was manufactured for the publicity. Of course if it were, mission accomplished.
And that about wraps it up from me. Oh sure, we didn't even get into Lady Gaga's outfit choices or the Scarecrow behind Beyonce (which I also think was Lady Gaga), but that's just too much plastic pop culture that will surely be recycled next year.