Feel free to dock me some indie-cred points, but let it be known that I’ve only missed one MTV Video Music Awards show since 1991 (ironically, I missed the 2006 VMA’s because I was busy working for MTV Networks at the time). My excitement for the VMA’s has waned over the years, but nevertheless I always make sure to tune in. I guess it’s the same reason I’ll occasionally eat a bologna sandwich. They’re not necessarily good, but they remind of me good times I had when I was younger.
I was never really interested in the made-for-TV VMA moments. Michael Jackson planting one on Elvis’ daughter? Big deal. Madonna and Britney kissing? Give Missy Elliot a chance to stick her tongue down Madonna’s throat and then we’ll talk.
The moments I cherished the most were the live performances. It was always thrilling when an up-and-coming talent got a chance to perform under the bright lights of the VMA’s. Even though by the time Nirvana played their first VMA’s they were already signed to a major label and sold a bunch of albums, they still gave the impression of being underdogs. You want a VMA memory? How about when Dave Grohl called out Axl Rose on stage–who at the time was the biggest rock star on the planet–that was a moment!
Throughout the years, the VMA’s have supplied me with many great memories. During my four years of college, I had to make sure to get to the Student Union long before anyone else, so I could squat out the cable TV (which was nonexistent in our dorm rooms) just to make sure I could watch the VMA’s. By the end of each telecast, you could always count on the Student Union being filled with a mixed selection of music and pop-culture nerds, each having something different and interesting to say about the show. In graduate school, I was able to lure a handful of friends away from their studies to witness the greatest host performance in VMA history–Chris Rock ripping everyone a new one in 1999.
Over the years, the quality of the VMA’s has diminished. Maybe the downfall began when MTV started taking its focus off of music? Hard to say though, because around the same time, it seemed like there was an awards show for just about everything. Maybe awards-show fatigue had something to do with it?
Whatever the case, I still made an effort to catch the VMA’s every year–even after two consecutive duds held in Miami, one of which featured the worst VMA performance I have ever seen–R. Kelly standing still on a stage full of props, lip-syncing–quite pathetically–to his multi-chapter hit, “Trapped In The Closet.”
After witnessing last night’s 25th rendition of the MTV Video Music Awards, I believe–sadly–my time has come. I couldn’t tell you what did it. Maybe, as they say, it was a slow burn? Maybe I’m just getting too old? Maybe my tastes have become too indie? Too elite?
You can’t eat bologna forever.
You’d think the 25th Anniversary of the Video Music Awards would be a big deal, but it wasn’t. Besides a quick mention of it by Britney Spears in her intro, you’d never know it was the VMA’s Silver Anniversary. For an awards show that once took place in beautiful venues (Radio City Music Hall, The Metropolitan Opera House), it seemed anticlimactic to hold it on a small sound stage outside of a Hollywood lot. I guess the argument could be made that some of the performances benefited from the various outside sets, but the main room looked tiny on TV and didn’t even seem like it would be worthy of holding a reunion show for The Hills, let alone the VMA’s.
Giving the hosting reigns to British comedian, Russell Brand, was a roll of the dice for MTV, a risky maneuver that I actually respected. However, Brand–who is not a household name here in the states–didn’t seem to connect well with the audience or the celebrity talent. At times he would remain on stage with the presenters, which just made for awkward (and not a good awkward) TV. He continually poked fun at the Jonas Brothers and when former American Idol winner Jordan Sparks poked back–“I just wanna say, it’s not bad to wear a promise ring because not every guy and a girl wants to be a slut, OK?”–did Brand summon the spirit of Chris Rock and rip her and the Jonas Brothers a new one? No, he conceded defeat–very fitting for the entire night.
Sadly, the artists I most wanted to see–The Ting Tings, Lupe Fiasco, LL Cool J, Katy Perry–gave brief, half-song performances before and after commercial breaks.
The only praise I can give MTV for their 25th installment of the VMA’s is that they have–seemingly–fully embraced their younger demographic. Miley Cyrus did a bit where she would rather play the video game Rock Band than announce a performance, Kid Rock passed the mic to Lil’ Wayne in the same way Run DMC passed the mic to Kid Rock almost a decade ago, the Jonas Brothers were given an extravagant set-piece to perform on, which sadly only reinforced their G-rated image, and Britney Spears played the role of over-the-hill pop star on the comeback trail by taking home three moonmen (keep in mind she’s only 26).
Farwell VMA’s, it’s been a good ride, but I believe this is my stop.