Like last year, I return to the depths of MTV’s current culture for the Video Music Awards. Unlike in 2010, I’m a lot more familiar with this year’s crop but that doesn’t mean you will be.
If this is your first time here, I’m 33 and live in New Hampshire. I am very much into music with the 90s alternative scene being my main influence growing up. I have lived all over the music map and once was the music guy for a pro hockey team for six years. I’m still waiting for a Top 10 song of clap chants.
If this year’s show proved anything, it’s that the current philosophy of always being in the public eye is still holding true in pop music and that the Video Music Awards is anything but about music….except for a young British singer.
We kick off with a greaser-looking person doing a monologue about Lady Gaga. Except, this is Lady Gaga. I have no idea what she’s talking about, but it sounds like she’s acting as a jilted Gaga lover. Girls are screaming throughout her monologue, which kinda kills it. Eventually she sings a song. Queen’s Brian May comes out for a guitar solo. And we’re off.
As I couldn’t watch any more Cowboys/Redskins and with next to nothing on the DVR, I turned to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards for my Sunday night entertainment.
As a 32-year-old, I’m not who MTV goes for anymore and I don’t watch anything on the network anymore, not even Jersey Shore. So without any build-up or pretense, here’s my running blog on the proceedings and my attempt to understand just what’s happening in today’s pop music scene.
Be warned. Crotchety early 30s ramblings ahead…
9 PM: We start out with Eminem performing. Is he still relevant in today’s music scene? I guess so? I am still amazed by MTV’s expansive set designs for these shows. Seriously, how many millions do they spend on this shit?
9:03 PM: Is that Rihanna in the white dress with combat-style boots? I can’t be the only one to wonder if she’s alright, can I? Ah yes…I’ve heard this song before, so it is Rihanna. I will learn later this is a surprise of some sorts.
Apparently, it’s unrealistic to think a pop singer would appear at the VMAs. Also, let’s look at the concept of the Video Music Awards. Are videos even pertinent on TV anymore or is this just online that it’s important? These are things I must understand as I’m under the assumption MTV doesn’t play videos.
9:05 PM: Chelsea Handler is the host? She hosts a late night show on E and I’m stunned she’s at the MTV hosting level.She does a backstage skit with lots of black guys (and Lindsay Lohan) smacking her butt. We then cut to the stage and “Bad Romance’ by Lady Gaga comes on. The crowd pops like she’s coming out, except it’s Handler. Gaga is later shown in the crowd with another ridiculous outfit, one of many we’ll see on the night.
During the opening monologue, Handler is actually pretty funny, jumping between a lot of racial and adult jokes. I wonder if the crowd is even trying to get this, but to those that can appreciate the absurdity of today’s music scene, this is good shit.
9:15 PM: The Best Female video is first and Lady Gaga wins for “Bad Romance”. She’s wearing a giant dress with a peacock-style headdress and is crying as she thanks everyone. I feel like that song came out 8 years ago, probably because I’ve heard it played in some fashion approximately 1 billion times.
9:25 PM: The Jackass guys are back…again? A clip is shown of Bam Margera getting hit with a giant hand full of flour. Their 3rd movie is going to be the latest to cash in on the 3D craze. They are introducing Best Rock Video, but these contenstants don’t feel like rock at all.
30 Seconds To Mars wins for “Kings and Queens”. Jared Leto and group accepts, but Leto has somehow transformed into David Bowie.
9:30 PM: Justin Bieber pulls up in a red convertible and plays to an outdoor crowd of screaming young girls who are entirely too into this kid. He lip syncs and dances with a nearly entirely African American backing band and dancers. Apparently that gives him a lot of street cred.
Oh and he can play the drums as well.
9:40 PM: Usher is introduced by the bizarre Kei$sha and the guy that does Tipsy (I think). Usher then partially lip-syncs through a performance that involves scaffolding, an elaborate laser show, an awesome lighted floor and quite a bit of dancing. Honestly, I think if someone can dance, record companies will find someone to provide the vocals Milli Vanilli style and make a star.
That being said, this was pretty awesome. They win.
9:45 PM: Katy Perry and Nikki Menage (some lady with a giant booty) come out to introduce Best Male Video. No surprise that most of this is hip-hop. Eminem wins, but couldn’t hang around for an hour to accept as he’s on a flight back to NY. Some guy in a mouse head completely encased in video is playing DJ into breaks. Should I know who this is? I feel so out of touch.
9:50 PM: Funny backstage skits with Handler hosting a Best New Artist brunch are pretty good. I also just found out that the correct spelling is Nicki Minaj. How could I not know that?
9:53 PM: Florence And The Machine perform live in their VMA debut. I’ve heard of them (her?) in passing. She puts on an earthy presentation with plenty of dancers and such. She has a good voice, but there’s nothing here that would make me believe she has staying power. As we got to break, an unnamed man comes out and starts rapping a song for a minute that I’ve heard before. I later learn this via Google that this is Travie McCoy.
We then transition to NERD playing outside and a woman doing something similar to a limbo. That only lasts a few minutes, cementing my theory that our younger society is going to have an attention span almost impossible to compare anything to. We’re actually already there, but shows like this prove it.
Perhaps the best moment of the nite is Taco Bell’s new commercial that is an homage to the old Super Friends series. They are called the Super Delicious Ingredient Force and you can see them here. We’re about halfway through the show and so far, it’s been ok but nothing pushing me toward listening to more pop music.
10:05 PM: Some of the Glee peeps come out to introduce Best Pop video. Lady Gaga wins again and is on her 2nd costume change. This ie equally as giant and ridiculous with two people needing to help her get out of her chair. She acknowledges how clunky things are. (Also, isn’t all this music pop?)
10:07 PM: Taylor Swift performs and to open, she plays the video of Kanye West interuppting her is played. Aren’t we over that yet? She performs “You’re Still An Innocent” – a somewhat slower song and a stark difference than everything we’ve heard tonight. I know she’s young, but she just doesn’t seem to fit amongst all this.
10:15 PM: We get a hype video for the Video Of The Year. While there are some new faces (B.O.B., Florence And The Machine), you have to figure a big timer like Eminem or Gaga will take this home. (Am I really evaluating this?) I should mention MTV is pushing its trending on Twitter pretty hard.
Just my opinion, but I think as a communication channel, it’s eventually going to take over Facebook. It’s perfect for this generation.
10:22 PM: Drake w/Mary J. Blige and Swizz Beatz are up to perform. It certainly hasn’t taken long for Drake to become a name in the pop music biz.
10:28 PM: Hey, the VMAs have their own ‘Previously Handed Out Awards You’d Be Bored With” segment as well. I think some people from Tru Blood handed them out, but they didn’t announce who they were. I also am disappointed that I didn’t record this show in HD.
10:31 PM: An unidentified man who I believe is Chris Brown performs as they come back from break. Interesting. In any case, the Jersey Shore kids are introduced on a hot tub on stage as Handler subtly insults them. She then gets into the hot tub with them, which makes you realize how hard the fall from celebrity grace it’s going to be for this gang.
The hot Colombian from Modern Family introduces Best Hip Hop Video. I’m immediately surprised as Jay-Z is up for an award, but has no presence at the show. Eminem wins and she accepts for him. Handler jumps out of the tub and “The Situation” again tries to get his catchphrase over. It doesn’t work…again.
10:42 PM: Another performance as the talented B.O.B. and Paramore’s Hayley Williams perform “Airplanes” which was a pretty big hit this summer. The two get through a few minutes before Williams walks to the back of the stage and performs a slow song with her band. She has a fantastic voice, but this is a weird segway unless it goes back to the original song.
It doesn’t. Meh.
A white girl with bleached blond hair and lots of ear piercings takes us into break. It could be pop princess Robyn, but that’ s probably not accurate at all.
10:54 PM: Bieber wins Best New Artist and apparently can’t figure out how to get up on stage. How cute.
10:55 PM: Linkin Park is at the Griffin Observatory in L.A. performing “The Catalyst.” My DVR shows four minutes left and they haven’t announced the Video of the Year, so I’m guessing that we’re running long.
11 PM: LP wraps at 11 pm and we are promised Video Of The Year and Kanye West’s new song in 10 minutes. My DVR cuts off, so we’re done here. Lady Gaga (seen here) won the Video Of The Year for Bad Romance, by the way.
In conclusion, this was a visually spectacular show but unfortunately those would truly appreciate it aren’t in MTV’s demographic. The 12-24 demographic that the network craves comes to expect the pomp and circumstance, unappreciative of just what they’re witnessing.
At least we still have videos.
Josh Nason is a freelance journalist who has penned pieces for FIGHT! Magazine, Apollo (Australia) Magazine, Manchester Magazine and more. While he loves to write about mixed martial arts and email marketing, blogging about music and observations on life are passions as well. Follow him at Twitter.
“Sorry, Chinese Democracy barely qualifies as GnR.”
While I was traveling on the T last month in Boston, I started listening to Guns N’ Roses’ latest effort, Chinese Democracy. If you haven’t heard of this disc or any of the production drama behind said disc, chances are that you probably aren’t into rock music, lived in Antarctica or simply decided to erase the thought of Axl Rose from your conscious being at some point over the past decade.
I had heard from some friends that they really liked it, but I was prepared to be less than blown away. I had purchased Democracy months ago and only briefly skipped through some tracks, never really fully embracing what I was hearing. But I made the commitment and focused into what Rose and his group of mostly non-original Gunners had to tell my ears and mind and I gotta tell you…I really liked what I heard.
“That album mostly sucks. I gave it three tries.”
I’m not a mega-fan of the band, but like many other white guys in their early 30s, I had the Appetite for Destruction tape that spun repeatedly in my yellow Walkman and participated in the debate over what Use Your Illusion disc I liked better (for the record, the blue one). While my musical taste has grown over the years, I still looked forward to hearing this new cd eventually – even if the path to get there took way too long to begin with.
What I heard was fantastic. From the title track to songs like Better, Madagascar and my personal favorite Shackler’s Revenge, this is a great disc. Totaling 14 tracks in all, you can throw this on and just listen to it from start-to-finish. While there is no Sweet Child O’Mine, Patience or even You Could Be Mine, the release of Democracy has added some good music to the G N’R catalog – even if a vocal group won’t allow these songs to enter the conversation.
“Sorry Josh, that was not worth the wait.”
But as you can see by the italicized comments throughout this blog, my opinion apparently is in the minority. Unfortunately for the band, they were in a no-win situation with the CD for several reasons:
- The on-again, off-again release of the disc over the last decade became a running pop culture joke. There was more stops and false starts than a ’85 Ford Escort with no oil so when the impending launch became very real, people didn’t take it seriously. I was in a Best Buy and saw a display that helped spark my memory. Marketers and fans just got burned out from the entire game and thus, killed a lot of buzz for the November release. Strike 1.
- This isn’t the original crew. A cop-out from some critics has been that Slash isn’t in the group and thus, it really isn’t Guns. I can see where they are coming from because Axl and Slash were like a well-tuned WWF tag team of the 80s. But bands evolve and change and while this version has been bastardized over the last 10 years, it’s still Axl’s voice and I think that should count for something.
Being Axl is obviously its own curse as he’s one of the most polarizing figures in rock, even when he was holed up somewhere in the desert working on Democracy. Easy to overcome? For some, yes. For many others, not so much. Ah, the curse of a frontman that believes too many of his own clippings. Strike 2.
- If this disc was put out by someone other than Guns, it would have been hailed as one of 2008′s top rock discs. When you factor in all of the above, it would have taken a miracle for this to get the credit it truly deserved. Just out of spite alone, I feel that critics would never give Chinese Democracy a fair shake. It was either Appetite for Destruction II or bust and I don’t think that’s fair. If any number of bands had released this under a different name, there would be a huge buzz but because it was Guns N’Roses, the disc was seen as average at best.
Yes, they are a better band with Slash…but he’s not coming back. Yes, it shouldn’t have taken a decade to get this on the shelves…but it did, so deal with it. Yes, they should be touring to help support this…which I actually don’t understand at all but that’s beside the point.
Let go of your prejudices and give Chinese Democracy a shot. G N’R got you through the late 80s and 90s – you owe Axl that much.
I was surprised to read last week that MTV’s afternoon staple – Total Request Live – came to an end with a three-hour finale last Sunday. Perhaps coinciding with the seemingly-impending death of music videos, the show’s end truly marks the end of an era for myself and millions others that grew up watching it.
Actually, ‘grew up’ might be a little much as the show debuted in September of 1998 while I was entering my junior year of college. Still, it was a staple of my 20s (god, I feel old saying that) and provided a look into the world of pop music for more than 10 years, better or worse.
Carson Daly owes his career to TRL and now has a late-night talk show on NBC. Eminem and Kid Rock really came to form on TRL, as did a bunch of boy bands and their spinoffs, Britney, Christina and others. It was a proving ground for how well a band was marketed, what was hot and was the perfect ‘This is what we are’ show for MTV and the teen audience they pulled in. But after 2,247 episodes and a decade on air, TRL is now done. Read More…