Worst VMAs ever! Every year I say it because every year it's true. But this year it was especially true -- if last year's chaotic VMAs was a train wreck, this year's was a model train set. Wholesome and going absolutely nowhere, the 2008 VMAs sucked and it's not exactly MTV's fault. The effort to streamline and present something dynamic was evident throughout, especially in many of the performances, whose film-set-integrating set-ups were inevitably more complex than the actual songs being performed.
No, the fault rests on us, or what's left of the music-buying public, who seem content with the blandification of our pop culture. So many things in the past one-and-a-half years have damaged pop music almost to the point of destruction. Jordin Sparks, she who is as personality-free as she is sexless (a fistful of rings will do nothing to help either), won American Idol; Leona Lewis brought a tide of nondescript sonic wallpaper to these shores, opening up the door for everyone to give adult contemporary anther try; squeaky clean teen fare like High School Musical and the Jonas Brothers (a three-man rendition of Greg Brady's Johnny Bravo persona, in my estimation) hit cultural juggernaut status; Katy Perry introduced Girls Gone Wild-style pseudo-sexuality to pop music and people were still titillated despite having seen thousands of infomercials (as a peddler of counterfeit edginess, Katy Perry is nothing but Diablo Cody with an actual stripper's body, instead of a former stripper's body). And on and on and on. It's times like these that you're happy to have someone as unpredictably trashy as Miley Cyrus commanding attention. Which is to say: we're fucked.
For no better and much, much worse, the VMAs captured pop music's dire state this year. After the jump, a few more brief lessons the VMAs taught us that we already knew anyway.
- Sex sells...jokes
Russell Brand's main function as MC was to tell people how amazing every performance was (helpful, as we'd never gather that from watching them) and to tell jokes about one of two subjects: Republicans and the Jonas Brothers' sexuality. It's not that those aren't worthy targets for ridicule, it's just that midway into the show, their bull's eyes had already been shot out. Anyway, he must have hit a nerve when he implied homosexual relations with one of the boys and mocked their purity rings because Jordin Sparks took the stage to tell us all with a conservative's condescension...
"I just have one thing to say about promise rings. It's not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody – guy or girl – wants to be a slut."
And I'm just like, bitch, your words imply your chastity, but your blowjobface says otherwise.
Anyway, this caused Russell to make a weird, probably false apology to the Jonas Brothers soon after, who listened to this without a hint of amusement.
And you know what? Fuck them and their stupid little anti-cockrings. If T.I. can put on a cordial face when Jamie Foxx is tastelessly joking about his imminent jail time (a much graver subject than imminent sexy time)...
...these little coquettes can suck it up. It's really fun, promise! But then again, T.I. is getting laid. It's easier to have a sense of humor about yourself when that's the case.
- Rihanna is her hair
It really was the most exciting thing about both of her performances, which: WHY THE FUCK IS RIHANNA ALWAYS DOING MULTIPLE PERFORMANCES AT THIS SHIT WHEN SHE CAN'T FUCKING SING? Not saying I don't enjoy her, just saying I'd rather hear her voice autotuned and normalized. And what's worse is being asked to perform so much is going to her head as evident in the just-shy-of-unlistenable "Disturbia" ad libs. And don't even get me started on the "Numa Numa" shit in the T.I. duet. I mean, really, guys? In 2008? Is the Star Wars kid going to be in that video? Will you premiere it via Napster? Perhaps you might promote it via the fresh concept of social networking? Please send the answers to these questions to my AOL address. In other words, get with the times! Plus, I'm chafed that T.I. didn't bring down the house by rounding up all his boys and performing the far superior "Swagger Like Us." That said, even when T.I. underwhelms...
...he remains sexy while doing so.
- Lil Wayne is not Jesus
You know, if I never sought out his non-single material, I think I would hate Lil Wayne. I'm so sick of hearing about his money and I'm even more sick of this person...
...a) imploring me to take my money out and show it (MYOB, ring
master -bastard) and b) being one of the only people in pop music whose presence on a track almost guarantees a hit. I want T-Pain out of my life, and there's no real way to accomplish that. He's like an annoying co-worker in that respect.
And, just to put everything in perspective, here's how lame the Wayne/Pain performance was:
It says more than I ever could, at least.
- Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are worthless
They couldn't even pull off a 30-second promo spot. They were incoherent for the brand that keeps them and their egos fed. WORTHLESS.
- This is not a good look
Well, it isn't.
- The Pussycat Dolls persevere
But barely! They had the longest speech of the night, in my estimation. Probably because they know this is as serious of an award they'll ever get. Possibly because every awards show they do make it to could always be their last. Their 15 minutes have been up for about an hour now, you know?
- Björk still hasn't learned how to present herself appropriately at awards shows
Oh wait. That's not Björk. I wish it were Björk. Can we make it be Björk, please?
- There are no new ideas
Nothing says creative bankruptcy like a revamped version of your first single to lead your upcoming greatest hits album that only spans three albums anyway. Christina Aguilera performed an electroclash version of "Genie in a Bottle" and then the electro-glam "Keeps Gettin' Better." And so, to achieve that future sound she says she's attempting, she dips into her past, as well as Madonna's (and that sound was moldy in 2005!) and Goldfrapp's. The inflated sense of self of Alison Goldfrapp, who seems to think she's an innovator, is thisclose to popping.
I thought Kid Rock's album was selling inexplicably well...
...and then I realized that an interpolation of the perennial-favorite-slash-bane-of-my-existence "Sweet Home Alabama" is what's floating this thing. As long as there's nostalgia and people who make mountains out of beer cans, Kid Rock will always have a job.
I mean, even people couldn't even come original with their tongues. Britney did this...
...and moments later, Katy Perry did that:
What, are we all Cher now?
The only person who really did something different, I think, was Kanye.
Granted, Kanye's version of doing something different was still wrapped up in his ego (it was different for him, see, because he was singing and not rapping, but even the track itself became almost immediately samey with a static melody and a musical backing that does, like, two things at most and one of those things is remind me of Björk's Volta). And yet, it was the performance of the night, and you know that if Kanye was the highlight of an awards show, instead of being, you know, a cancer on it, shit is dire.
- Life is unfair
Not that the VMAs award quality, like, ever, but "Piece of Me" is so objectively boring and ugly and shitty that awarding it three times is just political. It's just to keep up appearances, not unlike getting a new curly weave installed. Britney bombs a year ago (although that opening was infinitely more entertaining than the one she did this time) and gets rewarded for it. Hooray for her. But you know what? MTV is just as far up its own ass as any pop star if it thinks that giving out three meaningless statues to Britney Spears constitutes a comeback for her.
You all deserve each other.