I've always known that the American Music Awards is the most masturbatory major awards show our fine country has to offer, but now I have the gif to prove it:
(The best thing about that gif is that as Whitney is masturbating that statue, she is thanking God.)
The AMAs are everything crass about pop music brought to a stage. They are awards given out based on chart performance, but unlike, say, the equally pointless but infinitely less pretentious Billboard Awards, the AMAs assure you countless times during the night that these are awards chosen by the people. Technically, this is not untrue -- the actual awards are selected via public vote (from what we can tell), but the public only has the most popular acts to choose from. (A slate runs at the end of the show informing us: "Nominations are based on radio airplay information compiled by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, and record sales information supplied by the Nielsen SoundScan point-of-sale tracking system. The ballot is posted at ABC-dot-com for public voting.") This explains why a six-year-old Michael Jackson compilation was able to win, like four out of five of the "awards" it was "nominated" for, in an absurdly exponential requiem (he died, which led to record sales, which led to trophies for this dead person).
I have bitched about the phenomenon of formally rewarding those whose careers are based on being over-praised, I probably will do so again, and here I go right now: THE FAME, THE POPULARITY AND THE MONEY ARE REWARDS ENOUGH. HOW FUCKING INSECURE DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO NEED A BIG, TANGIBLE, SHINY PAPERWEIGHT TO BACK ALL OF THAT UP? It's almost unfathomable, really, but then, we aren't dealing with normal people here. We're dealing with pop stars. They aren't like us. Thank god.
Logic might suggest that if the AMAs are reflections of what's selling, and if not very much is selling thanks to an industry slump/slow death, then the show should matter not much to anyone. We are not dealing with logic, though. Again: it's pop stars. Their brains work differently than ours. I could not believe the star power of this year's performers lineup -- Whitney, Janet, Rihanna, Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Mary, Shakira, Green Day, Timbaland, etc. I hate the AMAs and generally avoid them, but even I couldn't stay away this year. There was too much to miss! It's like anybody making music is clawing to get to a medium that people still consume, because, hey, it could possibly help to sell some records. That's what this thing is about, right? Selling records, and having the world blow you at every turn.
At times, this show had the effect of watching pitchmen cram as much in as the time they were allotted. (Because so many performances were medleys, a total of 27 songs were performed, and I'm not counting the Black Eyed Peas interpolating "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in "Boom Boom Pow" or Timbaland working a piece of "Thriller" into his shit show.) In one of many stuffed performances, Rihanna attempted to foist onto the listening public two songs that her label has tried (with limited success) to get off the ground ("Wait Your Turn" and "Hard"). Well, at least the lasers were cool.
Don't let the spikes fool you, though, it was all very flat.
(Also, nice ad in the form of temporary tattoo. Thanks for reminding us of your upcoming album -- certainly the failing singles weren't going to cut it.)
Mary J. Blige displayed some kind of ad behind her...
...I wouldn't be surprised if that turns out to be her album cover. Don't forget to buy it in a month, viewers!
Even from the start, it struck me as one big advertisement. Janet Jackson opened the show with a medley of a half a dozen songs spanning her career. The effect was like: "Everyone on your feet - Janet's got a greatest-hits album to promote."
Frankly, Janet seemed as bored as she should to still be performing these songs after all these years. How weird for some actual honesty to shine through! Better work on that, Jan. And look at Jermaine Oprahing (i.e. openly singing along while having no idea what the actual lyrics are) along to his little sis:
(The actual "Together Again" lyrics Janet was singing at the time of this shot were, "...see, I know you are there...") It's like, Jermaine: your one job is to be a Jackson. A self-obsessed, half-person Jackson, and you can't even do that right. Let's get serious, my man.
Ugh, and if the AMAs are the celebration of a crass industry's crassness, then awarding Taylor Swift so often (via satellite) was the perfect choice, as she strikes me as particularly fake and dishonest in an industry that peddles artifice as a matter of course:
Yeah, I'm sure they were going to turn that camera on her and then be like, "Oh, sorry, country music singer, you didn't win." It all looked to rehearsed (and poorly -- where's the emotional variation, Taylor?), and I'm sure they told her to do this, but that she went along with it is just gross. I don't care how old you are, fraudulent is fraudulent. I'm so sick of this one and her bubblegum that she swears is country music because she pops it with the slightest of twangs. She pissed me off the second she glided back onstage at the VMAs to reclaim the acceptance speech that was so cruelly taken from her, as if she had anything of consequence to say in the first place! And then, she made the talk-show rounds that week, enthusing about how "supportive" everyone was being, as though she lost a kidney or a family member and not a minute of yammering (temporarily!). As though the Kanye debacle didn't bring her even more attention, which is CLEARLY HER POINT OF EXISTING as a commercial POP musician. You guys, make sure you support Taylor Swift after she sells a kajillion copies of her next album. It's going to be kind of rough for her and it'd be better if you didn't treat her like she was retarded, even though I know that's what you like to do to pop stars instead of worshiping them, America. Don't throw her away! Don't flush her down the toilet like the pinched guppy that she is.
Ugh! This awarding the awarded only breeds smugness and entitlement. Take Jay-Z...
"Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t," he told us. This basically is a summary of the most grating lyric from The Blueprint III (and there are a lot of those): "What the hell have you done to even have an opinion on what I been doing / What the hell have y’all won, only thing you can identify with is losing, Ten No. 1 albums in a row, who better than me?" (from "Reminder.") So remember, people, in this case, your opinion only counts if it's in his favor! And you know what? Numbers don't mean shit otherwise we'd all still be blowing Vanilla Ice, Milli Vanilli, Snow, Hootie and the Blowfish, the Backstreet Boys and REO Speedwagon. In fact, the best thing a number can do in pop culture is tell you when something has gone on too long, like sequels for example. Let's just say that The Blueprint needed no follow-up.
Also on that tip, will.i.am, if you and your gang of knobs are the "new Kings"...
...try dressing like it, instead of showing up in Chromeo's sloppy seconds. And understand that your throne can (and will) be revoked at any time. Don't let your mind-boggling luck go to your head.
It's just like, what fucking world am I looking into?
"Now" they call this music "alternative," Christian Slater? Now because it's 1993 again? I have a great new band called the Breeders that you simply must hear! They're gonna be big, I can feel it. Don't let the Botox go to your head (if you can help it!)
(Not that this was entirely his fault -- the writing on this show seriously must have been scrawled on, like, matchbooks the night before. My favorite presenter intro went, "We're here to present an award, so let's do it." Real down-home and relatable, guys! Can I call you Joes?)
Speaking of the writing, Keith Urban was introduced as a "hunk."
You may like him. You may find him attractive. You may even want to have his sperm inside of you. But no matter what, Keith Urban is not a hunk. Hunks don’t have mom hair and if they do, it doesn’t have visible split ends.
And speaking of mom hair...
...hi Gramma Joe! (I mean, Miranda Priestly!)
...did you know that the Emporer wears Louboutins? I guess Jennifer Lopez fell on her ass during her performance, but I kinda felt like it was on purpose and otherwise very well handled. If you blinked, you missed it. It was the most impressive thing about her performance. I love that during that dreadful song (talk about crass -- "Louboutins" is Nelly's "Air Force Ones" lined with the sugar from the rim of a Cosmopolitan), she said, "Miss me?" Did we ever! We have been dying to avoid buying your next piece of garbage! Just like we did with the last one and the one before that! Miss us? (For real, though: don't ask questions that you don't want answered, Jen!)
Hey, anybody need some teeth or lipliner?
'Cause she's got 'em to spare!
Also, anyone wanna buy a Jackson?
It'd benefit the music industry! Very much so!
Do you think that the intro to Rihanna's performance, in which she was being built, was a knowing wink to the derisive "Rhi-bot" nickname she's earned?
Or do you think that she (and whoever's advising her) is just an idiot who failed to make that connection? (I'm thinking it's the latter.)
So that's all the shit I hated, I guess. What did I like? I'm so glad you didn't ask!
I was very impressed that Paula Abdul was able to maneuver both this dress and a non-working mic without falling down or crying. I think she might be sober, guys. Atta girl!
I liked Shakira for continue to confirm what I've been suspecting for a while now.
These are moves of a bigger dance that I'm calling the Piddle Bop. I know that pelvic thrusting is de rigueur in pop choreography, but all of this just plays way too well to my theory of Shakira’s chronic pissing to be coincidental. I advise comparing and contrasting to Janet's pee-pee dance:
She looks like she's holding it with every step. Embrace your bladder and let it flow, Jan. You're being surpassed by a relative rookie.
I loved Lady Gaga, of course.
Unlike Rihanna, there's no question of awareness -- that crotch strip is a reference to the hermaphrodite rumors. I trust this because she is very thoughtful, that Lady Gaga.
I liked Jay's performance, but only for the opening, "Yeah!"
His larynx sounds enfeebled, as though it's contracted leprosy. Happens.
I loved Reba McEntire's reaction to Whitney.
I like Reba McEntire not for her music or her sitcom, but because she seems to genuinely care about her audience, particularly the faction of it that could be described as "special-needs." She's always posing with someone less fortunate. Fame hasn't gotten in the way of her heart, or if it has, it hasn't gotten in the way of her brain so that she's able to at least appear to be an actual human being. Either way: impressive.
I, of course, loved Whitney's performance.
With Whit, you're always looking at a potential disaster and every disaster avoided feels like a triumph (if you care about her). At this point, she knows her (vocal) limitations, and I'll take any slight bit of humility that's being offered at one of these things. Above, she's pausing for applause just moments before delivering the last line of her song, which would have been followed by applause anyway. That is how you do entitlement, people: with class and silence. I really hope the room was paying attention. They're going to be tested on this at a later date (i.e. the next awards show that I write about).
And this shot confirms that she's divine, right? Like, literally. Like, Jesus divine. Whitney is Jesus, everyone. Merry Early Christmas!
I don't really know how I feel about Adam Lambert's public sexuality dallying. I guess it's a glam-inspired bisexuality thing, but the fact that he's actually gay and romping around with women just seems like a softening of the blow. (It's very much the way guys claim to be bi during the coming-out process, figuring everyone needs to warm up to the queerness.) Certainly he has set a precedent of cowardliness by only confirming his sexuality after American Idol. All of that said, he simulated getting head from a guy on national TV:
Regardless of everything, to that I say: respect.
(At least, I think that was a guy.)
Ah! This turned out to be long! If you've stayed with me this far, you have my deepest appreciation.