Monday, August 29, 2011 at 1 p.m.
This year is my second go at covering MTV's Video Music Awards, which spotlight the music industry's most lucrative personalities with an orgy of self congratulatory speeches punctuated by A-List celebrities regurgitating bad writing.
This year, the verdict is the same--MTV still sucks. And it continues to be unclear why they insist on having this award show years after their network stopped showing videos.
That said, last night's show wasn't as pathetic as previous ones. (Hey, Beyonce's pregnant, and babies are always good news!) Nobody, save for Lady Gaga (more on her later), was given enough rope to bomb ala Sarah Silverman a couple years back. But this year's show demonstrated once again that the envelope-pushing the network was once known for, has long since fled the building.
The evening's highlight was brought to viewers courtesy of Lady Gaga in full greaser drag. The show opened with her alone on stage, rocking a pompadour, facial hair, gesturing to her crotch while maniacly puffing on a cigarette.
The pop star-cum-performance artist traded her usual space suit stage schtick for a persona by the name of Joe Calderone.
Folks in the audience including Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Katy Holmes looked befuddled--and I couldn't blame them. It was fun watching Gaga do her act, which was totally transformative. She strutted around stage with machismo swagger, and drew heavily from her stogie.
At first it seemed she was making some obscure reference to washed-up comic Andrew Dice Clay, who was famously banned from the award show in the '90s for profanity, but this wasn't the case. It's still not completely clear what she was trying to convey with the character, but Hollywood needs to develop a screen role for her pronto. She's got the chops.
Sadly, the rest of the show was pretty flaccid. Here are some water cooler moments to get the discussion going amongst those who watched out of faithful dedication to the home of the Jersey Shore and those who tuned in out of morbid curiosity:
Jonah Hill presenting the award for Best Pop Video: By now most people have seen Hill's metamorphosis from schlubby, tubby wisecracker to thin and fit cancer lesbian. As he stood on stage with Nicki Minaj, he made some pathetic chicken crossing the road joke with a punchline about how he was the same funny guy he was before he lost the pounds. I'm not so sure. Instead of coming off as dead-pan funny, he came off as stone serious and kind of creepy, in a Travis Bickle sort of way.
Chris Brown trying valiantly to dance his way to redemption: No matter what dark secrets his checkered past holds, the dude hasn't lost his abilities on the dance floor. Cutting up the stage with incredible dexterity, Brown performed to a medley that curiously involved cuts from Wu Tang Clan mixed with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
There were moments when he was yanked from the stage by cables and soared majestically over the audience finishing the bit with a series of flippy loops. The whole thing reeked of effort. I don't care if he was shooting fire out of his ass, it's going to take more than super-human acrobatics to erase the image of Rihanna's pummeled face from my mind. I'm sure others agree.
Gaga presenting Britney Spears with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award: There was a touching moment before Gaga called Spears' to the stage to accept the award when she gushed about the former teen pop princess. Spears actually had tears in her eyes.
Maybe Britney's more than a self-obsessed bobble head. Gaga's speech however bordered on the bizarre when she stated "Britney taught me how to be fearless, she taught us all to be fearless." Seriously? Is this another performance art thing?
We are talking about Britney Spears--the girl who had a public meltdown and frantically attacked photographers with the ferocity of a cornered raccoon. Maybe Gaga meant to say Britney taught us all to be rabid?
Best Orange County Reference: OC's Young the Giant got the opportunity to perform their song "My Body" at the show. And they played admirably, putting on a lively performance that saw singer Sameer Gadhia leaping into the crowd and getting tossed around like a pin ball between flippers. But best of all, they were introduced by 30 Seconds to Mars lead singer, and Jim Jones protoge Jared Leto. Onstage with Leto was actress Zoe Saldana who referred to Young the Giant's hometown as "Irvin" Califronia.
Worst Orange County Reference: There was a sketch which featured Joe Jonas in his dressing room being granted a series of wacky rock star requests. One of these hyperbolic rider demands involved Orange County Youtube phenom Rebecca Black hanging out with him in a dinosaur suit. This might have been funny if people still cared about Black, who recently released a follow up to her so-bad-it's-good song "Friday." The followup," My Moment" just wasn't good and didn't come close to the number of hits her first song got. Wise up MTV, she's yesterdays news, and the real dinosaur in the room is you.
The winners list:
Video of the Year:
Katy Perry - "Firework"
Best Female Video
Lady Gaga - "Born this Way"
Best New Artist
Tyler the Creator - "Yonkers"
Best Male Video
Justin Bieber - "U Smile"
Best Rock Video
Foo Fighters - "Walk"
Best Pop Video
Britney Spears - "Till the World Ends"
Best Video With a Message
Lady Gaga - "Born this Way"
Adele - "Rolling the Deep" (Director Sam Brown)
Beyonce - "Run the World (Girls)"
Best Visual Effects
Katy Perry featuring Kanye West - "E.T."
Best Art Direction
Adele - "Rolling in the Deep"
Adele "Rolling in the Deep"
Adele - "Rolling in the Deep"
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