With my former optimism for the baseball strike turning to dismay, today I shall prove myself to be an even older fart than anyone (other than Ms. J.) previously thought by discussing the current state of popular music. I caught the last half of the MTV Video Music Awards last night, and then the first few minutes of the replay. That was all I could take. During Jimmy Fallon’s opening number he fell to the ground and James Brown came out to sing to him, “Get up-ah . . . Get on up-ah . . . you gotta’ start the show.” It was all down hill from there. After reflecting on the depressing quagmire of horrible performances last night I have come to the conclusion that the artist with the most influence over today’s pop music scene would have to be Paula Abdul. She was a dancer and good looking, not a singer. In fact it has been alleged that she did not even sing on her records. I think that it is safe to say that she invented the kind of dancing that you see on MTV now, with the artist in the middle flanked by a co-ed group of dancers – all of them doing synchronized jukes and thrusts.
Most of the performers: Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Puffy Puff-Puff Diddio, were introduced as “great entertainers” and not singers or musicians. I don’t think I would agree that they entertained me, certainly not greatly, but I would heartily agree that they are not singers. In the above list of performances, I never heard a single live sound coming from the stage. Not one. Nothing! No live sound. I remember when I was a kid and I loved MTV; yeah most of the pop singers lip-synced, but the rappers would really rap and the talking at the first of the song would not be lip-synced. Last night, there was not a single sound during most of the performances that was not from tape. It was shameless. They did not even try to fool anyone. I do not know why they even insult us with the prop-mic. It obviously does not work, the performers did not even say, “thank you” at the end of the song. At least we were not forced to watch the spectacle of Britney Spears constantly adjusting her fake headset mic as if she is trying to get better reception.
The new rule is that you can not have a performance at the MTV awards now without elaborate sets, blinding lighting displays, constant pyrotechnic explosions, and 250 people on the stage. Each year they try to outdo the last. I think that Puff the Magic Diddy’s performance was the most obnoxious display of excess I have ever seen, with hundres of dancers, people with pogo shoes doing flips, extras shuffling in and out, people swinging by on trapeze, more rappers and fakers coming out and lip-syncing. They will do anything to try to distract people from the reality that none of these people are singing! They even went so far as to shoot the entire show with some kind of choppy, effected look to further distract the viewers. This is supposedly a show about awarding great musical performances, yet there is not a single bit of music being performed. At least most of them did not have a band up there pantomiming. I think Justin Timberlake was the only one to pull that one.
There were some performances that were live. I did not get to see The Boss perform with the E-Street Band, but I am sure they were live and awesome. He always is. As a matter of fact, he is entirely too classy of a performer for the disgraceful load of garbage that was most of the rest of the show. Sheryl Crow played piano and sang a nice tune. She is always good, especially when you do not have to listen to her live band which is mediocre at best. A band called The Hives played. I have never heard of them, but they looked like they were doing an impression of the Stones from 1964 doing an impression of the Ramones from 1976. They were entertaining and performed their own music live, even if they were not particularly talented. They were immediately followed by a group called The Vines, who sounded like a neo-Nirvana clone; the lead singer had a black eye and they were loud and they smashed their shit at the end of the song.
But the highlight of the night, the moment that will live in infamy, was the surprise performance from Guns and F-ing Roses at the end of the show. When Jimmy Fallon came out in the skull GNR shirt from the 80’s and started whistling Patience, I almost lost it. They played Welcome to the Jungle, they played some crappy new song with lots of synth and a drum loop, and then they played Paradise City. The only original members left in the band are Axl and Izzy, but they are certainly the most important ones as Izzy wrote all of the music and Axl the lyrics. The other musicians are all hired guns; they can all play very well and they all look very disturbing. Axl never sounded better live than he did last night. (But again, in the 80’s he never resorted to lip-syncing, even when he could not even approximate the vocals on the album.) All in all, it rocked, but was not enough to restore my faith in Rock and Roll.
Non-musical highlights include:
Britney Spears gave Michael Jackson a birthday cake and unable to avoid acting like a freak, he gave an acceptance speech from notes as if he had just been awarded the Nobel Weirdo Prize. His speech included the exclamation, “David Blaine, your magic is real and I believe in you!”
Diamond Dave Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar presented the Best Rock Video award. Dave has a wig that has been fashioned to look just like his hair did in 1980. Sammy looks a whole lot like Mark Currey with blonde hair, but that is just my opinion.
Can you tell that Brandi is a nursing mother of a newborn?
As depressing as the show was, and it positively moved me to anger, I will watch again next year. I have to. It is the only time all year that I catch up on what is going on in pop. Although I am an old man, I do not want to be out of the loop altogether. But the reason I will always watch the video music awards is that I love to get mad and bitch about the state of the music business. I love to point out how horrible they are and how fake and unholy and without redeeming quality the whole thing is. It makes me feel superior.