The 29th Annual American Music Awards Drive Home the Point: Being a Celebrity Sucks.
Everyone has dreams of Celebrity. Publicly or in private, we all eventually indulge the daydream of becoming a revered tap dancer/rock star/MC/famous playwright/________, and all the exposure, economic gain, and prime cut trim that our respective star fields would bring. As workaday individuals constantly immersed in and accosted by the environs of Celebrity, an occasional, “wouldn’t it be nice if…” champagne wish isn’t surprising. But America is also a land of extremes. And for too many of us, there is no separation between the caviar dream and its evil twin, the pipe. As if knowing what party Kate Beckinsale was at last night is going to help us finish that mealticket screenplay, we set our Tivos to record both “Access Hollywood” AND “Entertainment Tonight.” We spend too much on scratch-off lottery tickets. And when we’re sick of staring at the cursor, patiently blinking after “Act 1, Scene 1 (fade in),” we watch awards shows.
It used to be a secret world.
Awards shows – basically the Oscars, Grammys, and Tonys – used to be a privileged glimpse of the inner circle at play. Matinee idols mixing it up with starlets, kingmaking producers sipping scotch in the front row, and Appalachian comedians holding it all down with hokey bits and good-natured jibes. For the Sansabelt’d viewer, seeing it all play out was treat enough. No machinery was in place to even suggest that inclusion for the average Joe was possible. The Shrine Auditorium may as well have been on Mars. Superman or Cary Grant, it was all the same: out of this world heroes with powers we could never understand or hope to possess. But over the last several years, Hollywood and the music industry have been reconfigured. Talent is assimilated and transformed into cash, fueling and continually refining a new kind of entertainment machine. The barrier separating the celebrity from the shmo has been removed in part by online chats, rock stars appearing like Nestle Quik, and MTV’s proletariat-friendly Times Square studios. The illusion of the untouchable star has been reconfigured in turn. The rapidity with which stars are made and broken in this new media Babylon at once encourages and serves as a warning to the fresh-faced greenhorn who smokes his cigarette with style: Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up.
By all accounts, Trick Pony has not learned this lesson.
Appearing at the 29th Annual American Music Awards to accept their Best New Country Artist Award, the C & W trio’s acceptance histrionics were a study in the fleeting, “Holy shit, I’m on stage at an awards show” gobbledygook that typifies backwater events such as the AMAs. The O-Town of Nashville, the three individuals making up Trick Pony so closely resemble central casting versions of Sarah Jessica Parker, Tim McGraw and Kid Rock, it’s amazing that the ACTUAL McGraw and Rock, both present and accounted for at the AMAs, didn’t cry foul. In fact, the excitable fellow in Trick Pony sporting the red bowler hat and stringy blonde hair should be rejoicing today that he didn’t receive a Mack Avenue smackdown courtesy of the erstwhile Robert Ritchie’s Detroit playas. But it’s not his fault, really. The group’s handlers chose this second-fiddle look for the group, and it netted them an appearance on an awards show, which might as well be a high point in this era of rice paper Celebrity.
The American Music Awards have never been legit. And this year’s version, with Dick Clark wearing a dress and multiple awards going to the same artists seemingly to cut down on appearance fees, didn’t do anything to suggest legitimacy. Hosted by – remember us? – Sean Combs and Jenny McCarthy, the event was an awards show for those second-tier artists who are safe in the realization that their presence won’t be necessary at next month’s Grammy Awards. (In fact, the Grammy people have made a rule forbidding an artist to appear on the Grammys if he has performed on the AMAs. Sorry, Usher…). An auditorium full of half-hearted applause whores tried to generate enthusiasm for repeat wins from Alicia Keys and (the real) Tim McGraw, even as the artists themselves hemmed and hawed their way through acceptance speeches for hunks of acrylic marking their respective albums’ astronomical sales figures. (The AMAs give out awards based on revenues, tracked by Soundscan and Records & Radio magazine.)
It’s true that we all dream of Celebrity. But the ideal is almost never the reality, to which putrid spectacles like the American Music Awards can attest. As the music industry continues to degrade itself with no-talent hacks and performance chicanery, and struggling filmmakers pimp themselves out at Sundance in a last-ditch effort for the big payout, the opportunity for Joe American to “make it in this world” seems at once easily attainable and bone-chillingly scary. A million dollar contract is great, but who wants to appear on national television dressed like a second-rate Kid Rock to get it? After all, the Rizock already is second-rate. So where does that leave you? Chances are, back in your apartment, watching a videotape of you onstage at an awards show, hopping around like Martin Gramatica and hugging Method Man, who later got you high in the back of his Escalade. The highlight of your life.
Welcome to Pop Life in ’02. And everyone still has dreams of Celebrity.
Britney is officially boring.
Spears’ pleading performance of “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” at this year’s AMAs – with its attempt at adult balladry — amounted to so much midshow filler, and did nothing to promote the upcoming Crossroads, a film destined to become the Glitter of 2002. Indeed, the former tastemaker received less face time than Nashville bullshit artist Toby Keith.
As she gets older, it becomes apparent that Spears’ flagging, running-on-fumes fame gives the frequent arrestees on “Cops” hope that, with just a little tweaking, they could be she and she could be they, with a sliver of crank falling out of her jean shorts and boyfriend Ronnie Dobbs yelling “I didn’t do NOTHIN’!” from the back of a squad car.