The VMAs represent everything I’ve come to hate about what currently passes for “pop” as well as the baldfaced commercialism of… well… everything – that this site so vigilantly follows. I don’t remember exactly when I stopped watching the VMAs but it was at least four or five years ago.
Posted by: Joshua on September 9, 2001 04:36 PM
Perhaps the problem with the VMAs is one that MTV has helped contribute to: In its 20 years it has taken music and turned it into “product” in a way that is unlike it had ever had been before. Consequently, it is all about the Next Thing. Churn, churn, churn. Those bands with any substance, talent or fundamental chops MUST give way within a short period of time so that the Next Thing can garner the disc sales. It is all about spiking up, always having something that, they hope, goes up higher and to hell with those that fall off the screen. So it ends up that there are a bunch of talentless mopes who get the face time—for now.
Posted by: gsv on September 11, 2001 08:33 AM
MTV won’t change. Its soulless programming of artists it chooses will continue unabated until a pop music movement comes along to either change or destroy it.
—Johnny Loftus, “Naughty Baby Did a No No,” 9/7/01
The comments and excerpt above were written in response to the feces-smeared yawner that was the MTV Video Music Awards 2001. At the time, we at Glorious Noise declared the Pop movement dead, and suggested that music’s cyclical nature would bring about something new in the year to come. And well, we were right – in a way. In 2002, MTV aped the more visceral sounds of MTV2, putting its considerable marketing, promotion, and revenue-generating juice behind the New Garage movement. Groups like The White Stripes and The Hives rose to unlikely levels of rock stardom, and even spawned imitators like The Vines, who are basically This Year’s Silverchair – representing New Garage’s inevitable second wave of blunt imitation. But if last night’s VMAs proved anything, it’s that nothing ever really changes at MTV. In 2002, a pop music movement did come along to change the one before. But instead of destruction, we’re left with assimilation. It may be a different sidewalk, but it’s the same old cracks.
The 2002 VMAs marked a rebuilding year for MTV. Over the hill veterans like Britney Spears and Puff Daddy were given plenty of playing time, but it was simply a nod to the championships they’d won the network in the past, and their no-trade clauses. Spears appeared in a laughable BD/SM latex getup that was only topped by crazy old Michael Jackson’s Voltron-as-world-dictator outfit. In a display befitting an aging, feeble King (of pop), Jackson received a standing ovation. Puff Daddy was given a chance to re-capture his old glory, but the moment was wasted on a confusing medley that featured a scampering Usher, Busta Rhymes crawling out of the mosh pit and Diddy’s usual atrocious rapping. Appearances by ancient mariners like Spears, Puff, and Jacko were offset by an entire stable of youthful hip-hop and R & B artists who were a jumble of oversized clothing, headbands, and posturing. Curiously absent from the festivities was the fiery rap gospel of Cee-Lo (another MTV2 success who MTV evidently decided not to invite) or the organic flow of Nappy Roots. Mainstream hip-hop is in definite need of a blood transfusion; hopefully by NEXT year’s VMAs, MTV will have changed the locks on Sean Combs and his ilk.
Though they’re no longer an item, you’d think that Britney would have had the decency to warn ex-beau Justin Timberlake about debuting new material on the VMAs. Spears’ 2001 impersonation of Lot’s wife, python in tow, was actually better than Timberlake’s soulless approximation of Michael Jackson’s best moves. Don’t call it a comeback, Justin. Maybe Lance has some room up in Space for your junk.
Despite all the lip service paid to The New Garage, MTV seemed to want to use the “genre” as a simple prop to occupy its time. The Hives appeared on stage in full Hives glory, performing a manic version of “Main Offender,” and were quickly ushered off stage in favor of The Vines. Pardon me, but wasn’t it Pelle Almqvist and the boys that all the pretty people were anxious to see before the show began? In a classic MTV gaffe, the Hives were pigeonholed, then codified, then made to move out in favor of something shittier. Doesn’t matter; Pelle was still able to rasp one of his classic one-liners on the outro. MTV knew it had to make stars out of The Strokes, Jack and Meg White, and The Hives in 2002 if it wanted to see a profit. And while it’s kind of disappointing to see The White Stripes’ gritty rock duality bandied about on national TV, it’s also sublime in the inexplicable paradoxes it creates. Porn star doppelgangers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen presenting a VMA to The White Stripes? Jack couldn’t resist thanking the Olsen Twins with a “Where the fuck am I?” gleam in his eye.
In the culmination of what passes for hip-hop feuds these days, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog egged on the strange Moby vs. Eminem slapfight that Em began with his infamous “You’re old, nobody listens to Techno” line. Tell me, do you still retain street cred if you challenge a puppet to a fistfight while your posse holds you back? Em continued the altercation into his next acceptance speech, calling out Moby from the stage. “Keep booing, little girl. I will hit a man with glasses.” Yes Marshall, but will you pistol whip a puppet?
I watched the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards with my pal Phil Wise. But we both wished we were watching it at Slash’s pad, when at the end of the 3-hour bore Jimmy Fallon creamed his designer jeans (like anyone raised in the 80s should) announcing Guns n’ Roses. But what appeared out of the smoke was not the reunification of one of America’s truest rock and roll bands; instead, Axl Rose trotted out a high school talent show appropriation of his glorious past, sans any of the people who actually made G n’ R great. Off-key, out of sync, and truly pitiful, a slightly worse-for-wear Rose hopped about the stage during an unfortunate medley of “Welcome to the Jungle,” a new song that sounded like what Tommy Lee shit out last night, and the penultimate kick in the teeth to his legacy, a lurching, bloated version of “Paradise City.” We can only hope that Slash, Izzy, and Duff were laughing their asses off over at Slash’s house, confident that their own legacy was made all the more bulletproof by Axl’s buffoonery. (Side note to Wes Borland: Now everyone knows that you stole Buckethead’s gimmick for your stint in Limp Bizkit.)
Roll the credits, ’cause it’s over. But the VMAs will be back next year, three times as boring as this year. Who will be the talk of the town in 2003? Whoever it is, make damn sure that MTV washes its hands and seals its fate. Because in a year where the network and the music industry had a slight chance to bring something new to the table, they opted for wholesale assimilation.
Someday never comes.
(Read Johnny’s review of the 2001 VMA’s—Ed.)