Every Cyrus moment was a carefully orchestrated big moment: What would she wear? What would she bare? What would she say? But the biggest of the big moments was that rambling speech from Kanye West (pictured right) in which he once again pleaded for industry respect for woebegone multi-millionaire “artists” who have been deprived of certain industry awards for particular projects that he thought deserved special recognition. West spoke with the emotion and apparent dedication of someone trying to generate support for cleaning up the environment, stopping slavery, feeding starving children, distributing clean drinking water or saving animals from various forms of inexcusable abuse. All I could think while listening to him drone on and on and on was, “Really, bro? Who gives a shit?”
The s-word was top of mind throughout the awards, as it was seemingly used to great excess by almost everyone there, keeping MTV’s time-delay censors very busy. Now there’s a group of people for whom West should have been advocating respect and recognition! (I hope they didn’t take too much crap for allowing us to see Rebel Wilson’s visual f-bomb. More easy attention-getting. Whatever happened to working to be noticed?)
If anything, it appeared that the writers and producers responsible for Cyrus’ material – or the sycophants who blithely approved anything and everything she wanted to do – were interested in nothing more than proving once and for all that her “talent” is limited at best. Because there was none of that in evidence during the show.
My mind kept flying back to appearances by the many true “artists” who ignited giant interest in the awards several decades ago when they were still something relatively new on the pop-culture landscape. I’m thinking specifically of Madonna, who truly had something to say about a lot of things and tirelessly worked her way to a status that allowed her to do so. Also, Prince (ditto). They electrified young and old alike with their VMA performances, which never sacrificed substance for style but rather offered both in grand abundance.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the first VMA Awards (then known as the MTV Awards) at Radio City Music Hall in 1984 and several VMAs thereafter in the Eighties and Nineties. They were first class productions featuring top-tier talent and often felt like the most exciting entertainment event of the year (even when I watched at home). I will never forget the sights and sounds of those shows, for all the right reasons. I’ll never forget what I saw Sunday night, either, but for reasons that are best described as unfortunate.
I certainly wasn’t alone in my reaction to Cyrus or the VMAs. Twitter will back that up. And don’t dismiss the critics there as knee-jerk haters. That would be inaccurate. Study their feeds and you will see.
A little bit of Cyrus (and West) goes a very long way; it takes no time at all for redundancy of that kind to become as boring as those reliably airless middle hours of the Oscars and the Emmys. She held my attention on Kimmel’s show last week because I hadn’t been exposed to her in a while (or, more accurately, she hadn’t exposed herself to me in quite some time). Plus it was fun to watch Kimmel react to her outrageousness, rather than listen to the crowd at the cavernous Microsoft Theater endlessly roar its undying love and appreciation for her every silly move and revealing outfit throughout the awards.
Overall it was an attention getting but empty show. Is this where MTV is at today? Are the long-cherished VMAs destined to go down the drain along with everything else that this ever-more-irrelevant network once offered? (I base that last remark not on my own current assessment, since I long ago aged out of MTV’s target demo, but on the responses I always receive when I ask kids and teens what they think of the network. Collectively, their negative responses may be anecdotal, but they are sadly consistent.)
Seeing all those Kardashians parked in the front row didn’t do much to support the fading relevance of this franchise, either. It seems now to exist only to support itself in increasingly desperate ways.
Not everything about this year’s VMAs was dreadful and/or depressing. The Weeknd showed them all how it's done. Taylor Swift was her usual impressive self, both while performing (opposite another crucial VMA life-giver, Nicki Minaj) and accepting her latest batch of moon men. All of the remote performances from downtown Los Angeles, a safe distance from Cyrus and her silly shenanigans, were first rate and reminiscent of what the VMAs used to be. (Maybe next year’s show should take place entirely out of doors.)
Even Justin Bieber (above, in black) came through, though it's unclear as to why he broke down after his performance. Was he moved by his own lyrics or was he harmed by that harness that enabled him to fly around for a bit? Did it snag him in his Calvins? Regardless, he was just great.
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