Fans can argue
about the impact, pro or con, MTV has had on the music scene during
its first 10 or 15 years. But as the network celebrates its 25th
anniversary, pretty much everyone agrees it has very little to do
with music at all these days, since it hardly ever bothers to play
The exception, of
course, is the annual Video Music Awards, which were broadcast live
Thursday night from Radio City Music Hall in New York.
Never mind the
absurdity of MTV giving awards to videos when videos are
increasingly an afterthought squeezed between endless repeats of
"Laguna Beach," "My Super Sweet 16" and "Two-a-Days." Why expect any
semblance of consistency or sanity from a network that continues to
give airtime to the idiocy of the "Jackass" crew?
In its typically
ahistoric fashion, MTV made no reference to its silver anniversary
during the three-hour broadcast, and it was probably a wise move:
The VMAs have never had any credibility for honoring anything
besides the network executives' boardroom picks, but through the
'90s, they were at least the most entertaining awards show on
Over the last
few years, however, the show increasingly has become a major drag.
(Any musician could tell MTV that you have to play music more than
once a year if you want to maintain any dexterity with it.) "I know
these things have been a little sketchy in the past," Jack Black
said at the start of the long evening, and the rest of the show he
hosted proved to be no exception.
The best live
performers of the evening, the Raconteurs, were relegated to tiny
snippets of song as they played in and out of the commercial breaks
(which are really what it's all about). Amazingly, MTV even cut away
from the group after less than half a minute when it was tearing
through "White Light/White Heat" with guest Lou Reed -- who later
returned for an awards introduction and pleaded with the network to
show more rock 'n' roll videos.
Timberlake kicked things off with a medley of songs from his
forthcoming album, "Future Sex/Love Sounds," but he wasn't as
powerful mugging for the cameras and boasting about bringing sexy
back as he was while sweating onstage last week at Chicago's House
rapper T.I. and Ludacris (who was joined by Pharrell Williams of the
Neptunes) pretty much sleep-walked through their showcase slots.
Beyonce went way over the top with an elaborate James Bond-inspired
set piece, but it only overshadowed her weak new track, "Ring the
Alarm." And when Shakira was joined by Wyclef Jean to perform "Hips
Don't Lie," she inexplicably rendered the song with an Indian theme
(despite her Colombian-Lebanese heritage).
Panic! At the
Disco was introduced by their pals, Chicagoans Fall Out Boy, and it
wasn't the only appearance by a local group. Power-popsters and JC
Penney's pitchmen OK Go proved again that their propensity for
shtick knows no bounds as they lip-synced to "Here It Goes Again"
while doing a choreographed dance routine on four treadmills.
Among the other
award-winners: James Blunt, best male video for "You're Beautiful";
Kelly Clarkson, best female video for "Because of You"; the Black
Eyed Peas, best hip-hop video for "My Humps"; Pussycat Dolls, best
dance video for "Buttons"; Pink, best pop video for "Stupid Girls,"
and Chamillionaire, best rap video for "Ridin'."
You know the
VMA's are seriously hitting hard times when both the performances
and the awards are being put to shame by the Grammys.
Bringing up the
rear on the seemingly never-ending broadcast were Christina
Aguilera, who performed in her new old-school chanteuse incarnation;
glam-rockers the Killers, and the final Moon Men awards of the night
to AFI (best rock video, "Miss Murder"), Fall Out Boy (viewer's
choice award, "Dance, Dance") and Panic! At the Disco (video of the
year, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"), whose thunder was stolen when a
wannabe rapper named Six bum-rushed the stage Soy Bomb-style.
long and pointless spectacle was over. But, hey, if you really wanna
see videos, there's always YouTube.com -- or as the
Raconteurs sang in the wittiest line of the night, "Internet killed
the video star."