Video awards? MTV shows videos?

September 1, 2006


  • 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 videos anymore.

    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 television.

    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.

    Justin 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 of Blues.

    Dirty South 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.

    Finally, the long and pointless spectacle was over. But, hey, if you really wanna see videos, there's always -- or as the Raconteurs sang in the wittiest line of the night, "Internet killed the video star."