MTV's big night just crass & clueless
September 7, 2001
BY JIM DeROGATIS STAFF REPORTER
An orgy of self-congratulatory hype. A model of cross-promotional corporate synergy. A
celebration of all that is vapid, soulless and overcommercialized in popular music today.
Ah, yes: It must have been the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards, which were broadcast live
Thursday night from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Established so that the
monopolistic music network could applaud its own programming choices, the Moon Man statue
itself has never had any credibility. But the VMAs used to be at least the edgiest and
most entertaining of the music awards shows.
Reflecting the current lack of imagination at the top of the pop charts, MTV has been
in a downward spiral for several years, however. And this year's edition of the VMAs was a
stiff, leaden bore.
||LIST OF WINNERS
**Best video of the year: ''Lady Marmalade,'' from ''Moulin Rouge.'' n Pop video: 'N
**Group video: 'N Sync, "Pop."
**Dance video: 'N Sync, "Pop."
**Direction: Spike Jonze, "Weapon of Choice," by Fatboy Slim.
**Breakthrough video: Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice."
**Male video: Moby with Gwen Stefani, "South Side."
**Female video: Eve with Gwen Stefani, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind."
**New artist: Alicia Keys, "Fallin'."
**MTV2 Award: Mudvayne, "Dig."
**R&B video: Destiny's Child, "Survivor."
**Hip-hop video: Outkast, "Ms. Jackson."
**Rap video: Nelly, "Ride Wit Me."
**Choreography: Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice."
**Cinematography: Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice."
**Special effects: Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice."
**Art direction: Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice."
**Editing: Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice."
**Best video from film: ''Lady Marmalade,'' from ''Moulin Rouge.'' n Viewers' Choice
Award: 'N Sync, "Pop"
**Rock video: Limp Bizkit, "Rollin'"
**Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award: U2
The lack of inspiration was obvious from the opening skit. In a nod to Billy Crystal's
Oscarcasts, miserably unfunny host Jamie Foxx launched the show with faux opera versions
of pop hits, riffing on its setting at the Met's Lincoln Center home. But the parodies
were better than some of the originals, so it sort of deflated the joke.
The most entertainment all night came from the pretaped award category introductions,
which goofed on the Discovery Channel (i.e., two wrestling komodo dragons for best dance
video, a herd of bounding gazelles for best hip-hop video, etc.).
As a testament to how dreadful many of the "live" performances were,
thoroughly generic nu-metalers Linkin Park stood as a highlight. The band didn't play an
original note or strike a distinctive pose, but there was at least a modicum of energy,
and it was a lot better than plodding, angst-ridden balladeers Staind.
Alicia Keys, who claimed best new artist in a video for "Fallin'," tried to
keep her performance real, but she didn't quite have the charisma or the vocal power to
command the crowd's attention as she performed from behind her grand piano.
Striving to keep some street cred after her breakup with P. Diddy (who pulled up to the
show rapping atop a tractor-trailer), Jennifer Lopez lip-synched a duet with rapper Ja
Rule, who inexplicably sported a Burberry cap. How street is that?
Missy Elliott showed much more style and class, not to mention musical talent. Because
she is less telegenic and model-perfect than the likes of Lopez or the "Lady
Marmalade" combo of Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya and Lil' Kim, she was shut out of
the winners' circle, unfortunately.
Best group, dance, pop video and viewers' choice winners 'N Sync were outclassed during
their performance of "Pop" by a Roy Lichtenstein-inspired stage set. And when
Mr. King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, materialized to bust a few surprise dance moves,
the moment was amazingly anti-climactic. ('N Sync is one of the long list of artists that
Jackson has recruited to salute himself at two shows this weekend in New York's Madison
Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake's girlfriend Britney Spears debuted her new single amid a
cluttered stage number that looked like "Cats" meets "Caligula."
Half-naked, Spears lip-synched a god-awful track while fonding a snake. Does anything else
really need to be said?
Winner of the Video Vanguard Award, U2 delivered a solid performance of two recent
songs before paying awkward tribute to the Ramones, but the band's set almost failed to
make the telecast because of technical glitches. "MTV didn't pay its electric
bill," Bono joked.
The show attempted to add a touch of poignancy with Janet Jackson and a procession of
hip-hoppers paying tribute to the late R&B singer Aaliyah. But the stars were wooden
as they read from their cue cards, and a video montage would have been much more
effective. It's probably too much to ask MTV to stoop to playing some of her music, even
though that's what the channel is supposed to be about, and that's why the artist was so
As for the awards, alt-poppers No Doubt might not be going anywhere these days, but
Gwen Stefani is good luck for other artists: Eve won best female video for "Let Me
Blow Ya Mind," and Moby (who sported a T-shirt honoring hard-core punks Minor Threat)
won best male video for "South Side." Stefani appeared in both clips.
Spike Jonze won best director for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" (a k a the
video with Oscar-winning weirdo Christopher Walken, which claimed a total of seven awards,
including best director); Limp Bizkit took best rock video ("Rollin'"); Outkast
claimed best hip-hop video ("Ms. Jackson"); Nelly took the duplicative best rap
video prize ("Ride Wit Me") and in the night's biggest robbery, Destiny's Child
beat Chicago's R. Kelly and red-hot newcomer Jill Scott for best R&B video for a weak
In the end, the most rock 'n' roll moment came from Walken, not a musician, but former
song and dance man on the Broadway stage.
When the famous poker-faced actor appeared to introduce an award, he refused to read
the TelePrompTer copy.
Good for him! Now when will the music scene follow his lead and finally turn its back