The VMA Music Awards were broadcast on MTV last night, in a rare example of music appearing on MTV.
Twenty years ago the artists who cleaned up at the 1993 MTV VMA awards were Pearl Jam, En Vogue, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith, Nirvana, Alice In Chains and R.E.M. That’s a pretty good line up. A cynic might suggest that in comparison the nominees this year were more lightweight than Lady Gaga’s thong…
So who cleaned up this year? Well – none of the artists exactly cleaned up, as the main competition appeared to be to see who could reveal the most flesh. Let’s be grateful that didn’t occur to Aerosmith or Alice In Chains in ’93…
To be fair, Lady Gaga got out of a bad habit. No, not one of blatant exhibitionism, but one that used to belong to a nun, or possibly a plasterer. She finished her costume-change-riddled opening number resembling someone who had covered her most intimate parts in glue and run onto a beach.
Twenty years ago Pearl Jam collaborated with Neil Young whilst Lenny Kravitz was joined onstage by Led Zep‘s John Paul Jones. This year we had two similar legends: Miley Cyrus combining with Robin Thicke, a man who is continuing Larry Parnes’ rock n roll tradition begun with Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Vince Eager et al, of having a surname that best describes his character.
Cyrus began proceedings by jumping out of a teddy bear’s tummy in her swimsuit whilst sticking her tongue out. Don’t judge her – we’ve all done it.
She then proceeded to Twerk whilst surrounded by more teddy bears, which if nothing else had millions of people flooding Google with the search term ” What is twerking?”
Cyrus’ version resembled someone staggering around drunkenly on a hen night in heavy tennis shoes. Wearing a swimsuit. This swimsuit was then shed, like a Bucks Fizz skirt, and Robin Thicke appeared wearing a suit that had last been worn by Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice and which, had it appeared in Spandex form, would have been worn by The Scorpions. Note to Thicke: that’s not a compliment.
Later in the song he looked like Matt Dillon’s character in “There’s Something About Mary”. Note to Thicke: that’s not a compliment either.
Cyrus grabbed one of those foam pointy-hand things Americans have at sports games and used it in a way that it is doubtful its inventor had intended, or indeed imagined even in his wildest dreams. It’s the sort of thing The Daily Mail will write outraged headlines about whilst showing in comprehensive detail on their website. Rihanna meanwhile observed proceedings looking slightly hurt that someone was so comprehensively stealing her act right in front of her eyes. It was, in its own way, exactly what pop music award shows have always been about.
Much has been said of the lack of clothes and blatant sexual flaunting of the female pop stars in particular. At least when Madonna cavorted around in 1984 she was relatively fully clothed – wearing a wedding dress. And stockings. And a garter. Not that I remember. It’s not the sort of thing that really captures the attention of a fourteen year old boy….
After an interlude from Kevin Hart that was frankly baffling, Kanye West then popped up with a quirky demonstration of auto-tune. What with that and MTV’s censorship, at one point the overall effect was like listening to Norman Collier doing a Peter Frampton impression. That’s a cultural reference for the younger kids right there.
Justin Timberlake then performed a medley that lasted longer than most pieces of furniture I have owned. He even managed to re-assemble N-Sync briefly and whilst Taylor Swift melted in a childhood dream, I worried for the trousers of one or two of the former boy-band (man-band?) as they leapt around.
He picked up a lifetime achievement award, which is about how long his performance seemed to go on for. Justin Timberlake is 32 years old.
Meanwhile the camera panned around to show a couple of helmets in the crowd who were there to “Get Lucky”, but that’s enough about One Direction.
An interesting moment followed as A$AP Rocky and Jason Collins introduced Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert whose combined reflections on being a) gay and b) in rap music proved to be perhaps the high point of the evening. They were joined mid song by Jennifer Hudson, and it all made far more edifying viewing than the likes of Styles, Swift and the rest.
The show continued with lasers, fire and Bruno Mars’ new single “Gorilla”, which was nice if you like that sort of thing. There’s no truth in the rumour that Gorillaz’ new single will be called “Bruno Mars”.
Finally, out came Katy Perry in a boxer’s robe under Brooklyn Bridge. In a typically understated performance she skipped, spat, climbed and evoked Eye of The Tiger and We Are The Champions with new single “Roar”. To make sure there was something for everyone, however, she kept her clothes on, and her tongue in…