Monday, September 29, 2008

Vintage Jackson

The best thing about YouTube is that it allows vintage videos to be seen once more, videos that would otherwise be lost in time and be forgotten forever. I was randomly surfing around and I came across a few vintage Jackson videos showing the young MJ, Jackson family and even Janet.

In the age of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, the definition of precocious, young talent has changed somewhat. But I look back to the good old days when stars really had to possess real talent to make it big. There was no way you could hide it if you didn't have it. To secure a TV appearance or performance was a big deal. Back in those days, there was no Internet, no YouTube or MySpace. 

The television was the main platform for showcasing moving visuals and everyone watched television. To demostrate your talent to the nation on TV was a litmus test of whether you could make it or not. If you sucked, you can be sure that you wouldn't have another 15 minutes of fame anymore. 

With this frame of mind, it is always amazing to look back at these vintage videos and admire the talent that was put on show here. Bear in mind that they were all teenagers and were blazing a trail for future young pop stars. Before the Jacksons, there was probably only Stevie Wonder who was another successful young protege. 

Enjoy these videos...
(Note: beware of sudden changes in volume. Some clips are louder than others)

I Want You Back - from the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969

Ben - from the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in 1972

Tribute To Vocal Groups - from the Carol Burnett Show in 1975

I'll Be There and Feelin' Alright - from the Diana Ross Special in 1972

Who's Lovin' You - from the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969

Medley - probably sometime around 1974

The Love You Save - from the Diana! Special in 1971


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Diana Krall Live In Singapore

Who: Diana Krall
What: Greatest Hits World Tour 2008
When: 26 September 2008, 7:45pm
Where: Fort Canning Park

1. I Love Being Here With You
2. Let's Fall In Love
3. The Look Of Love
4. 'Deed I Do
5. Exactly Like You
6. You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love)
7. Let's Face The Music And Dance
8. Devil May Care
9. A Case Of You
10. East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)
11. Temptation
12. I Don't Know Enough About You
Encore: 'S Wonderful

Diana Krall swung by for her third concert in Singapore, and there was no way I was going to miss it this time. I booked my tickets early - in January in fact, when I saw an ad for the concert.

It was for a special Valentine's Day dinner package that entitled me to a $100 discount off each ticket, as well as a meet and greet session with Diana Krall plus autographed CDs. It seemed too good to be true, and I jumped on the offer, buying a total of 6 tickets for the top priced seats ($250 - $100 = $150).

I shall save you from the backstory, which was a really traumatising experience, ranging from receiving the tickets only 4 days before the concert (yes, that's 8 months after I paid $906), discovering that the people who liaised in Jan with me had left the company in the preceeding months and left almost no records on their end about my package, to the dramatic change in venue of the concert, one week before showday.

I shall instead focus on the concert itself, which not taking into account the backstory, was pretty enjoyable in itself. It could have been so much worse, but I didn't pay so much money to not enjoy a Diana Krall concert, so I made a conscious effort to enjoy it, and I did.

While Fort Canning Park is not the most obvious venue for a jazz concert, I think it made a better venue than the original Keppel Bay, which according to my boss, is nothing more than a open-air carpark with no proper stage as well. At least Fort Canning Park was sloped, so there was some elevation and we could see the stage quite clearly instead of being blocked by the person in front.

The bad thing about Fort Canning was that it was not air-conditioned, so it was a little warm and not as comfortable. It didn't really bother me that much, but it would have been nice to have some air-con. I was just glad that it didn't rain!

The second thing was that the organisers didn't expect the roar of the F1 engines to travel all the way to the hilltop, but it did, and it was very audible to us and to Diana Krall. When she came onstage at 8:20pm, she joked that the opening act was the F1 team. It was clear that she was a little irritated by the sound of the engines on more than one occasion.

She took the stage with 3 other musicians - longtime guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Robert Hearst and drummer Corrin Reagans (not sure about the spelling of their names!). It was a minimal set-up, but the players were individually skilled and played well as a band so you didn't feel like they were lacking much in the sound department.

The lighting for the cameras wasn't very good, such that when Diana's image was projected on the screen, it wasn't flattering at all. She looked puffy and looked like she was on drugs or something. It also appeared that she didn't have any makeup on. It was a little disconcerting at first, but after a while, we got used to her zoned out look.

Looks aside, she was on good form musically. Her voice took a while to warm up because she had a cold, despite the weather being so warm the past few days. She also coughed a few times during the songs. But other than that, she sounded good.

The 4-piece band were tight and all of them played well. In the true sprit of jazz, they all served up improvised solos and meandered through the scales and notes before coming back together in unison. The drummer was on a roll and seemed a little carried away with his solos. But I'm not complaining of course, as he demonstrated great skill with his traditional grip and bass drum technique.

Diana seemed to be in a good mood, chatting a fair bit and joking with the audience, which was great. It was also evident that she's happily married and enjoying family life. She opened up her locket around her neck and showed us pictures of her 21-month old twin boys Dexter and Frank. She said that they were with daddy Elvis Costello right now and they were busy recording their debut album.

She also spoke of how she had to alter her musical style and "un-jazz" the nursery songs when performing for her boys, because all they wanted were simple musical arrangements of their songs, without the flowery embellishments. Luckily she didn't strip down the songs last night.

Throughout the night, she also shared with us some of her influences. She revealed that Nat King Cole is her favourite singer-pianist performer, before playing his song You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love). She also said that Tom Waits is one of her favourite singers as well, and paid him a tribute by performing Temptation.

Setlist wise, it was a very safe choice as it was full of favourites. Of the 13 songs, 9 of them were from the Live In Paris (her 2002 CD/DVD release) setlist as well. Which is really great for me because I absolutely love that album. Seems like she likes this setlist as well.

My favourite song of the evening was A Case Of You, which was originally recorded by Joni Mitchell. It was performed solo with piano accompaniment only, and it was just so beautifully played and sung.

The F1 engines stopped about 4 songs into the night, but they came on again during her last song before the encore. I wonder if she decided to call it a night prematurely because of the re-emergence of the noise, or whether it was part of the plan. But she came onstage again for an encore performance of 'S Wonderful.

All in all, it was an enjoyable performance. The sound system was better than expected, at least it didn't sucked. But the F1 noise was really distracting for her and for the audience as well. The Esplanade would have been the perfect venue for the concert. Let's hope she wasn't too pissed to return for another show next time.

After the concert, we got our meet and greet session with her. It was very badly organised and it took place on the grass outside her tentage, where it was quite dark. There were other groups as well, so we met her in batches and didn't have much time to chat with her. I got her to sign my Live In Paris album booklet, and we snapped a group picture hastily.

We were quickly ushered out of the area, but the brief meeting was good enough for me. Another concert to strike off my "must watch before I die" list. Only one more remaining: Janet.

I could drink a case of you darling..and still be on my feet, still be on my feet...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Love The JabbaWockeeZ!

Just to share with you 2 videos of the JabbaWockeeZ. FYI, JabbaWockeeZ are the winners of the first season of the MTV dance series, America's Best Dance Crew. Pity this show isn't shown on MTV Asia.

I had the good fortune of meeting the boys in Genting last month and I can say that they're absolutely down to earth fellas. How I wish I can be one of them! Doing what they love and being darn good at it. This is the type of dance that I really like - coordinated and tight and most importantly, it has soul. 

Too many dance routines nowadays are like aerobics workouts that have absolutely no connection to the song at all. The moves can be reproduced wholesale for another similar sounding song and it will still fit perfectly. The moves are that generic.

Anyway, this first video is their performance during the Michael Jackson week of the show early this year, where they performed MJ's P.Y.T., a mash up between the original 1982 version and the updated 2008 remix. It's damn cool!

This second video is more recent, taking place early this month at the BMI Urban Awards, where the Jacksons were honoured with the prestigious BMI Icon Award. MJ didn't turn up but his four other brothers did, together with Janet, who did the honours. Jermaine was missing too.

But anyway, the Jabba boys paid an excellent homage to the original Dancin' Machines with this super cool routine. They incorporated many of the Jacksons' moves into this, including the iconic robot dance by Michael during the instrumental segment of the song. You can see that even at a young age, MJ was already coming up with these memorable moves. Enjoy the video!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Janet Jackson Rock Witchu Tour kicks off in Vancouver!

After months of anticipation, no, make that years of anticipation, Janet has finally kicked off her Rock Witchu Tour. It's been 7 long years since her last tour, the All For You tour (which was cut short due to the 9/11 incident), and a lot has happened during that time. But I'm not going to talk about that. Instead, I'm going to celebrate the fact that the tour has finally become a reality. I almost didn't dare to believe that it was really going to happen until I see pictures from it.

Actually, Janet was already halfway rehearsing and preparing to tour in support of the 20 Y.O. album 2 years ago, but at the request of her new label (Island Def Jam), she decided to postpone the tour and head into the studios to record a new album instead. But I would say the 2 years has been a worthwhile wait, for Discipline is a better album than 20 Y.O. and the wait has only made the fans even hungrier for the tour. 

I think Janet is in a position quite similar to what she encountered in 1997. Even though The Velvet Rope album was critically-acclaimed, the public felt that it was too dark and not reminiscent of the Janet they knew. Album sales were slow initially, and the public was sceptical about her tour.

But she put on a damn fine show and blew them all away. She even made it to the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in October 1998 - one year after the album was released, which is quite rare because magazine covers usually snag artists who are about to release a new album, not one year after they have done so. The headline read: "Janet Fights Back...the tour that proved her critics wrong."

So I'm definitely thinking Janet can do it all over again. The tour just kicked off in Vancouver last night and she has currently booked 24 dates in North America and Canada. The dates are still coming in - she just added a Madison Square Garden slot last week. Which is great, because MSG is like the place to perform. Hope she films another HBO special like her previous 2 tours, and release it as a DVD.

Janet has said that it will be a world tour and she will be bringing the show to Europe, Australia and Asia. I hope it comes true. I would so love her to come back to Singapore - she brought her janet. tour so our sunny shores on 27 and 28 February 1995, but I didn't catch it as I wasn't a fan yet then!

If she does not make it to Singapore, then I will fly to Tokyo to watch it. It will be expensive, but she has a large following in Japan and the fans there will be great, so the atmosphere should be pretty electrifying as well. Anyone keen to go Japan to watch the concert with me (if it happens)??

Anyway, early reviews of the concert are fantastic. Look at the amazing headlines and reviews:

- Vancouver Sun: Janet Jackson Does It Right
- Globe And Mail: Janet Jackson Has Still Got It
- The Province: Jackson Had It All Going On
- People Magazine: Janet Jackson Kicks Off Tour To Raves

And here are some amazing hi-res pics of the (early part of) the show, courtesy of

She looks damn fierce in these shots, which is classic Janet, as she always performs with great intensity and emotion, pouring her heart and soul out for each performance. If you think she looks a little chunky in this outfit, rest assured that by the time the tour ends, she will have slimmed down considerably, because each concert is a freakin' 2-and-a-half-hours long! You don't get more value for your money than this!

Speaking of which, here's the amazing setlist last night. It's really tough choosing the setlist when you have such an amazing catalog of hits, and I think Janet satisfied a lot of fans with her choice, even though I would have loved for her to perform Enjoy, 2Nite and Rollercoaster. But I think she pretty much covered her bases, performing songs from each of her solo albums, even the more obscure ones from her early career!

Here's last night's setlist:

Pleasure Principle
What Have You Done For Me Lately
You Want This
Miss You Much
Rhythm Nation - Interlude
Never Letchu Go
Come Back To Me
Let's Wait Awhile
So Excited
So Much Betta
All Nite (Don't Stop)
Rock With U
Together Again
Young Love
Say You Do
Don't Stand Another Chance
Doesn't Really Matter
Love Will Never Do (Without You)
When I Think Of You
All For You
Got 'Til It's Gone
Call On Me
That's The Way Love Goes
I Get Lonely
Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)
Any Time, Any Place
Black Cat
Rhythm Nation
Band/Dancer Introductions

Oh man, just looking at the setlist, I already feel like grabbing my credit card and booking a flight to the US to watch ths concert right now. Argh...I really, really hope she comes to Asia or the very least Australia. And I WILL be there to watch it. First in line.

Ok, so exciting...I can't wait. I shall leave you with 2 videos from last night's show. It's during the slow jam, Discipline, which is the traditional "grab a guy onstage and tease him till he almost comes" segment. I need some discipline tonight...

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Billboard 50th Anniversary

50 years ago, Billboard launched a new chart that would become the most important music chart in the world. The Billboard Hot 100 chart was born on 4 August, 1958, replacing the Top 100 charts that was introduced in 1955.

 The Hot 100 is an all-genre singles chart that combined the weightage of radio airplay and singles sales. Prior to the Top 100, there were also three separate charts for airplay and sales - Bestseller In Stores, Most Played By Jockeys and Most Played By Jukeboxes charts. As we progressed into the digital age, sales of digital singles via online merchants such as iTunes became part of the formula for calculating chart position. 

The first #1 hit on the Hot 100 was Ricky Nelson's Poor Little Fool. The past 50 years have yielded more than 1,000 #1 hits, and as Billboard celebrates this special occasion, they are publishing a series of special charts that pay tribute to some Hot 100 milestones.

Among the notable achievements are:

Most Weeks At #1 By Artist
1. Mariah Carey - 79 weeks
2. The Beatles - 59 weeks
3. Boyz II Men - 50 weeks
4. Usher - 43 weeks
5. Michael Jackson - 37 weeks
6. Elton John - 34 weeks
7. Janet Jackson - 33 weeks
8. Beyonce & Madonna (tied) - 32 weeks
10. Whitney Houston - 31 weeks
11. Paul McCartney/Wings - 30 weeks

It's good to see that the Jacksons have cemented their place in history. However, I would argue that MJ's placing on this chart deserves to be higher because it does not count his weeks at #1 with the Jackson 5 or USA For Africa.

The Jackson 5 scored four #1 hits, spending a total of 10 weeks at the summit. The superstar ensemble USA For Africa spent four weeks at #1 with We Are The World. Mariah's 79 weeks includes songs that she collaborated with other artists (with Boyz II Men on One Sweet Day, with 98 Degrees & Joe on Thank God I Found You). 

While the distinction is made such that it only counts if the artist credited to the track is the artist's own name - Thank Got I Found You by Mariah Carey, Joe & 98 Degrees, as opposed to I'll Be There by Jackson 5, rather than I'll Be There by Michael Jackson and his 4 brothers - it is perhaps more important to recognise the number of career #1s. 

While MJ might have recorded those tracks with different artists at different stages of his career, he was still an integral part of those groups and he did reach #1 with those groups. So rightfully, he did achieve #1 in his career in those instances.

So accounting for those "lost" weeks would leave MJ with 51 weeks at #1, which would place him at the #3 position, just above Boyz II Men, and just behind The Beatles and Mariah Carey. This rationale will also improve Paul McCartney's standings to 69 weeks, after taking into account his Beatles record.

Applying this methodology, it also affect MJ's standings in another related chart:

Most #1s By Artists (All Time)
1. The Beatles - 20
2. Mariah Carey - 18
3. Michael Jackson - 13
4. Madonna & The Supremes (tied) - 12 each
6. Whitney Houston - 11
7. Janet Jackson & Stevie Wonder (tied) - 10
9. Bee Gees, Elton John & Paul McCartney/Wings (tied) - 9
12. The Rolling Stones & Usher (tied) - 8

MJ's 13 #1s here do not include his J5 and USA For Africa #1s, so adding these in will yield a further 5 #1 hits, tying him with Mariah with 18 career #1s each.

Billboard will continue to unveil more chart tributes, and they will conclude the series with a special All-Time Hot 100 chart this week. You can check out Billboard's Hot 100 Special for the rest of the charts.

But anyway, good job MJ and Janet! You are officially the most successful siblings in music, there's no denying it now. They should record another track together and include it on both their next comeback albums. Scream Part 2!

And also reflecting on these charts here, I seriously find it hard to name a current pop star who will be able to creep his/her name into these lists say, 10 or 20 years down the road. The so-called "stars" of today have no longevity, and that's due to the simple fact that they don't have real talent. 

Success has come too easily for them - all they have to do is fiddle with some hi-tech audio software to create some beats and loops, write some verses that no one understands and have no melodic structure whatsoever, spout those words (not sing) into a mic  and voila! You have a new #1 hit!

It's easy to create a "hit" song nowadays, but it's just as easy to fall out of favour with the fickle-minded public by the time you drop an album 2 years later. The musical landscape might have changed dramatically and moved on without you. 

That's why I especially admire the true pop stars of yesteryear that truly have the talent and longevity. And their legacy is assured, as you can see from these charts here. Let's hope today's batch of the most promising stars - Justin, Christina and Usher - can continue to work their way into the pantheon of greatness and earn a spot in the next Hot 100 Special - 50 years from now.

2008 MTV VMAs Reviewed

In a word, disappointing. In two words, very disappointing.

Perhaps I was a little contradictory yesterday when I said I was excited about the show, yet the list of nominees and performers weren't really that exciting. But that was exactly what I felt. I was excited to watch the show because I looove MTV, but it's sad that the I'm not very excited about the nominees and performers. Maybe I'm officially too old for the MTV target audience already. Time to move on to VH1...

For all the hype and promise surrounding Britney Spears' opening act, it failed to live up to expectations, to put it mildly. MTV promised something "special", but all we got was a not very funny skit between Britney and Jonas Hill.

It was then followed by Britney making her way from the dressin room to the stage, and uttering a total of 4 lines, where she had the mic covering half her face the whole time. And she ended by sticking out her tongue, like she was a primary one girl giving a self-intro on her first day of school and was afraid that she messed it up.

And that's it. That's it? I was expecting so much more!

By the time Britney disappeared from the screen, I was still wondering if there was going to be more from her, and out came some zombies from the Thriller video. No, make that the dancers from Rihanna's posse.

The zombies came out, followed by Rihanna on a 1-storey high dress/wedding cake/staircase or whatever you want to call it. She then emerged from her cocoon and belted out Disturbia, or rather, threw in a few lines of the song here and there. A good 50% of the song was pre-recorded vocals and she just sung a little ad libs while focusing her energies on looking cool and stone-faced.

The Seven Nation Army reference was nice, but it would have been better if The White Stripes had showed up for a surprise performance. That would have been cool.

Then Russell Brand came out to kickstart the night proper. I mentioned yesterday that I was so lloking forward to seeing what he could offer as a host, a British host for once, and my did he disappoint big time.

I don't know if it's simply because it's British humour that I didn't get it, but I don't think so cos the audience didn't laugh for 90% of the time too. And his monologue was scathing and politically-incorrect, that's ok, but it just wasn't funny.

And as the night wore on, he got worse. His style of hosting is such that he will recap everything that just happened on stage, like "We just saw an amazing performance from Rihanna." And also "we got an amazing performance coming up from Lil' Wayne later in the show." And every performance is "amazing."

The jokes about the Jonas Brothers got a little weary at the end. And speaking of that, the JB performance was an absolute bore. Their unplugged segment could very well be the most boring unplugged performance I've ever seen. Even Hanson could do better than them! Only when the set transformed into a full blown stage did my interest pike just a little bit.

And since the show was being produced on a Hollywood backlot, magic can be created by transforming one set to another in a few seconds. We saw that with the JB performance, and we saw that again with Paramore. And we saw that again with Pink. And then again with T.I. How many times do they want to repeat the them "nothing is what it seems"? Ok, we got it the first time.

I was also looking forward to Katy Perry's performance. Alright, given that she was going to perform Like A Virgin (again - what's the point right? Maddy, Brit and Xtina already did a throwback 5 years ago), the song choice was a little irrelevant. But still, she's hot.

And anyway, her performance wasn't so much a performance as a filler item. It's one of those performances where you catch a snippet of it just before you go to commercials, or just after you come back from one. So we got to hear her sing for a total of 10 seconds. And from what we heard, it's might as well, cos it was strictly a filler item. The instrumentation was bad and the stage was small. No point.

As for the performances, Paramore rocked really hard but they didn't connect with me. Kid Rock was fine but it wasn't earth-shattering. Pink was ok and quite fancy, with all the pyrotechnics and all, but it wasn't extraordinary.

Then we get to the really bad ones. Perhaps it's because I'm not a hip-hop fan, but Lil' Wayne's performance was the worst of the night. And after seeing him perform, the likelihood of me becoming a hip-hop fan is lower than ever.

I know it's kinda the thing to do when you rap, that you have to grab your crotch, but it's really to the point where it's absurd and distracting. If you have a problem with your balls, you don't have to demonstrate it to me. Maybe it's because he needs more support, seeing his pants were halfway down his legs, exposing his boxers. I don't know how this guy can sell a million copies in a week. That's the sad state of music today - talentless people making it big. Such injustice.

And Leona Lewis' cameo on the song is such a waste too. It's such a pointless collaboration and it totally didn't work at all.

T.I.'s duet with Rihanna was quite terrible too. It's a new song from T.I.'s upcoming album, and it's the first time we heard of it. And once I heard that the song samples that Chicken Little song, I was totally turned off already. And Rihanna's chicken vocals were struggling to keep up too. And she wore the same expression as her earlier performance. That girl can't emote for nuts.

The only person who pulled off what I call a Performance is Christina Aguilera. Showing a new image and a svelte figure after giving birth, she started with a new version of Genie In A Bottle. The song is so-so and there wasn't much action as she was descending from a glass lift.

But for the second half of her performance, she sang her new song Keeps Getting Better, and it's a hot number. Coupled with killer choreography and costumes, Christina reminded me a little of the old Britney the performer, before she descended into the lows of last year. Christina danced surprisingly well, and even though the vocals for the second song were largely pre-recorded as well, the visual spectacle more than made up for it. That's how you perform at the VMAs.

As for the awards, they became an afterthought. Seeing that this year's nominees were so crappy, no one really minded that they didn't win. I didn't even care who won this year, because they have really devalued the awards this time.

The Best Rock Video went to the song that is the least rocking among the 5 songs (Linkin Park's Shadow Of The Day). Britney won all 3 awards that she was nominated for, including Video of the Year. Piece Of Me is definitely not even Britney's best video in her career, even less so the best video of the year, but with the fan voting system, she gets the most votes because she's still very popular among the kids. It's sad that the biggest award goes to such an undeserving clip.

And it feels like MTV is over-compensating her for last year's disaster. After the spike in ratings from last year, MTV must have felt the need to share their bonus with her, giving her all 3 prizes, getting her to appear in the 3 TVC spots and giving her special attention by announcing that she will be opening the show. Perhaps they feel bad for rushing her into last year's performance. but it definitely feels rigged. And what's with giving the same speech 3 times, thanking the same people each time?

Kanye West's closing act was even more disappointing. He debuted his new song Love Lockdown, a repetitive and dare I say it - boring, mid-tempo number where he not so much raps as he sings. There's a reason why they're rappers. Cos they can't sing! And they jolly well stick to their rhymes.

After so much anticipation, it's another disappointing VMAs for me. I really miss the good old days, when ALL the stars turned up and the venue was big and the stage was huge and elaborate. Maybe it's less gimmicky than now, but the more traditional big awards show setting provided a lot more memorable performances and talking points.

The performances were more iconic - I think "iconic" is the word I'm looking for. Moments that you will remember 10 years later - like MJ smooching Lisa Marie Presley (unconvincingly) in 1994, MJ's 15-minute opening act in 1995, Sting cameo-ing for Puff Daddy in 1997, NSYNC's robot head performance of Bye Bye Bye in 2000, Eminem's Slim Shady contingent in 2000, Britney's slinky performance in 2001, Missy's chandelier stunt in 2001, the kiss in 2003, Kelly Clarkson's wet performance in 2005 and so on.

MTV's tagline for this year's show is Music.Mayhem.Music. I think they were implying that there would be more music than mayhem. Unfortunately, the music fell short too.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

2008 MTV Video Music Awards

The 25th MTV Video Music Awards are almost upon us again, and believe it or not, I'm actually quite excited about this year's show, even more so than last year.

Last year's exercise was held for the first time at Las Vegas, the City of Sin. Together with the change of location, they also re-jigged the format of the show. There was no host - Timbaland was the so-called "Maestro" of the show, who presumably was in charge of the musical direction and performances that night. But no one really knew what he was supposed to be doing.

They also split the performances up across different venues, with some taking place in the smaller "Fantasy Suites". Of course, Kanye West wasn't happy about it. Not only was he denied the chance to open the show, he was "relegated" to performing at the suites, which was occupied by fans and not the stars, who were in the main hall.  

But hey, the Foos also performed at the suites and they didn't complain about it. They played a mini-concert of sorts, playing around 9 songs altogether. If I were there to watch it as a fan, I would have been damn happy. But of course, this is the VMAs, not a concert. You want to perform for as large an audience as possible.

They also had several superfluous awards last year, eliminating 13 award categories in the process. There was the Quadruple Threat of the Year, Monster Single of the Year and Most Earthshattering Collaboration. really a whole load of crap. I pity those who won these awards. They must have been embarassed going onstage to receive them.

Whatever it is, last year's show reversed a downward trend in the ratings. It was partly due to the fact that train-wreck Britney was roped in at the last minute to open the show. And of course everyone remembers how that "comeback" performance turned out. 

And one year later, Britney's back at it again. The MTV execs know that she's a crowd-puller and they're right. After it was announced 2 days ago that she will be opening the show once more, interest in this year's VMAs have surged.

MTV being MTV, they're being really coy about Britney's role. They said that she will be "opening" the show but not performing, and it will be a surprise. There have also been reports that they're trying to get MJ to attend the show, but that has not been confirmed yet.

What I think will be really cool is if Britney will present the real Artist of the Millenium award to MJ this time. Like what happened in 2002, Britney was the first act of the show, and she went on to wish MJ a happy birthday. She also said that in her opinion, she considers MJ the Artist of the Millenium. 

Then MJ comes out and hugs Britney. In the meantime, some guy pushes out a birthday cake with a treble clef-shaped trophy on it. And MJ goes on to pick it up that cheap-looking trophy and says that he would never have dreamed of winning the Artist of the Millenium award. Problem was, there was nosuch award. 

Britney looked shocked, as did the other guests in the crowd. But what I find the most weird about this whole episode is that MJ came with prepared, as he pulled out a list of names of people to thank. I suspect that the MTV producers were trying to punk him and make him look bad. Either they didn't brief him properly, or MJ was being blur and misinterpreted their brief. But I don't think so.

You decide for yourselves here:

Anyway, that was 6 years ago, and this is the 25th anniversary of the show, and MJ recently celebrated his 50th birthday, so I think it is a special occasion and MJ should turn up for it. Like I said, what would be really cool is if Britney and MJ re-enact this episode but present him with a real award this time. It will also show that MJ does have a sense of humour, and it will be a great way to launch his comeback.

There have been other rumours that MJ will be presenting an award together with Janet. I think it will be even more cool if MJ were to perform Scream with Janet, as they have never performed the song live together before. And it will be great publicity for Janet too, as her Rock Witchu Tour kicks off in Vancouver just 3 days later.

But yeah, those are the unconfirmed stuff. What's confirmed is that this year's show will have a host, and his name is Russell Brand. Russell Who?, you might ask, but that's the whole point. I'm so glad it's not some Maestro shit again, or for the upteenth time, Chris Rock, or even Mike Myers, who turned in a really unfunny stint at this year's MTV Movie Awards.

Russell Brand is British for a start, and he is anything but Russell Bland. Not sure if you have caught the 3 promo clips he shot with Britney, plus the elephant behind, but it's pretty funny banter.

If you find him familiar, it's because he's currently on our big screens here, appearing in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I saw the press conference he did yesterday, where it was conducted in a backlot of the Paramount studios (where this year's VMAs is hosted), and it's pretty darn funny. He brings his British humour with him and it's a a great change for once. I can'r wait to see what he will do, if he's even going to perform an opening skit like they used to do in the past years.

Actually I'm not too excited about this year's performers and nominees. The nominees are voted by the fans this year, unlike in the past years, where they were decided by the industry "professionals". Most probably it's just a group of 4 MTV execs sitting down and coming up with the list, but at least the list they come up with is more credible than this year's.

When you put it at the hands of the public, whichever artist has more fans will benefit. As a result, you have some really appalling choices for the categories.

For the most prestigous category, Video of the Year, we have Chris Brown's Forever, The Jonas Brothers' Burnin' Up, PCD's When I Grow Up, Britney's Piece Of Me and The Ting Tings' Shut Up And Let Me Go. Hands up who remembers any of the videos?

Out of that list, I can only recall PCD and Britney's videos. The Jonas Brothers? Come on! It's an insult to this category. Last year's winner was Rihanna's Umbrella, which you would have to admit, was a pretty special piece of work. I really can't see any of these 5 videos being remembered as a classic 10 years down the road.

And of course I'm very disappointed that Janet's Feedback video wasn't nominated for Best Dancing in a Video. I thought that it was a great dance video, where there is actually dancing in it. Even Madonna got nominated for 4 Minutes, and there was so little dancing in it. What crap. And they renamed this category to Best Dancing in a Video. What was wrong with Best Dance Video?

As for the performers list, I'm none too excited about most of them. Jonas Brothers were the first to be announced as performers. Oh man... Besides them, we'll be getting Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Lupe Fiasco, T.I., Pink, Kid Rock, Lil' Wayne, Katy Perry, Paramore, T-Pain, The Ting Tings and Kanye West.

Rihanna has had a big year and frankly speaking, I'm getting a little sick of her already. She's super over-exposed right now. I think I'm only really excited to see 2 acts - Katy Perry and Kanye West.

Katy perry is the next big thing and I can't wait to see if she lives up to the hype. Kanye West is always a joy to watch. He's a true innovator, and his talent is as big as his ego. If you missed his superb performance at this year's Grammy Awards, you can relive it here:

The VMAs have always been about unexpected moments and great performances. Hope this year's show will not disappoint me, and that it will be much better than last year's show. 

MTV Asia will be having a same day telecast (great!), the best thing we can get to a live telecast. Be sure to catch it on 8 September, Monday, 9:30pm. MTV Asia is on StarHub Channel 20. 

Just for old times' sake, I'm going to predict the winners, even though I don't really give a hoot about who wins this year. Of course, these are not who I think deserve to win but rather, who will win. Here are my picks for the fan categories:

Video of the Year
Britney Spears - Piece Of Me

Best Male Video
Chris Brown - With You

Best Female Video
Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl

Best New Artist
Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl

Best Pop Video
Jonas Brother - Burnin' Up

Best Rock Video
Paramore - Crushcrushcrush

Best Hip-Hop Video
Lil' Wayne ft Static Major - Lollipop

Best Dancing In A Video
Chris Brown - Forever