Tuesday, September 09, 2008

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.


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