Over-the-top controversy is to MTV’s Video Music Awards as dull monotony is to the Oscars. Maybe the two pulled a “Freaky Friday,” and this
year’s Oscars will be more engaging because the VMAs, usually gasoline to the tabloid rumor mill’s fire, was nothing more than another drawn-out,
self-indulgent award show. With E!’s drunk bad girl Chelsea Handler at the reins, there should have been a guaranteed amount of excitement.
Sadly, though, the show, which ran over its already-long three hours, was nothing more than a few, albeit good, performances, too many shots of
the “Jersey Shore” cast and the occasional spattering of awards. Even the overhyped Kanye West-Taylor Swift reunion brought nothing more to the table than two annoying, overly serious acts.
Eminem opened the show with his singles “Not Afraid” and “Love the Way You Lie,” and while it didn’t have the spectacle of hundreds of Slim Shady replicas marching into the theater with him in 2002, it still had a lot of heart and intensity, plus a surprise appearance by Rihanna.
After his performance, there was a pre-taped segment with Lindsay Lohan and Handler, and while it was comforting to see Lohan not stumbling out of a club without underwear, her performance was nondescript, underwhelming and disheartening. The best performance of the night was also the least-known star in the room. Florence and the Machine, performing “Dog Days Are Over,” killed the song with a flawless vocal act, a rarity at an awards show, filled with l i p – s y n c h e r s and dancers.
If there is any justice in the musical world, this will help skyrocket her to a much higher level. None of the performances were extremely theatrical or entertaining, and as tired and over-exposed as they may be, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, both nominated for multiple awards, would have certainly, at the very least, made things interesting.
Other performers, like a mediocre Justin Bieber, a dancing Usher and a solid yet too-short combination of Bruno Mars, B.o.B. and Paramore, were entertaining but nothing that will be talked about in years to come, or even in the upcoming weeks. When it was finally time for Swift to take the stage, the set was moody and intentionally looked run-down, with her dressed as a ’40s screen siren. Her trademark weak voice was only worsened by ridiculous, eye-roll inducing lyrics, like “It’s okay, life is a tough crowd / Thirty two and still growing up now / Who you are is not what you did.” To close the show, Kanye performed a supposedly selfless song, “Runaway,” but it begs the question – Is a world with an ego-free Kanye worth it? His song may have won out in the battle between him and Swift, but that fact doesn’t make it a classic, or even good.
Even the awards were highly predictable. Only nine were given out during the live show, and Lady Gaga won five of them, in every category she was nominated. Eminem took two, Justin Bieber won Best New Artist and Jared Leto’s band won Best Rock Video. For a station that was built around music, the lack of any diversity in the categories is disturbing. The four music categories, Pop, Dance, Rock and Hip- Hop, hardly encompass a majority of the music in the world.