MTV’s Video Music Awards show, like the channel, is so little about music and video anymore it’s hard to take it for anything more than the mass endeavor in self-indulgence it long ago became.
Lady Gaga’s show-opening “Applause” at Brooklyn's new Barclay Center was spectacular, yes, but all too predictably so, the focus way more on costume, hair and makeup changes than the song itself. That and the ever-more predictable—and annoying--crowed reaction shots, this year apparently establishing that there’s no one in Brooklyn of VMA viewer interest besides BFFs Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez.
Not much else to say about the show, really. The new staging bit where the stars traipse the walkway from the main to the small satellite stage, slapping five’s with the seas of shills on both sides, just piled on more irritation.
As for the other acts, Miley Cyrus and her bad news bears "We Can't Stop" routine, if nothing else—no, make that definitely nothing else—introduced a standup twerk to her toolbox of tawdry tricks. At least One Direction looked reasonably bored.
Kanye West brought typical narcissism to his “Blood On The Leaves,” starting with what seemed to be an interminable head shot until it broke into a colorless, woefully uninteresting shadow dance. Video Vanguard award designee Justin Timberlake, who was also declared “the president of pop” (must have been a secret election), was the focus of a segment that was in fact interminable, virtually a show within a show. Poor Jimmy Fallon only marginalized himself by cheerleading it.
Even Katy Perry fared poorly with her boxercise routine at the Brooklyn Bridge supporting mediocre single “Roar.” To contrat today’s performers with yesteryear’s, Olivia Newton John capped her Physical tour shows by singing the titletrack smash while skipping rope.
Meanwhile, Taylor Swift pretty much wrote herself into a new version of “Mean” in accepting the Best Female Video award for “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
“I also want to thank the person who inspired this song because he knows exactly who he is, because now I've got one of these,” she gloated, and then, in an aside to Gomez (again with the Swift-Gomez reaction shot), told said person--One Direction's Harry Styles--to “shut the ‘f’ up” as he accepted the group's Best Summer Song trophy for “Best Song Ever.”
At least Best Video With A Social Message went to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for the gay rights-themed “Same Love,” the most important song he’s written, Macklemore said. The award was given the shortest shrift—the other nominees weren’t even shown—but for a channel that does so much to promote antisocial behavior, even a few seconds to recognize something good is worth noting.
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