It’s shocking how not shocking the 2015 VMAs were.
Were the James Beard Awards presented by Buffalo Wild Wings®, it’d feel a lot like the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. The host network is now in a movie villain’s pre-freefall, grabbing at the ledge of pre-teen eyeballs using a medium no longer relevant.
Today, the M for music is also gone from in the in-front-of-the-TV part and the drowning cable brand’s programming falls into two distinct but similar camps: 1) rape or slut or shame (or werewolf) culture, scripted and 2) rape or slut or shame culture, reality.
That MTV still recognizes actual videos with the help of Pepsi/Taco Bell/iTunes/Samsung seems—like an unsolicited email to an ex during the holidays—strained with an undercurrent of desperation. Unrelated and speaking of desperation: Samsung also brought back the stylus and hired Chrissy Teigen to try to use it. She couldn’t, really. So she bought two phones instead, I think.
Thirty years ago, the VMA’s kicked off as an awards show alternative hosted by Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler, entertainers the likes of whom Sunday’s key demo only know from picking up itinerant bits of conversation during car rides with their grandparents. In that spirit, 2015’s show was like a sexagenerian stretched and bleached into some ambiguous moment of trying for attention on a dating site.
Efforts were made. In the front row, Kim Kardashian looked like a water balloon stuffed in a Minnetonka moccasin. She also wore the same expression of a water balloon. Who wore expressionless best? Kim or half-sister Kylie Jenner? Sitting next to Kim, her husband—the night’s Video Vanguard recipient, Kanye West—looked straight out of drunk tank central casting.
Their host, Miley Cyrus was unremarkable but for her array of clear plastic constantly pressing her boobs like a snail on a shower door. Cyrus’ glue-gunned flare to (sometimes) cover her areolas and vulva accented with fake dreds—like those of Predator or the guy from The Offspring—made the five years since Alexendar McQueen’s passing seem like at least a decade.
At least there will be thousands of Mileys (Milies?) running around every college campus for Halloween this year.
If MTV still played music, it would come off as an FM station with WYLD as the call sign and a morning zoo crew. Consequently, it’s the faithful recognition of the iHeartRadio five-song rotation that landed the network’s tent pole awards show on an island of murky irreverence. Everyone knows notable music and videos are now home spun and mostly free. The desired consumer only breaks from whatever they’re doing on YouTube, Snapchat and Vine long enough to maybe watch Demi Lovato doing a stripper-with-no-pole routine…when it’s on YouTube, Snapchat and Vine.
- Justin Bieber made a comeback of sorts. Nobody spontaneously clapped or really held their devices up as he floated Sandy Duncan-style to the ceiling of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Is that when relevance is over now? When nobody bothers to point their phone at you?
- No musical instrument appeared anywhere on or near a featured musician until the broadcast’s third hour. It was Tori Kelly and her guitar that broke the streak.
- The Flaming Lips backed Miley for the final number. They were also on 90210 a couple generations ago so they appreciate camp or at least writhing in the whitewater of a cultural moment.
A lesson in contrast: In 1984, with many fewer genres to work with, the inaugural VMA’s nominees and winners included such singular musical acts and moments as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, the Cars’ “You Might Think,” ZZ Top’s “Legs,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” and “Eyes Without a Face” and David Bowie’s “China Girl” and “Modern Love”. What of Twenty One Pilots, The Weeknd, Macklemore and Iggy Azalea will be remembered in 2045?
The 2015 VMA’s lone seemingly spontaneous moment: Nicki Manaj and her giant boobs ended her acceptance speech for best hip-hop video pointing to host Cyrus and her smaller boobs saying “…this bitch who had a lot to say about me last week in the press.”
…And nobody, not even Twitter, seemed to care.