Well, folks, that's all over. I watched MTV's Video Music Awards from last night, and by the end of the ceremony, I was close to tears. I felt every single one of my 36 years -- and probably some of YOUR years, too. I would guess that I hadn't heard of about 80% of the acts that performed or won awards. Of the 20% I had heard of, I probably couldn't name a single song by most of them -- I just had HEARD of them. To make it even worse, when these bands I'd never heard of did perform, I was sort of digusted by what I saw. Whether it was just gross looking people (like that Lil Wayne with his pants down around his knees) or horrible sounding music (like those Jonas Brothers), it was just horrifying. I would guess that three acts were actually entertaining -- Pink who always kicks ass, Christina Aguilera who rivals Pink in that department, and Paramore (the spelling mistake is theirs, not mine) whom I had never heard of before but who were really cool -- reminding me of Heart if Heart had had more of a punk edge. I kept waiting for them to break into "Barracuda." The lead singer had incredible stage presence, and the song they performed was just really great.
On top of my complete ignorance where the acts were concerned, though, the VMA's were a huge disappointment. There were no surprises, no moments that made you gasp -- unless you count host Russell Brand (who the frick is Russell Brand?) calling George Bush "retarded." I can remember the days when the VMA's kept you on the edge of your seat and was all you could talk about the next day. Remember when Nirvana's Krist Novoselic nearly knocked himself out when he flung his bass in the air and clocked himself in the head. Remember Michael and Lisa Marie's kiss? Pee Wee's return? Every single time Britney ever took the stage? Every single time Madonna took the stage? Guns-n-Roses shocking return? There wasn't a single moment like that. The whole thing felt scripted -- if the script had been written by the people behind Hannah Montana. (In my day, Miley Cyrus would never have been allowed within 10 miles of the VMA's let alone be nominated for Best New Artist.)
Even more disappointing was the fact that the presenters made constant reference to the fact that it was the 25th anniversary of the VMA's, yet outside of that lip service, there was little recognition given to the vast history of the show. Would a little retrospective of past Video of the Year award winners have been so hard to put together? (And how cool would it have been to see something like that) Maybe a performance or two from some of the acts that made the VMA's survive 25 years? Where the heck was Madonna? Aerosmith? Red Hot Chili Peppers? Pearl Jam? Yeah, I'm a history geek who loves those sorts of retrospectives and who has always been very interested in the history of pop culture and not just the present of pop culture. I can sing commercial jingles of products that ceased to exist before I was even born. And it continually frustrates me with my students that they have no awareness of the "classics." I've had students seriously ask me "Who is Jimi Hendrix?" The day is probably coming very soon when they ask "Who was Kurt Cobain?" And a portion of the blame for this belongs to MTV who had the opportunity to embrace its history last night and instead gave us this lame mishmash.
Sigh. I guess I'd better call my mom and apologize to her for all those arguments we had when I was young over MTV and the music they played. She may not have been right (Madonna will ALWAYS rule!), but at least I understand now what she was going through.