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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The MTV Video Controversy Awards

Okay, I promise...this will be the final diary entry this week. I know I've done a lot of them this week, but I had a lot of things on my mind. But fortunately, things are getting back to some degree of normalcy, and all is starting to feel good.

So, I thought that for this edition of the Thursday Diary, I would be a little bit snarky. A little bit sarcastic. And, maybe for good measure, a little bit of lamenting over how times have changed...and not necessarily in a good way.

August 29, 2013

I remember at one time I really used to love watching the MTV Video Music Awards. And, for that matter, the Grammy Awards, the MuchMusic Video Awards, or any other award having to do with music.

Throughout my entire life, I've always been surrounded by music, and I couldn't imagine my life without it. Why wouldn't I want to watch some of the biggest celebrations in the music industry?

I honestly don't remember what my very first Grammy Awards ceremony was. I think it must have been around 1989 or 1990. Coincidentally, I thought 1989 was a decent year in music and would often listen to Top 40 radio around the third grade, so it kind of fits with the timeline.

I think that I started watching the MTV Video Music Awards right around the same time...maybe I was a couple of years older. Although we didn't get MTV here in Canada, the MTV Video Music Awards would often be either simulcast on MuchMusic, or it would air about a week later. To me, the MTV Video Music Awards were the quintessential awards show to watch to not only celebrate the best of the best in music video, but to see singers and bands reveal themselves to their fans in more ways than ever before.

And, certainly there were some awesome moments over the show's twenty-nine year history. The late Whitney Houston helped break down colour barriers on MTV, and when the third annual MTV Video Music Awards aired on September 5, 1986, the world saw Whitney demonstrate her vocal talents in this performance.

Or how about three years after that when on September 6, 1989, Paula Abdul showed the world that there actually was a time before she became American Idol's “nice judge”? Watch it below.

And, since today would have been his fifty-fifth birthday, how about a spotlight on Michael Jackson, whose performance at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards was fifteen minutes in length and was voted as the Best VMA Pop Performance in the show's history? Watch it below if you have the time to do so. It's phenomenal.

So, where am I going with this?

Well, in the case of Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul, and Michael Jackson...they really didn't need a whole bunch of gimmicks and fancy bells and whistles to showcase the immense talent they had. Mind you, two of them have since passed away, and the third one is currently designing jewelry for Avon campaigns. But back in their heyday, they were considered the crème of the crop. The sauce on the steak. The ice in your slushie. They actually had the talent to back up their accolades.

I'm not necessarily saying that the music artists of today aren't like that. I'm sure that there are a lot of people out there who could wow us with their talents alone and come up with VMA performances that could rival, or even surpass those of Houston, Abdul, or Jackson.

So, imagine my surprise when I tuned into the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards which aired this past Sunday, and this was the clip that had everybody talking.

I know that by now, it's old news. But you know what? I feel a need to comment on this performance because it's just so all over the place.

Okay, Miley Cyrus. I get what you were trying to do here. You want to break free from your father's “achy breaky hold” on you, and start up your own career. You don't want to be associated with the squeaky clean “Hannah Montana” image anymore. I get that. You're nearly twenty-one, you have your own ideas as to where you want your career to go, and you must be happy to have a huge hit with your latest single “We Can't Stop”. But, you know what? I have to point my finger at you...and when I say finger, I don't mean the foam finger that you were...well, you know what, I don't even know what you were doing with that thing.

The problem with Miley Cyrus' performance is that if she was expecting for people to take her seriously...well, it kind of backfired in a big way. Everyone I know who saw the performance was fairly disgusted. One even commented that Miley did things with Robin Thicke that Robin Thicke's own wife hadn't done with him.


Miley, let's talk. The thing about that performance is that when it comes to what you were trying to do, I sort of get where you're coming from. You want to carve your own identity and you want your own independence. You just went about it the wrong way, in my opinion. Instead of getting respect, though, you're the punchline for late night talk show hosts this week.

Of course, these are just my own thoughts. You can feel free to agree or disagree with me if you so choose. But the truth is that this performance has so many points of view that there really is no clear-cut answer. The facts of the story appear as blurred lines running into each other, open for interpretation.

(Get it? Blurred lines?)

Anyway, regardless of what your stance is, it's gotten people talking about it. Certainly the story was enough for me to comment on it myself. And maybe in some grand scheme of things, Miley set out to achieve exactly that...create a moment that would get people talking no matter how positive or negative a reaction she got. After all, controversy sells and it keeps your name in print. And, apparently thanks to that performance, I now know what it means to “twerk”.

(Never thought I would be writing the word “twerk” in this blog.)

I just wish that Miley would realize that she didn't have to go down that route to be a respected musical artist. She was doing a good enough job already. I actually admit to liking “The Climb”, and “Party in the U.S.A.” was a fairly decent pop hit in the summer of 2009.

But, you know...Miley's certainly not going to be the last artist to be controversial at the MTV Video Music Awards. She most certainly wasn't the first!

It seems to be synonymous with the MTV Video Music Awards, you know? For as long as I can remember, that awards show was the place to go if you wanted to stand out, and perform outrageous routines in outrageous costumes, and do generally outrageous things that would make the six o'clock news the following day.

For instance, nobody remembers September 11, 1987, when Peter Gabriel set a record for most MTV Video Music Awards won on a single night with ten for his “Sledgehammer” video. But, I bet everyone remembers what happened two years later when Andrew Dice Clay earned himself a lifetime ban from the network for reading off some rather vulgar poems. I don't have that clip, but it kind of went like this (some language may be NSFW, so be warned).

Come to think of it, many people would consider 1989 a real turning point for the awards show. It had so many controversial moments aside from the Dice Clay scandal. It was the awards show that saw Izzy Stradlin and Vince Neil get into a physical altercation during the show! And, again, it wouldn't be the first time that this happened. Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille got into a famous battle royale at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. RuPaul and Milton Berle (what an odd combination) did a little verbal sparring two years later at the same awards ceremony. Van Halen had the shortest reunion in history when just minutes after the band's original line-up took to the stage briefly at the 1996 VMA's, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen came to blows.

And, who could forget the Kanye West/Taylor Swift debacle after Beyonce supposedly had the best video of all time, and Kanye decided to use Taylor's acceptance speech time to tell the world exactly why.

Well, Beyonce proved to be a class act by giving up her time to let Taylor Swift finish her speech, Taylor Swift's latest album “Red” has been considered a crossover success, and Kanye West is trapped in the Kardashian family with a child they named “North West”.

Yeah...karma has a funny way of showing its face, doesn't it?

And just going on a performance level, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke weren't the only ones to have a performance. You might think that the September 6, 1990 performance of Madonna's “Vogue” was quite tame in comparison to Miley's, but watch the performance a little closer. You'll see some bust grabbing, skirt peering, and other taboo acts within it. Of course, all of the dancers were in Victorian-era garb, so nothing was really revealed. Again, quite tame.

Then we had Prince one year later, whose outfit during his September 5, 1991 performance lead very little to the imagination – well, at least the back part of the costume anyway. But, let's be honest. This is Prince we're talking about here – a man who's written some of the raunchiest songs over the last thirty years. We've come to expect things like this from him.

And on September 6, 2001, the world learned that Britney Spears was up for shock value when her performance of “I'm A Slave 4 U” featured some special guests – in the form of a gigantic Burmese python and a tiger in a cage. The performance was called out by PETA who claimed that the animals were being mistreated, but it was just a blip on the controversy level for Britney Spears. Besides, in 2003, she kissed Madonna and in 2007, she had her meltdown which lead to a rather lukewarm performance of “Gimme More”.

Come to think of it, I seem to recall Britney's performance getting panned, and people making fun of her. But considering the fact that she had a nervous breakdown where she shaved her head and lost her mind, I thought it was brave of her to perform on the awards show. She clearly wasn't ready to take the stage on that day, but I give her credit for trying. And it seems as though the pain (albeit self-inflicted) she was enduring six years ago has been left in the past, as Britney's experiencing a comeback of sorts.

Perhaps Miley Cyrus will learn something from this experience. Perhaps not. The thing is that what's done is done. It will forever be a footnote in the history of the MTV Video Music Awards. My hope though is that one day there will come a time in which the MTV Video Music Awards aren't about how much controversy you can raise, but how much musical talent you really have.

But as I type this, I fear that there are artists out there who have seen Miley's performance, and who want to one-up her in the shocking behaviour department.

Yeah...the 2014 awards show should be interesting.

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