Grading MTV’s VMAs.

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

Pop. Dirty. Pop. (Photo courtesy The Associated Press)

Pop. Dirty. Pop. (Photo courtesy The Associated Press)

Welp. For the last two years here (and what seems like 5,302 years at other outlets) I’ve taken to the World Wide Internet to blab about MTV’s Video Music Awards. And because I’m nothing if not consistent, it’s now time to make it year three of the VMAs on the FNP (and yes, if you could think of another acronym, it would have been used in this sentence).

As is always the case (thanks again, archive system!), we will grade the show based on five different categories: Awards, performances, host, stage and presenters. A is the best. F is the worst. Each category will also have a best moment. Each category will also have a worst moment. It’s not rocket science. It’s not particularly original. And — who’s kidding whom, here? — it’s not even really all that relevant.

No, but honestly: The Video Music Awards have seemingly become the latest prey for a Twitterverse that has little to no interest in actually ever liking anything. The opposite of love isn’t hate, remember; it’s apathy. And as Sunday night’s social media temperature proved, 2013 was the year it became cool to shun the VMAs for good. Rather than whining about Miley Cyrus or swooning over Drake, there were far more “You’re only cool if you’re watching ‘Breaking Bad’ and not the VMAs” statements than there were “Oh, so MTV couldn’t get Lena Dunham to introduce Katy Perry, then, right?” observations. That’s fine, of course, but to someone who grew up when this particular trophy show was in its prime …

… Well, that’s a bit sad, now isn’t it?

But I digress. Behold a look at the 2013 Video Music Awards. Because if you can’t enjoy watching Bruno Mars scream his inescapable croon in the midst of a laser show, then honestly: What can you enjoy?

Awards: D
This is an interesting category these days because music videos are becoming more extinct than Disc-mans. There was a time when a music video could very literally make or break an artist or record, but these days? Well, the only time the things make news anymore is when people (more often than not, impossibly attractive women) take their clothes off. And even when that happens, they can’t actually be shown on MTV. So, to decide which music videos deserve awards anymore is sort of like deciding who the prettiest girl at a model academy is: The selection is so slim that actually winning something should hardly be accompanied with a compliment. Therefore, the bigger news should actually be generated from those who were nominated but didn’t win (rough night, wasn’t it Robin Thicke?). Plus, in case nobody has noticed throughout the last decade or so … MTV DOESN’T EVEN PLAY VIDEOS ANYMORE, DUH. The capital letters were to emphasize sarcasm. Anyway, because of how fundamentally forgotten the art of the music video has become as a promotional tool, this element of the entire exercise hasn’t just become an afterthought — it’s become dangerously close to not being considered at all. That in mind … you mean to tell me One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” actually won an award for Best Song Of The Summer while Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” sat on the sidelines? The hell? Thirty Seconds to Mars made a better video than Vampire Weekend’s “Diane Young”? What? The only redeeming quality from this aspect of the show landed in the hands of Best Direction, an award given to Justin Timberlane and Jay-Z’s “Suit & Tie” because David Fincher had his paws on it. Now, if that moon-man would have landed with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis …
Best Moment: For as Timberlake-centirc as the night was designed to be, he could have been infinitely more obnoxious, but all things considered, I thought he played his cards almost as well as he could, not taking too long with his acceptance speeches and even splicing in a bit of his self-depracating humor from time to time. I expected him to be unbearable. He was not unbearable. Looks like the married life has settled the dude down.
Worst Moment: I’ve come full circle on Taylor Swift. I initially couldn’t stand her. Then I fell in love with all she was about. These days, if I have to suffer through another one of her “Oh my God!” faces, I might spoon out my eyeballs. Plus, honestly — come on, now, with that whole, “This boy knows exactly who he is” stuff. You’re going to have to grow up at some point, sweetie, no?

Performances: B
Fun fact: Watching this kind of stuff with Sports Editor extraordinaire Josh Smith and Photographer Supreme Travis Pratt is unlike any other experience your awards show viewing habits could ever come by (funniest line I heard all night from anywhere/anyone came from the latter: “Is this a Flaming Lips concert?” he asked after happening upon Miley Cyrus’ performance). Hey, here’s a question — for as beloved as “Blurred Lines” became this summer, how much will that dumpster fire of a performance hurt people’s perception for the song? To date, Robin Thicke has played each and every aspect of his career correctly, including introducing himself as this neo-soul, long-haired hippie dude about 192 years ago that would heretofore make snobs such as me sign onto the Thicke train forever (“When I Get You Alone” is one of the 50 best songs of the 2000s, and it’s not even close). He established that soul man cred. Put out a few records that garnered him minimal but notable success. And then boom: “Blurred Lines” finally catapulted him into superstar status. But … boy, last night was bad. It’s hard to make a guy like that look awkward and out of place, but that’s exactly what happened as Miley Cyrus continued to write the “crash and burn” portion of her inevitable memoir-turned-movie. All told, he should have known better. The ‘NSync thing was fine enough (and JC Chasez, what’s your deal?), though last time I checked, Justin Timberlake was approaching the 82nd hour of his performance. The most subliminally troubling issue? The show has always been criticized for its lack of rock, but this year’s VMAs brought approximately zero amount of it. There’s always that token band who shows up — Green Day, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, etc. — though this year, they didn’t even try. When the whole operation began 93 years ago, remember, more than half the broadcast was dedicated to alternative/rock acts. Now, you can’t even find a guitar player in the crowd. Sad face.
Best Moment: You know what’s going to get lost in all this? Kanye West had himself a solid night, his performance of “Blood On The Leaves” proving that he really is that tasteful, true-blue artist so many people forget he can be. No mishaps. No drama. No nothing. Just a silhouette and that signature, twitchy-meets-angry energy he brings to the stage. Sure beat watching Rihanna pout her way through Drake’s performance.
Worst Moment: Yeah, we don’t really have to address this, now do we?

Host: D
Well, there wasn’t one. That said, instead of giving the keys to Kevin Hart again (though he still got about four minutes too many during his tiny appearances), I still think going with nobody is better than forcing some standup comedian to walk onstage and tell jokes about reality TV, drawing little to no laughs. That’s not to say that I think MTV should always go without a host; that’s just to say that it’s been a long, long while since they had one who fit the mold correctly (maybe Chris Rock in 2003?). As for who may be a good fit in this uber-critical, social media-obsessed world … that’s anybody’s guess (perhaps Aubrey Plaza or Mindy Kaling, who could essentially become a younger generation’s Tina and Amy if they play their cards right?). It’s a thankless gig, so it’s hard to imagine any worthy names ever popping up (my first inclination was somebody like Aaron Paul, but why in the name of magnets would he even chance something like this?). Thus, it needs to be said: Rather than a bigger name playing down to the VMAs, MTV needs to find someone who can make a career for him or herself by beginning its rise with possible Video Music Award domination. Just imagine if they could find a virtual unknown (which is hard to do in today’s interconnected world) to come in and slay, putting both the performer and the awards show on the map. He or she is out there somewhere. It will just take a search party to find whomever it might be.

Stage: C
I was interested to see how the Barclays Center might work out, and at the end of the day, it worked … all right. OK. Fine. All those words work. Somewhat surprisingly, the production felt compact, which was nice. In a brand new arena-sized room, I thought it might appear oversized and overwrought. Instead, the scenery kind of even brought back memories of the Radio City Music Hall days, its performance areas creating a tiny bit of intimacy within the context of the production. All things considered, the venue seemed like a natural fit, and that most certainly doesn’t happen each time these guys try out a new room (see: pretty much every time they hold the ceremony on the west coast). In fact, I at one point said to myself the following: I could see this as the new home of the VMAs. Now, wouldn’t that be nice? If nothing else, the move would throw some consistency into each year’s show. That said, I later found out that … MTV is taking its talents to Chicago for next year’s gala. Naturally. A dude can dream, though. A dude can dream. To 2015, it is.
Best Moment: Bruno Mars is slowly but surely becoming the go-to guy at awards shows. The space afforded to him made his performance that much more affecting because of its simplicity. Just put him up there and let him sing. Also, watching Timberlake run around to each corner of the building was predictably entertaining.
Worst Moment: I’m torn on the Katy Perry move. The fact that she had a band behind her was a joke, but the boxing ring seemed like a neat thing to look at … for about 45 seconds. Two minutes in, she looked like she had no idea why she had to set up some stupid platform under the Brooklyn Bridge on which she could sing. Excessive and unnecessary are the words.

Presenters: C+
Remember when the final moment of the night was always set up by some big name who everybody made such a stink about? It would be like, “And don’t miss Abraham Lincoln after the break!” Then, after getting back from the break, Lincoln would trot out there and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, Danity Kane!” And the place would go nuts. This year? Well, this year, the show’s climax was set up by … that one woman from “Girls” who is that one newscaster’s daughter. Don’t get me wrong — Allison Williams is a perfectly capable personality and she’s extraordinarily pretty — but … wait, what? With no host, the show was forced to depend on its presenters and the presenters were, for the most part, unmemorable. A$ap Rocky standing up there with the recently-out Jason Collins was tough TV, as the rapper seemed visibly uncomfortable to be standing on a stage with a homosexual basketball-playing man, making for a moment that ultimately had the opposite effect it was supposed to generate. God bless One Direction for going full-on heel, accepting the boos and adding some spice to an otherwise bland rack of personalities that got up in front of the crowd. Oh, and bonus points for allowing TLC to introduce Drake.
Best Moment: Yeah, yeah. I get it. Everyone hates Jimmy Fallon. But, as he does, he seemed to have fun up there, giving the Vanguard award to his friend Justin Timberlake. Plus, he cussed. Which was a lot of fun.
Worst Moment: Taylor Swift, just … stop.

For those who would like to see all the VMA madness again or for those who still need to check it out for a first time, visit


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