2013 MTV VMAs: Mediocrity Meets Appropriation

201255_katy.perry.wears.roar.grill.at.the.mtv.vmas.2013.04.000_principalThe 2013 MTV Video Music Awards shaped up to be the night of debauchery and staleness that you’d expect. All of the hyped up events lacked gusto. There were some true SMH moments. Brooklyn’s only representative was Lil Kim’s newest incarnation of a face. And I’m not sure how many celebs actually showed up in Brooklyn for the show, but only a handful were actually shown in their seats. But the real gold was in the performances.

Throughout the telecast, the camera had its “go-to” celebs it would switch to, apparently to try to catch reactions. You could count on seeing Pharrell, Will Smith (with Jaden and Willow), Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, Mackelmore, or Iggy Azalea just about every 2 minutes. A good methodology on the surface, but in practice it just made the show look poorly attended.

Since most of the awards were utterly pointless (except for the “Best Video With a Social Message”, but we’ll get to that later), we’ll just rundown the performances of the night.

Opening the show was Lady Gaga and her new single “Applause.” Shock value and weird outfits, which has worked so well for her in the past, were her downfall here. Though she gets kudos for her choreography, apparent fitness, and sheer ballsiness, I swear that she spent half of the performance hiding behind her dancers for another costume change. And for what? Did someone dare her to see how many wig-skirt combinations she could throw into one performance? And I’m going to have nightmares for weeks off of her eerie eyes staring into the camera.

Her last costume left her in a sea shell bra and thong, like she is pop’s Little Mermaid, but she definitely pulled it off. They say when you’ve got it, flaunt it, and Lady Gaga was in the shape you would need to be in to wear that outfit for the entire ceremony.

Next up was the performance that everybody is talking about: Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke performing a mash-up of “We Can’t Stop”, “Blurred Lines”, and “Give It 2 You.” And after watching the performance, I think that Miley and Robin got in a room and said “How can we best flip the bird to all of the people upset with our exploitation of pseudo-black culture?” That must have been the goal because they did a great job of accomplishing it.

Miley Cyrus Robin Thicke Twerk

Miley Cyrus spent the entirety of the performance bent over and twerking, pelvic thrusting, or humping a foam finger. All of her dancers were African-American women, one of which shook her behind while Miley stuck her head in and slapped it. You can’t make this stuff up.

Then Robin Thicke joined her on stage as they sang “Blurred Lines” as a duet. Yes, that happened, not only showing the futility that is Miley Cyrus’ singing voice but also creating the perfect setup for Miley to twerk all over Robin Thicke’s crotch and act like the two were necking. To make matters worse, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar added verses. That groaning sound you hear is Marvin Gaye rolling in his grave.

After this performance, I think Robin Thicke has officially lost all respect in my eyes.

But the Smith family basically summed up my reaction:

The true highlight of the night followed as Justin Timberlake gave a mini-concert, clocking in at just over 15 minutes, where he took us through his string of hits. I can’t hate on someone showing such a range of talent on the stage like that. He also showed how much of a trendsetter he and, by proxy, his music has been over the years. I wish other artists would take notice. He even managed to do it without appropriation or other unnecessary foolishness.

The “shocker” moment happened when he was joined on stage by his N*SYNC band mates. Sadly, it fell flat since we all knew it was coming. Plus, most of them looked way out of shape, J.C. Chasez took the moment to try to over-sing everyone, and Lance Bass had a very noticeable choreography miss.

But did Justin show everybody in the arena how to do it? Yes. Did he show everyone why he was on top, is still on top, and will probably continue to be on top. Definitely. Give credit where credit is due, and JT has earned it in spades.

Kanye West performed “Blood On the Leaves” where the only light in the room was in his backdrop. All I got from the performance was that he needs to take something to even him out a bit. His spastic jumping all over the stage left me seriously worrying about his mental state. At some point, Drake and Bruno Mars each performed but both seemed completely unnecessary and forgettable.

But at least it prompted Issa Rae to give us this:

As I alluded to earlier, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won an award for “Best Video With A Social Message” (don’t know who dreamed up that category) for their song “Same Love” which discusses gay rights. Then, before their performance of the song, complete with a superfluous Jennifer Hudson appearance, someone at MTV (who I am sure is no longer employed) thought it best to have A$AP Rocky and Jason Collins announce for them. Jason Collins had a wonderful speech about his grandmother’s struggle for civil rights and his own battle for gay rights. Then A$AP Rocky went on to promote his album and gesture to Jason Collins as “homosexuality.” FACE meet PALM.

The other highlight of the night was Kevin Hart‘s “non-hosting.” Every so often he’d hit the stage, remind everyone that he was not hosting the show, and then basically fulfill the host’s duties. He had some nice jabs at the performers and kept the crowd rolling. The best had to be him taking shots at N*SYNC, and Joey Fatone in particular, saying that it looked like he farted during the performance. He provided the necessary pick-me-up for the snoozefest.

Katy Perry capped things off with a performance that was built up the entire night with short clips before commercials. She was seen in boxing attire. She was travelling to the Brooklyn Bridge. And she even put in her grill piece at one point. This had to be epic … right? Well, shortly after she began performing her lackluster single “Roar”, it was clear that it was more flat than fantastic. The song lacks that special spark, and her marching around a boxing ring and standing on the ropes didn’t add anything. In hindsight, they should have switched the Lady Gaga and Katy Perry performances. I can’t make sense of what Lady Gaga did, but it at least packed a punch.

And that was that. Show over. So was it worth the price of admission (2 1/2 hours including commercials)? Definitely not.Quite the contrary.It’s 2 1/2 hours that no one will ever get back, and I’m pretty sure that no one was made better by watching.

Did you catch the show? Tell us what you thought of the hijinks in the comments section below!

“big moments” that lacked gusto

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.