I don’t want my MTV anymore.
For me, MTV’s foray into alternative programing (specifically reality shows) and away from music television in the 1990s signaled the end of their usefulness to me as some kind of music authority. They are about as relevant as Rolling Stone in that regard. What makes both important in some way is they are cultural icons at this point, having transcended music to become a reflection of popular society on the whole.
This evening is the desperate annual attempt by MTV to remain part of the idyllic fairytale farce that has become the current music business by hosting the VMAs. And, just as you would expect, MTV managed to find countless ways to botch their event yet again. Vimeo really should take over the awards considering they are essentially the definitive source of music videos these days.
I could complain that most of the recipients probably have no idea why the trophy is a moon man, or about how the modern dress code depicts something out of a middle-school gym class rather than a red carpet worthy awards assembly, or how that despite being about music videos nary a single video was played the entire evening including skipping the visuals and minimizing the audio to something shorter than a callout hook.
Two things really stood out for me though and may have forever sullied my opinion of MTV moreso than any of their previous fauxpas. Yet, sadly, I couldn’t turn away from either as both were like watching a slow motion train wreck.
The first was during the presentation of the best hip hop video.
Police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement was insensitivity parodied by unfunny white person Rebel Wilson. Yes, Rebel, there are people who have legit concerns about their safety living in a xenophobic police state and making light of their plight is not and never will be funny.
Her approach to poking at the violence of law enforcement leaned into the politically incorrect further by making light of prostitution which is also the center of a great deal of global controversy that spans human trafficking, slavery and women’s rights issues to name a few. Now, I don’t expect Rebel to be up to date on the issues in the news as she’s a clown inspired comedian and not an intellectual one, but seriously, as a woman, that’s just classless on top of classless.
As she was performing her routine, the verbally prudish (yet, always hyper-sexualized in an awkward double standard) MTV missed blurring out the swear on her shirt. Personally, complaining about seeing Fuck in print leans way to far to the overly politically correct, but it seemed like it should be the icing on the cake to an embarrassing set of events.
Except, it wasn’t. The dreadfully derivative snipe of the 1992 novelty hit “Baby Got Back” won the category by showcasing Nicki Minaj’s talent for being a sexual object/subject rather than a skillful lyricist and rapper or showcasing any producer Colin Tilley’s actual visual talent. Receiving the award for basically poppin’ her ass half naked for three minutes Minaj’s reception speech was about as inauthentic and uninspired as the video. It isn’t really a surprise as the moonman rarely goes to actual video art, ce la vie.
The assbaggery continued later when MTV staged a drama-inspiring moment by reuniting the always feuding Kanye West with his old rival Taylor Swift further proving the bitterness between them is just a charade for headlines and ratings. It was about as staged of an awkward moment as one could script having Swift hand off to Kanye after all his ranting and raving the last few years about her.
Before we get into his egocentric narcissism, lets first remember he was being gifted with the “lifetime achievement award” at the age of 38. One could argue his career began in 1996 as a producer but his first real break didn’t occur till 2002 when he signed with Roc-A-Fella as a performer. His “art” as it were brought him quite a few accolades sometimes as a producer and sometimes as a performer which combined make him one of the more celebrated music industry folk of all-time, if the Grammy’s quirky voting system and Soundscans notorious gaming are not relevant to your critique of success.
The original Video Vanguard Award began in 1984 and for years was awarded to long time contributors to the visual arts of the music community including the Beatles, Richard Lester, David Bowie, David Byrne and others who had profound impacts on music video over the course of their entire careers. Since then it’s become somewhat of a joke where performers who have by no means given a “lifetime” to their trade are being granted a “most recently popular” trophy. Kanye is just another in line of farces discrediting the award’s original intention of honoring actual lifetimes of innovation in the art of music video as his career in music is less than two decades while his on-screen performance barely breaks a decade of contributions most of which he himself was hardly more than a lipsyncing actor in. I’m not saying Kanye would never deserve the award, I just feel like this is a premature and unnecessary coronation more about placating and producing headlines than actually demonstrating long term innovation of the visual arts.
Underdressed, he took the stage only to stand there not saying a word, and hardly even acknowledging what he was even on stage for, for nearly three minutes. At any other award show he would have been ushered off, but not MTV. They let him stand there self-indulgently silent taking time away from other award winners. It is bad enough the broadcast relegates so many awards to pre-air presentation and hardly even makes mention of the awards themselves, now you have some show boat eating up time from the other winners abilities to be acknowledged for their abilities. Eh, that’s Kanye being Kanye and, to a degree MTV being MTV I suppose.
Then, in an self-admitted intoxicated stupor this self-righteous mic hog begins to rant. Again, had this been any other respectable awards show he would have been off stage before this, but he was given free and unfettered reign to spew ignorance.
First, he thanks Taylor Swift for “giving” him the award. I realize that this is technical, but she didn’t “give” him the award, she presented it. MTV gave him the award … granted it … or likely gifted it to him. Taylor was no more responsible for the award ending up in his hands than the payroll person handing me the cheque the company I am employed by is responsible for paying me. Taylor, like the payroll person, is just a messenger so to speak. So, Kanye, get off your high (literally) horse.
Then he goes on some maniacal tangent about his past interactions with Swift which have nothing at all to do with the honor he’s supposed to be receiving. The inability to focus on the matter at hand, receiving an award, coupled with the incessant need to be condescending took up the next few mind-numbing and completely incoherent minutes. If it didn’t make sense listening at the time, rereading the transcript now it’s even worse.
From there he turns to, “The contradiction is I do fight for artists, but in that fight I somehow was disrespectful to artists.” Oh Kanye, Kanye, Kanye. There is no contradiction. That’s exactly what happens. You fight for your crew, your posse, your homies, your peeps and those who you personally deem to like and you bad mouth, shit talk and act like a complete jackass toward anyone not within that small circle. It’s petty. It is classless. And, demonstrates your lack of knowledge about what art and the art of making music really is.
It is completely fine to have an opinion about what you “like” and “dislike.” It is quite ok to formulate the opinion about what you like and dislike with nothing more than a emotional reaction. It is even understandable if that emotion is visceral and objective and exists with no real rational thought. It is not ok to somehow turn your opinion into some kind of subjective critique that is to be taken as fact. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it any less artistic or unworthy of praise, it just means you lack the depth and breath of knowledge to be able to appreciate the art. Again, it is perfectly ok to not like it. I don’t like anything you’ve ever produced or recorded. I personally think it is insincere, overly polished, predictable and underwhelming sonically and I’d rather listen to three minutes of wet farts in an echo chamber than every have to hear your autotuned voice again. That doesn’t mean you don’t produce something artistic or even musically useful, it just means I think your interpretation of art is juvenile and appeals to the lowest common denominator of the musically ignorant with it’s barely pentatonic step melodies, stunningly mundane mid-tempo repetitious beats, desperately straight forward and elementary school simplistic composition structures and overly produced inhumanly perfect and completely unrealistic production devoid of any spectrum warmth.
Kanye then continues to act as if anyone not within his inner circle and wins an award has somehow coopted said award. He insists on perpetuating the “participation ribbon” by stating that these losers somehow deserve more praise then they received. Sorry, Kanye, but your people cannot and will not win everything no matter how delusional you are to think that everything you touch is gold. Sometimes someone is better than you, believe it or not. Sometimes good artists rightfully miss. Sometimes they make utter shit. But being a sore loser isn’t going to change anything. It just makes you look like a bigger ass than you’re already perceived as.
Take the loss like a “man.” No matter what the reason you or someone you liked lost was, quit being a crybaby about it and living in the past defeat. Use it as a reason to challenge yourself to do more, to be better, to create more inspiringly.
“I will die for the art! For what I believe in.” Hey Kanye, did you know Pantera won very few awards and their guitarist was murdered on stage while performing his art? an art that spoke to the millions of kids that picked up their records but I’m sure has no appeal to you. Are you saying Vinnie is somehow less of an artists because he was doing what he believed in which is a different interpretation of art than the one you “believe” in?
Stop contradicting yourself! If what you believe in is the art, whatever you personally are somehow deeming art, then it’s not about the award, it’s about what you produce. So, why are you still talking about lost awards? The fact that you cannot let go, that you dwell on it shows how little respect you have for music (or art, or whatever you want to call only the stuff which you like) and for yourself and how pitiful of a human being you are to continue to belittle those who have achieved. Way to give aspiring musicians something to look up to by making excuses and throwing a temper tantrum over, and over, and over again rather than accepting the challenge to better your craft if for no other reason than just because you love to do it in spite of rather than inspired all those shiny trophies. Bands like Iron Maiden and Motorhead and Rush have been at it for 40 years just because they love music and nothing more.
Launching into faux inspiration that again confuses real art for whatever Kanye’s huge ego is trying to dictate that “art” should be interpreted as continued with priceless meandering and double speak like, “We gonna teach our kids that they can be something. We gonna teach our kids that they can stand up for theyself! We gonna teach our kids to believe in themselves!” That’s all fine and dandy, except when you take the bully pulpit against artists like Swift and Justin Timberlake and whomever else you have beef with and discredit their musical efforts and the response of their fans and the musicians and artists they are inspiring. This is the real conflict here, Kanye, the one between your self-indulgent side and reality.
Wrapping it up he tries to cozy up to the supposed youthfulness of the millennial generation despite he himself being a Gen-Xer and then postures he’s going to run for president in 2020 despite no political background and a begrudging streak a mile wide … because Trump on the podium hasn’t been clown car enough??
Thanks MTV for allowing this diabolically dimwitted diatribe make it on the air and for continuing to perpetuate the cult of personality that is Kanye … it is only fitting that you keep the scripted reality schitk up rather than celebrate actual music.