Who watched the MTV VMA’s? Who watched the VMA’s back-to-back with Mad Men and experienced a completely trippy panoramic spectrum of civilization – or at least attractive, dressed-up civilization strutting its stuff over five decades? Now let’s talk specifically about the VMA’s. I definitely enjoyed, but liked certain parts more than others. And it turns out, she may be some kinda freak but I’m still sold on Lady Gaga (something about thanking her fans and appearing to mean it makes her a much classier person – or a better actress – than a few of her peers). Right off the bat, the night’s best performer? Oh, that would be Usher. My second fave? Florence and the Machine. And here’s the why. In 1985 I got to attend a very cool big outdoor concert called Live Aid (by today’s standards: Big? Yes. Outdoors? Yup. Very cool? Not so much). The point is Live Aid was pretty groundbreaking for several reasons, one of which was a certain wheat-and-chaff effect. See, because there were so many acts, with so little time to perform, a curious thing happened. Bands who took their time warming up OR relied upon some kind of “jam” type deal OR featured confusing and probably drug-addled staging didn’t work out so well. The Live Aid home runs were seemingly random performers who –out of the blue –were slick, polished, and knew they hadn’t much time so they delivered something super-tight and choreographed. Thus acts you might not like or normally care about shone, because they followed the rules and created a performance to suit the timing and the specifics of the event. Last night’s VMA’s were just such an example. Some of the acts – while popular – involved too many singers trying to cover way too much ground. Literally. Eminem was all over the place and Drake – everyone was so excited to see Drake – didn’t set himself apart in any way. Usher however, appeared, worked it & actually sang (it’s always nice to hear them breathe during these things, because you never know) and was consequently amazing. Florence and the Machine (first of all, she coulda gone right into the Mad Men episode in that dress) demonstrated that there’s still a lot that’s ridiculously appealing about an incredible set of pipes. Same with Usher. So perhaps I’m not splitting any kind of atom here but there’s something about performers who seem to be taking it seriously versus performers who want to remind us just how insanely popular they are. Also, even though I watched on my upstairs TV which doesn’t have a ginormous screen, I’m still nearly certain KeSha embraced her trashy side — and actually got away with it, big time. The VMA’s also did two other really smart things – because they’re well aware of our gratification appetite and attention span. First, they kept telling us the amount of time — in minutes — before others would appear. We’re seeing it more and more in awards shows and it’s smart. And second, there wasn’t a lot of time wasted on gratuitous presentations. Also shrewd. The fact that it was fun with a gorgeous set didn’t hurt either. Obviously I’m not getting the whole Justin Bieber Rydell High thing but I know that all of my neighbors’ children do so that’s what’s important. Did I wonder why Kanye’s number used so many terms that I cannot – or would not – print here? Absolutely. Is that because I am in entirely the wrong age group to appreciate them? Most likely. But if that’s the case, then I must assess: watching two fantastic numbers from Usher and Florence, followed by another kick-ass Mad Men turn? Not bad for a Sunday night.
1) Lady Gaga
2) Jared Leto (30 Seconds to Mars)
4) Justin Timberlake