A Green Day member sporting a "Free Pussy Riot" T-shirt was about as political as the 2012 MTV VMAs were able to get. The band unveiled yet another new song, "Let Yourself Go," and the song, again, saw the band moving away from the political and social overtunes of "American Idiot" and "21st Century Breakdown."
Green Day, in fact, has been doing everything in its power to state that it should not be considered an important band. As evidence, the band has its own "Angry Birds" characters.
It's all fun and games, sure, but after "American Idiot," Green Day positioned itself as a band that wasn't afraid to tackle big issues and a band that could address them with musical adventurousness.
PHOTOS: 2012 MTV Video Music Awards | Arrivals
The band is on the verge of releasing three albums, the first of which, "¡Uno!" arrives Sept. 25, and nowhere in the band's initial singles from the project is there any sense that the band views itself as anything other than pop star jokesters.
If a band, one that recently hasn't shied away from political issues, is going to release three albums during an election year -- and perform a mere hour before President Obama was scheduled to speak at this year's DNC conference -- it's distressing they would so distance themselves from anything even slightly topical. Few mainstream bands have the guts to address political topics, and an election year would seem to be Green Day's big opportunity to step up.
Instead, "Let Yourself Go" was all goofy fun, the kind of song this writer lost his voice to in 1992. Yet just because Green Day has returned to the sound of "Kerplunk" doesn't mean Green Day in 2012 is worth celebrating
As a longtime fan, and one who believed Green Day post-"American Idiot" could be one of the great American rock bands, "Let Yourself Go" is nothing but a letdown. If the band wants to live in the past, fine, but no reason its fans also should.
Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire" didn't break new ground either, and it wasted all of 40 or so seconds before succumbing to its big beat and arms-wide-shouting. Keys was stripped of her piano here and was instead performing with a standing keyboard. This foretold bad things, as it meant that Keys would soon break away from the instrument and rely on the beat. If anything has been made clear throughout Keys' career, it's that the woman should not be let free of her piano.
And yet with each passing album Keys moves away from her strength. The MTV VMAs performance came complete with an out-of-place Nicki Minaj rap, and Keys walked around the stage, but she wasn't leading the song anywhere, and anyone watching would be left to wonder why she would stroll away, yet again, from her comfort zone.
Former country star Taylor Swift, sporting a red-and-white striped shirt that may or may not be available at a major retailer, as well has red heels and short shorts, performed her crowd sing-along "We Are Never Getting Back Together," a song in which Swift sounded backed by any given high school glee club.
As breakup anthems go, this leans toward the more charming of the spectrum, with Swift coyly singing the more spoken-word parts of the numbers. It's the most popular song in the country right now, and Swift did nothing to hurt its popularity, treating it as a shout-out to empowerment and independence.
Hey, as this year's otherwise cautious VMAs go, this was a bold statement.