MTV Video Music Awards: The Bloated, Loaded (and Frank Ocean)

Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic

The gall is impressive, to represent what occurred Thursday night at Staples Center, on MTV and via backstage cameras streaming online, as an “awards ceremony.” A virtual partnership between global communications company Viacom (which owns MTV) and the remaining big four major labels, the annual Video Music Awards presented/marketed some of America’s hottest pop stars in a music production so bloated that ego very nearly burst out of my flatscreen. And what’s worse, little of unscripted interest happened.

Featuring snippets of clips/promos from artists on the Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Bros., and EMI labels and their many subsidiaries, the Video Music Awards is one of the biggest ad campaigns of the musical year.

The VMAs purportedly showcase the art of the music video. At the same time, of course, the ballots ignored all but a handful of dubiously selected nominations by major stars. As a result, the thing felt like a commercial wrapped around advertisements starring performances/advertisements by the most bankable acts on four (soon to be three) corporations’/holding companies’ rosters.


PHOTOS: 2012 MTV Video Music Awards | Arrivals

The next day, the buzz sells some tracks, which increases the stocks, which retains the jobs, and finances the airplay and the marketers’ salaries that make the award-winning pop stars more famous.

This year’s models: Rihanna looking sexy, Pink on a trapeze, Frank Ocean in front of a fire (he -- and A$AP Rocky’s cameo with Rihanna -- stole the show), One Direction beneath impressive haircuts, Taylor Swift in a performance as charmingly redundant as the title of the song she performed, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Green Day playing Green Day, and PSY showing up to do a bit of “Gangham Style.”

People won awards, held statues, got maximum facetime. Chris Brown earned a Moonman for a video that he co-directed. Chris Brown can now honestly call himself an award-winning director. Thanks a lot, MTV.

But I think that young white rapper Mac Miller captured it best when he was introducing an award for something or the other. Appearing alongside Miley Cyrus, Miller, like the (indoor-sunglassed) Buddha, uttered a single, incredibly profound thought for his audience: “Yeah, man, Pink is tight. Pink is tight.”

That was my takeaway. Thanks a lot, MTV.



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Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit