YouTube Music Awards: Eminem wins Artist of the Year ... wait, what?

Eminem performs at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

With Netflix streaming its way out of original content obscurity via popular shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” the Internet is making a serious play at competing with traditional TV to create shows of its own that attract eyeballs on a level with cable and network channels.

That’s why it was so astonishing to watch the mess that was the inaugural YouTube Music Awards, as homegrown YouTube sensations like the compelling and bizarre Tay Zonday shared screen time with international superstars like Lady Gaga and Arcade Fire.

It was also more than a bit puzzling when Eminem took the award for Artist of the Year. The decision was a purely democratic one — with 60 million YouTube viewers casting their votes to decide the winners, but still.

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YouTube is famous largely thanks to its rich landscape of unknown creators who post videos of themselves singing Eminem songs or put their own oddball visions up onscreen and cross their fingers that they’ll be discovered.


Thus Eminem’s victory felt somewhat hollow. He had performed on “SNL” the night before, after all. He is hardly a YouTube sensation in the traditional sense. He’s more of an MTV kind of guy. Shouldn’t YouTube try harder to honor its own?

As one Times reader wrote in the comment section of a previous post on the show, “This awards show was a slap on the face to all the talented musicians on Youtube...” The same reader, JB Clem, posted a YouTube video crying foul.

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“It’s going to be like the lamestream music awards,” said Clem in the clip. “Thousands and thousands of original YouTube talent is not getting recognized.”

As an example Clem pointed out that Yvlis’ song “the Fox” was not nominated for YouTube phenomenon. With more than 190 million views on YouTube that song alone has eclipsed Eminem’s audio-only video for “Rap God” by more than 80 million views.

In the end, the YTMA was a meta spectacle if there ever was one. And for all of its unscripted pitfalls there was still the sense that new doors were opening — that this was just the beginning, and that if YouTube can’t get it right, someone somewhere on the Internet will.


Watch the inaugural YouTube Music Awards here

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