I Want My MTV Back

Vincent Avatar

1984 – Madonna

1991 – Prince’s ass cheeks framed in bright yellow lace

1992 – Howard Stern’s ass cheeks descending from the rafters as Fartman

2000 – Eminem and his army of Slim Shadys – N’Sync performing “Bye, Bye, Bye” – Britney Spears and the illusion of exposure.

2003 – Madonna

The MTV Video Music Awards are about excess and spectacle. Bubblegum decadence carefully wrapped in a showy-commercial-pop-culture shell true to the spirit of the cable station that brought about a paradigm shift in how we “listened” to music.

But before it was an institution, MTV was an innovation. Candy Kugel, creator of the MTV logo and commercial spots, details the creation of the logo in Animation World Network Magazine. Regarding the process, she says:

I was allowed great individual artistic freedom which is unusual if one is employed by someone else and answering to a corporate client. My only initial caveat being that whatever I did be “brand-new and cutting-edge;” that included the artistic influences of the time reinterpreted in a new way through interests and visions that were personally mine… After our initial work on MTV, this crazy coloring style came into demand.

About the 2010 VMAs, #nprmonkeysee hit the nail on the head when she tweeted: “You know, people watch the VMAs for the crazypants antics. So far, this is just the Grammys.”

The MTV Video Music Awards should have had all the drama of The Real World (the show that introduced a whole generation to the idea of “reality TV” before the phrase was coined) and the moronic hilarity of Beavis and Butthead (the show that preceded the animated hijinx of the Cartoon Network Adult Swim shows).

While there was a twinkle of melodrama and hijinx, nothing shone out about the 2010 MTV VMA ceremony aside from the Jackass guy ripping off his pants to reveal his novelty bikini underwear with the special elongated sack for his dick. But it happened so fast. The cameras cut away so quickly and the other stars of the show were so ready to step in front of him to form a human curtain. There was a glimpse of the trophy girl expressing annoyance at the stunt rather than amusement. No one mentioned it and it disappeared into the deep gray mire that was the 2010 MTV VMAs.

I think it was Gwen Stefani who reflected wistfully once in an interview about how the success of No Doubt ostracized early fans of the band. How many times have you said: I liked [Insert band, artist, author, etc. Here] before [Insert title of band-artist-author-etc.’s most accessible, most popular work]?

You can call it getting jaded, selling out, or forgetting one’s roots – Whatever makes you feel better – but it’s life – it’s natural – it’s going to happen. I think every artist evolves – even if they are only in it for the money. They can’t help it. If you do something long enough and passionately enough you are going to get bored and as a result become boring and cookie cutter. After all they innovated the cookie batter and the cast the cutter mold.

Linda Holmes (#nprmonkeysee) calling the VMAs “just the Grammys” is symptomatic of what happens when an innovative idea becomes an institution. It is natural – even hoped for. When an innovation to become an institution it is just as natural for some “old fans” to be unhappy or concerned about the “legitimization” of their beloved groundbreaking “new” idea. There is always something lost along the way. Something that becomes less in-your-face and more nuanced (or disappeared entirely). The Grammy awards show was once the innovative idea of Pierre Cossette.

I’m relying on mtvU’s Woodies award show for my bit of drama and hijinx.


MTV Shows

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