Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Getting (Pop) Cultured...

The Facts

We watched the MTV Video Music Awards together.

His Side

I think we can all agree that most music played on pop radio today isn’t very good. Auto-tune allows mediocre singers to get record deals, lyrics don’t make any sense most of the time, and a lot of songs have really bad messages for today’s youth to absorb. It’s kind of a shame. With that being said, on Sunday night, Kristi and I watched this year’s Video Music Awards. We like watching award shows because it’s entertaining to see what people are wearing and what’s going on in pop culture. While we watch, however, we tend to make sarcastic remarks about things and enjoy poking fun at the whole thing. Just check out our Twitter feed from Sunday night and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 

I am not really into the red carpet fashion stuff at any awards show but Kristi likes it so we watch it. This red carpet coverage, however, had something I had never seen before:  performances. That’s right, two musical acts (both of whom were up for the “Artist to Watch” award) had performances on the red carpet! 5th Harmony (a girl group that tries really hard to be the Pussycat Dolls but can’t even live up to that low standard) lip synced their way through their simple choreography (which they couldn’t even perform in any kind of unison) to give a lackluster performance. And, fast forward to later in the show, they won “Artist to Watch”! What?! From what I could tell, they weren’t up against much in the way of strong competition, but they were up against Sam Smith who can SING his heart out. At least he has some talent. But that category was voted on by the “fans” so it wasn’t really a competition of which act had more talent; it was about who has a bigger, mindless fan base willing to click “like” or vote with hashtags or whatever.

The biggest thing I noticed about the red carpet coverage is how shoddy it was. You’d think that MTV (which stands for Music Television but produces tons of programming having nothing to do with music) would have solid coverage of a music event. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. They had fans send in videos to ask questions to certain celebrities and then Sway (one of MTV’s best known correspondents) would completely ignore the question that just was asked by the fan and ask his own. At one point, he even mentioned how it was hard to hear the question, so he asked his own. If you’re going to do fan questions, do it correctly, you know? Also, there was an extended, random shot from inside the venue (while everyone was out on the red carpet); but, during the shot, the audio was of Austin Mahone’s (a taller Justin Bieber) grand entrance with a marching band. Once they finally cut to the proper shot, we missed the entrance and just saw Mahone (in one of the more ridiculous outfits of the night) talking to Sway. 

The technical mishaps didn’t stop at the red carpet, though. The first presenters (Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani) were telling each other how awesome they were before they ever even thought about presenting the first award. During this weird exchange, you could hear someone checking microphones for an upcoming performance. It was strange. After that, though, it seems like they got it under control, or I stopped paying attention, because I didn’t notice any other missteps in the production.

As you can imagine, a music awards show is full of musical performances. I could go on and on about these performances but I will just give a brief overview for the sake of time and your sanity. Ariana Grande, Jessie J, and Nicki Minaj went first and each did part of a song of their own, then premiered some new song they have together. It was basically just gyrating, singing, and rapping in a jumbled mess of about a thousand background dancers with a pretty light show. You can’t understand a word Grande sings and any Minaj performance should be rated TV-MA; but, at least Jessie J can sing. Taylor Swift (after her recent break away from the Country Music Association) sang her new song and made a lame joke about stage diving. The crowd gave her a courtesy laugh and suffered through the boring song. I liked her better when she was country/pop fusion and didn’t try to dance like younger, shorter, less awkward pop stars. The new rap sensation Iggy Azalea did her new song with Rita Ora and it wasn’t bad. But it’s weird to know that Azalea is a white, British girl but sounds like a black American girl when she raps. Maroon 5 played and reminded everyone that there are more members to the band than just Adam Levine (their singer who basically gets all the credit) and they always put on a decent show. It was weird, though, because they were at some off-site location and it was just a live feed at the show. Not sure why it was done that way. Nicki Minaj hit the stage again with Usher and that was a sight… another TV-MA performance. I was actually a little excited to see Usher perform because he is a born performer. He can dance his heart out and has a good voice. Unfortunately, he only danced a little in this performance and his singing was a bit off. What a shame. Then there is Sam Smith (whom I mentioned earlier). His performance was the most low key and the most enjoyable. It was mostly just him and a piano player and he owned the place. I was definitely impressed. I almost forgot 5 Seconds of Summer (it was a forgettable performance) who look like what One Direction would look like if they actually played instruments. They aren’t bad but they aren’t good. 

this is what Fletcher thought of the show
The big one was Beyonce. It was talked about all night and it was this epic mash-up of a bunch of her songs which went on and on for fifteen minutes or so. She was the main performance because she won the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. First of all, Michael Jackson reinvented music video as an art form; so, putting Beyonce up there on his level is sad. Secondly, Beyonce can sing, but her dance moves aren’t that impressive and (most importantly) the majority of her songs don’t make a bit of sense lyrically. She gets a little too much credit, in my mind. And I would have much rather seen her do one or two songs in their entirety instead of a frantic, nonsensical mash-up. It was as if someone put in her album, listened to a song for a minute or so, didn’t like it, then skipped to the next one, didn’t like that one, switched to the next, didn’t like that one… you get the idea. 

The last thing I’ll say is that Jay Pharaoh (current SNL cast member and one of the best impressionists I have ever seen) stole the show. He popped up a few times to remind everyone to vote for the “Artist to Watch” award but he popped up as different people. His Jay-Z and Drake impressions were hysterical. The next time, he was Kanye West and it wasn’t as good, but it was amazing watching him make fun of Kanye while they kept cutting back to Kanye’s new wife, Kim Kardashion West. Top notch stuff. 

Also, you may notice that I didn’t mention many of the awards… that’s because the VMAs are not really about the awards. Anytime Lorde wins best Rock Video for a song like “Royals,” then you can’t take any of the other awards very seriously either. But, the important thing is that Kristi and I had fun relaxing and watching this celebration of pop culture because we could just turn our brains off and enjoy each others’ company while Fletcher actually stayed calm. It was a lovely evening. 

Her Side

Nolan and I rounded out our anniversary trip by a tacking on a two day staycation. This staycation was brought in with a bang by watching the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Nolan and I watch them for very different reasons, but it’s always an interesting show to watch. It’s funny because last year, when we were on our honeymoon and were to the end of a long day, we crashed on the couch in our lovely hotel room. As we were flipping through the channels, we happened upon the VMAs. So, now it might be a kind of tradition we have started… yippee!

As Fletcher and I settled into the couch and Nolan settled into the chair, we turned on the red carpet coverage. Normally this is one of my favorite times of the show. I get to see stars draped in the most ridiculous clothing. That certainly did not disappoint; but, what also didn’t disappoint, was the sad production of the whole thing. MTV really didn’t have a handle on what they were doing. Their red carpet “hosts” stumbled all over their words and shots were cut way too soon (while an interview was still happening) or they would cut to a new shot way before anything worth seeing was happening. We watched a few atrocious performances on the red carpet of some “bands” I had never heard of… and they proved there was a reason for that:  they were terrible.

Then came the actual awards show. Is it bad that my favorite part had nothing to do with a winner or even anyone who presented an award? Hands down, my favorite part was when Jay Pharaoh came on stage about three times and did his impressions of Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Drake. He was spot on and hilarious… as a matter of fact, I could have just watched him the whole night.

Since we actually HAD to watch the awards show, it’s probably a good time to note that things got weird a few times. For instance, Miley sent her “homeless friend” up to accept her award for Best Music Video (or something like that). It was an awkward acceptance… not because the kid was nervous (even though it was extremely obvious he was) but because the camera kept focusing on Miley sitting on a half wall fake crying during his speech. She was obviously doing that for the cameras. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad her way of getting our attention this year was a complete 180 from last year’s bumping and grinding on Robin Thicke.

Nevertheless, the show wasn’t about Miley but was definitely all about “Queen Bey”… oh you don’t know who that is? You didn’t know we had royalty amongst the Rock/Pop genre? Yea, I must have missed that “crowning” as well. Although I presume it was a self crowning situation. I am, of course, talking about the one and only Beyonce. I don’t think anyone can deny that the woman can sing and perform, but I don’t think she NEEDED a set that lasted fifteen or so minutes with a mash-up of a ton of her songs.

The show ended awkwardly when Jay-Z and Blu Ivy (their daughter) came up on stage to present some big award to Beyonce. There were some hugs and a smooch (which was awkward amongst the divorce rumors that have been milling around) and then the screen went black. I thought there was a camera malfunction, but was quickly reminded that it was the poor production of the entire event as the show immediately came back on… from the beginning. Nice segue, guys… NOT.

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