2011 MTV Video Music Awards: The Running Diary

Like last year, I return to the depths of MTV’s current culture for the Video Music Awards. Unlike in 2010, I’m a lot more familiar with this year’s crop but that doesn’t mean you will be.

If this is your first time here, I’m 33 and live in New Hampshire. I am very much into music with the 90s alternative scene being my main influence growing up. I have lived all over the music map and once was the music guy for a pro hockey team for six years. I’m still waiting for a Top 10 song of clap chants.

If this year’s show proved anything, it’s that the current philosophy of always being in the public eye is still holding true in pop music and that the Video Music Awards is anything but about music….except for a young British singer.

Adele - Josh Nason

Yep, Adele is pretty great.

9:00 PM
We kick off with a greaser-looking person doing a monologue about Lady Gaga. Except, this is Lady Gaga. I have no idea what she’s talking about, but it sounds like she’s acting as a jilted Gaga lover. Girls are screaming throughout her monologue, which kinda kills it. Eventually she sings a song. Queen’s Brian May comes out for a guitar solo. And we’re off.

9:10 PM
Comedian Kevin Hart is not the host tonight, but is doing a monologue as if he is. Midget is bleeped out during his rant. Yes. Midget is as bad as any swear word, according to MTV.

9:16 PM
Best Pop Video is up first with Nicki Minaj and Jonah Hill presenting. Weight loss jokes are made. Britney Spears pulls it out, amidst a group that features Adele and Katy Perry. This feels like an upset but it’s perhaps because Spears feels culturally irrelevant into today’s music scene. She thanks God. People boo.

Apparently there’s another Harold and Kumar movie coming out?

9:23 PM
Kanye and Jay-Z come out to perform the first single from ‘Watch The Throne”. This is followed up by Miley Cyrus and Shaun White presenting for Best Rock Video. The Black Keys, Foo Fighters, Foster The People, Mumford & Sons and Cage The Elephant are up with the veterans Foo taking the award. Apparently, the old guard is going to make their presence felt tonight.

9:35 PM
The old guys keep going as Will Ferrell, Seth Rogan and Jack Black (as the future Beastie Boys) do a bit with the crew from Odd Future to intro the Best Hip Hop Video. Nicki Minaj (decked out in an outfit that has no description) wins for Super Bass in a star-studded group and does her best Micro Machines commercial voice in giving her speech.

Jessie J. gets the honor as house band tonight and much like the first time I saw her on Saturday Night Live last season, her voice is truly something. Even though she’s chair-ridden due to a giant walking boot, she has still managed to bring it all night.

So far tonight, I’ve seen ads for a new Footloose movie, the return of Beavis and Butthead, a new Real World and more. I feel like I’m in high school again.

Katy Perry/Kanye West - MTV VMA

Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur/ WireImage

9:45 PM
In a category that makes an awful lot of sense (Best Collaboration), Katy Perry and Kanye West win for E.T….which I had no idea idea West contributed to. Perry has evolved into quite a star. West is quite subdued getting his award, which means it’s true: no one will ever forget The Taylor Swift Moment.

Rick Ross and Paul Rudd toss us to Pitbull and Neyo who perform one of the ‘Bull’s big club hits, “Get Me Everything Tonight.” People are definitely into this song, even the fellow celebs. Pitbull is decked out in a white blazer and red pants, which is not the outfit I expected her. A Tool-esque laser show breaks out which is pretty awesome. Best performance of the young night.

9:55 PM
Perry re-emerges in her second outfit of the night and introduces Adele, who has become quite a star in her own right. She performs Someone Like You with just a backing piano and has a presence of someone twice her age. The hype I’ve heard is earned. Tremendous stuff that gets a standing ovation from the crowd.

10:10 PM
Kim Kardashian introduces Best Male Video with Cee-Lo, Kanye West, Bruno Mars, Eminem and Justin Bieber (!!!) up as nominees. The very Ellen-looking Bieber wins and thanks Jesus. Alright then.

Joe Jonas (of Jonas Brothers fame) and Victoria someone introduce Chris Brown. I guess the whole punching Rihanna thing has been forgiven and forgotten? He does a through-the-decades deal featuring Wu Tang and Nirvana clips, lip syncing through the whole thing. At some point, just call it a dance performance and remove the microphone. The crowd gives him a standing ovation. Again, Rihanna. Anyone?

Britney Spears - VMA

Britney At The VMAs - Getty Images

10:24 PM
Gaga, still clad and talking as if she’s a New York 50s greaser, introduces Britney Spears who is receiving this year’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award. She says she had posters of Spears on her wall as a youngster and would touch herself. As they run through a dance routine covering all her videos and looks, it’s pretty incredible to realize how big a star Spears was in her day. She’s still only 29 years old.

Gaga and Spears tease the Madonna kiss. Gaga continues to act like a man and it’s very odd. Spears gives no acceptance speech which is also strange. Very odd segment.

They then introduce Beyonce for a performance of Love On Top. The camera catches Adele singing and she gets embarrassed which means she’s still like most 23-year-olds.

Beyonce finishes off her performance by opening up her jacket and revealing she’s pregnant, which apparently was the whole point of this segment. Did Spears just not want to say anything? I’m confused by this.

10:40 PM
Selena Gomez and Taylor Lautman introduce Best New Artist, voted on by the fans. Wiz Khalifa, Foster The People (who look outside their element here), Tyler, The Creator, Big Sean and Kreayshawn are up with Tyler taking the award. The entire Odd Family crew gets up on stage but Tyler (with his tye-dye shirt cat shirt) stands out. He swears a lot and the crew disappears.

Then Jared Leto and a random actress emerge to introduce Young The Giant, who I’ve never heard of. What stands out here is how much Leto looks like a gigantic douchebag in his get-up. Think hipster meets 80s irony meets someone you want to punch directly in the face. This Young The Giant song is pretty good and the leader singer clearly sees early Elvis Presley as an influence.

10:53 PM
The Jersey Shore and Cloris Leachman (yes, I’m not making that up) come out and Leachman starts talking…except the microphone is down by her side. She does some Jersey Shore jokes and says she’s ‘DTF’ with Ronnie.

Nicki Minaj - VMA

Nicki Minaj - Getty Images

They present Best Female Video (Adele, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga) with Gaga (Ga-guy?) winning. I still don’t get this whole get up. Leachman is bent over when Gaga comes up on stage and the Shore girls audibly can be heard saying ‘God damn it’ about something.

Gaga is apparently pretending she isn’t here and this Pacino character she’s attempting to pull off is there instead.  It doesn’t work as she tries to give an emotional speech jumping between characters.

This whole segment was disastrous. There’s trying to do something big and then, there was this.

Jessie J is still going strong. I will take her over Gaga any day of the week.

11:03 PM
Russell Brand comes out and gives a tribute to Amy Winehouse. Katy Perry is showing wearing some odd getup with a cube on her head. I have a feeling Perry, Gaga and Minaj are going to try to one-up each other every year at these shows. Brand talks for a while and brings out Tony Bennett (remember that old timers theme?) who talks about his duet with her.

A video is shown of a very healthy looking Winehouse singing with Bennett. They segway to a Bruno Mars performance of Valerie and go through a photo montage.

By comparison, this made the previous segment look like public access work. This was tremendous. Mars has the doo-wop era down. Talented dude.

11:18 PM
We get our first look at The Hunger Games, which apparently is going to be a huge movie series. Then Katie Holmes returns from Cruise-esque exile and introduces Video Of The Year. Hey, it’s Katie Holmes. I said “Wow”.

Adele, Bruno Mars, Tyler, The Creator, Beastie Boys and Katy Perry are up for the award. If there’s any justice, the Beastie Boys will win for their spectacular return. Sadly, there is no justice as Perry and her giant yellow block on her head win the award. The world is unfair sometimes.

11:22 PM
On the eve of his new album droppin’ (that’s what the kids say anyway), Lil’ Wayne closes the show with his auto-tune style. He breaks out some ballad which seems very out of character. but that lasts before a minute before he launches into a metal-tinged profanity-laced montage. Then the show just ends.

What Did We Learn?

– Pop music still dominates the landscape. More importantly, pop music image dominates the landscape.

– There’s a talented crop of female singers out there, but aside from Adele and even Jessie J., they seem to want to outweird each other as opposed to out-perform. I get it’s part of the packaging, but at some point, the kids gotta grow up.

– Lady Gaga is overexposed. How anyone can think otherwise is beyond me.

– The Winehouse tribute was really well done, humanizing someone that had been vilified for drug and alcohol abuse. People are still people, even with their faults.

– Rock music on MTV (and I mean REAL rock music) has never been more of a dead topic. Like last year, this year’s Best Rock Nominees had more of an Abercrombie and Fitch feel than authentic sweaty club in Los Angeles.

In all, this was a decent show that had its moments. Those moments, however, are for a much younger age than 33.

Josh Nason is a writer that covers mixed martial arts (FIGHT! Magazine, WrestlingObserver.com, WGAM/ESPN Radio NH, BloodyElbow.com) and writes on pop culture stuff from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter.


3 thoughts on “2011 MTV Video Music Awards: The Running Diary

  1. Agreed on so many levels. Some additional commentary, if I may:

    – Somehow missed the beginning of Gaga’s performance. To the point that Nicole and I didn’t actually know who was performing. I said to her at one point (when Gaga was on the piano) “Wouldn’t it be awesome if she fell?” And then once she got back on the stage, bit the dust. Awesome.

    – Adele: WOW. She can sing. Best comparison I could come up with was a cross between Amy Winehouse and Christina Aguilera. Not sure if that’s entirely accurate, but it’s what popped in my head.

    – Overall awkwardness: As you put it, the desire “out-weird each other as opposed to out-perform” is spot on. The whole show (at least what I stayed awake for) seem disjointed, strange, and just awkward. I’m sorry, but if MTV isn’t entirely to blame for the stupidity/awkwardness of today’s youth, it’s the #1 offender.

    – RIP Rock: Again, you couldn’t be more right with REAL rock is dead (in MTV’s eyes). I’m glad Dave Grohl said what he did, but here’s the sad thing…in this case, I have to agree with MTV. New rock these days is TERRIBLE. It’s sad that MTV rode the coattails of 80’s rock, 90’s grunge, and the alternative rock of the early 2000’s to help make it what it is today, only now to have completely shunned the genre. But the new “radio rock” today blows. And the “Best Rock Video”? Joke. Foo Fighters were the only band even remotely close to resembling rock (Disclaimer – I have the Foster the People album; it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but not in the least bit “rock”). Funny that Miley Cyrus made a remark about Aerosmith winning the “Best Rock Video” award 4 times; how many kids in that audience do you think have ever heard OF Aerosmith, let alone heard them?

    Loved the piece, you definitely captured a lot of what all of us 30+ folks were thinking.

    • Great comments, Scott! Rock is in a very odd place these days. Major touring acts are essentially forgotten by MTV (think DMB, PJ, etc) even though they consistently sell out venues and have loyal fanbases. I don’t think MTV is shying away that they’re a cultural network with music as an influence — not a main driver like we all remember.

      Still, did they have to take VH1 with them?

  2. Did you just call DMB a rock band?

    I was at work so I didn’t watch it and I didn’t even hear all of the awards, but, to me, the only one they really got right was the Odd Future/Tyler the Creator one – and that was voted on by fans?

    I don’t really consider myself a music snob – some of my tastes are decidedly mainstream and low-brow – but I do appreciate variety (and melody, harmony, talent and raw power) and there is none of that on MTV (or any of its spinoff stations) these days.

    Things I’m over/don’t see the appeal of: Kanye (no, no one is going to forget the Taylor Swift thing – but I simply think he’s untalented (or should at least, as should Diddy, stick to making beats)), Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown (how has everyone gotten past the domestic abuse thing?), Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, 30 Seconds to Mars, anybody who started on Disney and is now trying to convince the world that they are bigger than that and Jersey Shore.

    Oh. And why do people think Pitbull is good? At all? In any way? At any thing?

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