The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards

bill bodkin looks at the 2011 VMAs … ..


For most of the weekend, Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with thoughts, worries, reactions and updates about Hurricane Irene. But by 9 p.m., the eyes of the world turned towards Los Angeles and the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.

Some might blame the exhaustion from the hurricane, some might blame late-summer boredom — but any way you slice it; the VMAs are still a massive cultural event in this country.

Why? Maybe because it’s something we’ve become conditioned to. For those of us in our mid-20s and older, we grew up on MTV, and the VMAs were our Oscars. We waited in anxious anticipation to see if our favorite videos could possibly be acknowledged for its awesomeness. The show itself was usually a really fun show chock full of crazy once-in-a-lifetime performances, unique presenter pairings and a special “moment” — one that would leave its indelible mark on pop culture.

The 2011 version of the VMAs seemed to be desperate to create “moments.” The atmosphere of this years’ show was a painfully obvious attempt to create moments that would simultaneously send the Twitterverse and Blogosphere into a trending tizzy and ones they could play on highlight reels and bumpers like they’ve done with Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” performance or Kanye’s upstaging of Taylor Swift.

When the credits rolled, the VMAs perfectly summate what the station has become — pretty, bright, shiny short-attention-span theater. Yet we have to give the devil its due: They did create a few honest to goodness “moments” created by strong performances from musical acts and not from stunt casting and ludicrous production value.

Here’s Pop-Break’s breakdown of the “moments” and the performances …

The Moment of the Night
Let’s face it: Lady Gaga’s a genius. She knows how to capture the spotlight and have everyone from celebs to soccer moms talking about her the next day. Her cross-dressing performance as “Joe Calderone” was original and completely out of left field. You’ve got to give her a lot of credit for taking a risk like that. And let’s face it: No one in the crowd knew what was going on when she first came on stage. Did you see the blanks stares? Her live performance of “You And I” was solid, and you’ve got to give her props for bringing Queen’s Brian May onstage to solo his ass off.

It would’ve been even more genius if she didn’t keep reappearing throughout the night as her male alter ego. The act got old really, really quick. Sure, she stayed in character all night and kudos there, but it was just annoying and it got even weirder as the night passed. It was like watching The Fonz and Steve Urkel’s son trying to do an Andrew “Dice” Clay impersonation.

An Almost Moment:
When MTV was announcing the winner for “Best Rock Music Video” with a suddenly skinny Jonah Hill and a suddenly idiotic looking Nicky Minaj presenting, I knew the Foo Fighters, a longtime MTV institution, would win the prize. When accepting the award Dave Grohl had a potentially great moment when he said: “Never lose faith in real rock ‘n roll music. You know what I mean? Never lose faith in that. You might have to look a little harder, but it’s always going to be there.”

I thought this was an awesome statement until they panned to LMFAO, the pop-pranksters behind the songs “Shots” and “Party Rockers Anthem” throwing up the metal horns in agreement and then followed it up by showing Brian May looking completely out of place sitting next to Wiz Khalifa. Any street cred that statement could’ve had was crushed by showing two guys who are the antithesis of rock music and a legendary guitarist looking like a grandpa next to a baked rapper from Pittsburgh.

Weirdest “Moment”
Britney Spears acceptance speech for the “prestigious” Video Vanguard Award was two seconds of thank you’s, then a five minutes of praise and introduction for Beyonce.

The Two Best Moments Not On The Show
Is anyone as excited as I am about Beavis And Butthead returning to MTV? The return commercial couldn’t have been more brilliantly done with the two watching a Shake Weight commercial. And speaking of commercials — the dancing hamsters of Kia Soul-fame breaking it down to LMFAO’s “Party Rockers Anthem” in a Halo-esque video game? Brilliant.

THE PERFORMANCES

Jessie J
She was the house band for the show, and outside of looking like Daryl Hannah from Blade Runner, she and her band did a serviceable job. She has a good voice and despite her busted wheel, she provided an enjoyable but forgettable job sending us in to and bringing us out of commercial.

Jay-Z and Kayne West
Performing on a set they might’ve bought from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s last tour, the dynamic duo definitely “watched the throne” with only the swagger the two biggest names in the game possibly could. They seemed to have a lot of fun performing together and if this is a sample of what their tour will be like — ticketholders are in store for one helluva good time.

Pitbull and Ne-Yo
Pitbull definitely makes up for his horrid 2009 VMA performance where he was sucking wind by the second verse. His laid-back vocals and velvet-smooth persona have fully come forward and his performance of “Tonight” with actor/singer Ne-Yo was very much like the radio version of the song — light and entertaining.

Chris Brown
How many chances are we giving this guy to succeed? Well, this is MTV and look how long they backed Guns ‘n’ Roses. As for this performance, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Brown proved years ago at the VMAs he can dance like nobody’s business, so we didn’t see anything groundbreaking with his moves. And for his high-wire act? Didn’t Pink do the same thing few years back? His inclusion of a Wu-Tan Clan song was a joke and his dance moves to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” were atrocious. Jumping in a circle and fist-pumping? We’ve seen The Sitch do better in Seaside.

Young The Giant
Very odd to see these guys performing on the VMAs. I adore the song “Your Body.” It’s probably in my Top 5 songs of the year and they performed it with reckless abandon and fiery passion — which caused them to be a little sloppy. I guess my confusion is with all the big name acts and million dollar production value on the show, why have a bunch of hip cats in jeans and plaid shirts rock out?

Beyonce
She just captivates. Seriously, when haven’t you seen a Beyonce performance, stopped what you were doing and taken notice? Even if it’s not her best performance, Beyonce always commands an audience. Her reveal of her baby bump was a nice little “awww” moment. And seeing Jay-Z’s genuinely happy reaction was a nice touch.

Bruno Mars
I’ve never been into his music or his Richie Valens-wannabe act, but I can’t deny the man’s pipes. He can sing probably better than 90 percent of people in the pop game. His cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” was absolutely fantastic. The harmonies, the energy — perfect.

And we save the best for last …

Adele
If MTV wanted a “moment,” they got it with Adele. Her voice is absolute dynamic. Her performance of her new single “Someone Like You” seemed to throw a hush over the audience. People paid attention with great enthusiasm and intensity as the early 20s Brit belted out her soulful ballad of heartbreak. Her album has sold well, her songs get tremendous airplay, but on a grand stage like this, Adele’s star was born tonight.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

1 COMMENT

  1. “Her cross-dressing performance as “Joe Calderone” was original and completely out of left field. You’ve got to give her a lot of credit for taking a risk like that”

    Problem is, this wasn’t orignal. Annie Lennox did this at a Grammy performance. Annie performed in drag (similar black hair and sideburns).