Posted by: el1en | September 15, 2009

The VMAs – Starting A Rumor

Madonna was narcissistic, Kanye demonstrated he knows no limits, the Michael Jackson tribute was lacking oomph, a neutered Russell Brand was strangely unfunny, but none of that truly mattered.  What we saw last night was a television network that was once different, playing to a disenfranchised younger generation, employing the same damn playbook as the networks.  And have you caught the networks’ ratings recently?

In an era where the niche is king, where the mainstream is shrinking, MTV tried to be all things to all people.  Like a cheerleader being nice to the nerds for a few hours.  But didn’t MTV get the memo, THE NERDS RULE!

MTV established a monoculture.  There was no longer an underground, there was no FM to compete with AM, it was what MTV played and everything else, winners and losers.  And to think it was about music is to believe visual stimulation holds no weight, that seeing Britney Spears shake her hips titillates you not a whit.  MTV was the paragon, driving hell-bent into the distance, defining youth culture, for those truly young and those who desired to be young.  But, MTV never saw the cliff ahead, never saw the nascent Internet, a village off to the side.  Hell, the whole entertainment industry didn’t see the Internet and still doesn’t.

Suddenly, we’re back in the sixties.  You’re either with us or against us.  Either you’re wired or your irrelevant.  Either you can tweet, update your social networking site and text all at the same time, or you’re hopelessly out of date.

Facebook and Twitter are tools.  Frameworks wherein individuals place their content, not for everyone, but for their accumulated mass, which could be two or three or a few thousand, but which is rarely millions.  If Whitney Houston can be all over mainstream media and only sell three hundred thousand albums in a country of three hundred million, do you really think the mainstream counts?  The mainstream has become a sideshow!

We had VJs fawning over irrelevant pop stars.  Lady GaGa changed outfits so many times she insured she was perceived as a joke.  Hell, she could barely talk with her neck propped up in a medieval torture device and one eye covered like the Phantom, and when she won her damn award, she had to pull off her Spider-Man mask to speak.

Green Day and the house band proved that music doesn’t work on TV.  And Muse was just a joke.  Real band, trying to merge old with new, refuses to lip-synch so ends up sounding terrible on TV.  Did Muse really need this opportunity? Does anybody need TV?  Don’t they see that you’re inherently subservient to the medium?  That television flattens everything, that all content is grist for the mill?

Madonna, barely looking like herself, made her Michael Jackson tribute about her.  Like we still care about what she has to say, like we’re still in thrall to her throw it all out there, be naked, manipulative persona when millions are revealing their truth online, girls are e-mailing topless photos, it’s like grandma showed up to scold her grandkids, telling them you’ve got to do it her way, dammit.

Kanye…  All the celebrities castigating him today.  You won’t stand up for health care, you won’t risk alienating a single potential fan, but you pile on Kanye when the audience knew he was an egomaniac with no limits years ago?  This is news?

No, this is the kind of moment MTV lives for, the unscripted.  But we used to have RuPaul in a tete a tete with Milton Berle.  Now, we’ve got someone who loves the spotlight so much I’m stunned he doesn’t go door to door, telling everyone how fucking great he is.

Janet Jackson…  Explain what your talent is again?  You shook your surgically enhanced breasts and shapely body to beats crafted by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, you’ve got no innate talent.  As for those dancers replicating Michael Jackson’s moves to the big screen presentation of “Thriller”, it reminded me of nothing so much as a screening of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

And the closing moment with Jay-Z?  This is supposed to drive patrons to the live gigs?  Explain to me how this works in an arena again?  People go to share what the albums mean to them, feel the energy, but what comes out of the speakers…is barely comprehensible.

And Green Day complaining that MTV should play more videos?  Even Tom Freston, who ran MTV, told me years ago that MTV was never going to play more videos, that clips were an on demand item on the Web.  He got fired, but do you really think people are going to sit in front of the box and wait for their favorite video to appear?

Kings Of Leon were nominated, but they didn’t win.  Because they’re not visual enough, on MTV it’s about train-wreck, not music.

Wilco, the critics’ band, they were nowhere in attendance either.

Rather this was a party.  A made for television event.  With sponsors woven into the script (Verizon Wireless anyone?) so a big bad corporation, Viacom, can add to its bottom line.  But have you checked Viacom’s bottom line recently, it’s awful!

If you thought the show sucked, you’re right.  But what you fail to grasp is the silver lining inside all this crap.  Yes, if it’s this bad, what are the odds something better will appear?

EVERYBODY knows the show sucked.  It was just a Sunday night diversion.  With trained seals clapping at appropriate moments to give you the impression that what was going on was important, like on a game show.  But it had nothing to do with music.

MTV is about fame.  For a while there, the two merged, music and fame were interwoven.  But then fame came to rule. Look good, be a pawn in our game and we’ll hook you up with songwriters and stylists, we’ll create a product that will make you famous!  But is that really why anybody picks up an instrument?  For fame?  Is there no reward in music?

Today, when the fame game pays fewer dividends than ever before, we’ve got whores who are trying to hold on to the little that’s left of the old paradigm, and newbies who’ve chucked it all, who are trying to make it on what comes out of the amplifiers, not what you see on the screen.  The only people who have not caught on are those in the mainstream media, flogging each other’s products like they truly matter.  But if NBC is putting Jay Leno on in prime time, and can make money and will be satisfied with a 1.5 rating, which is fewer than 2 million households, does it really make sense to overpay to produce this tripe that so few are truly interested in, that generates less revenue than ever before?

It’s about music.  It’s about generating an audience the old-fashioned way, through hard work and what comes out of the speakers.  Getting lucky on TV doesn’t work, because no one’s paying attention, the active audience is in front of the computer screen, or focusing on their phone as opposed to passively sitting in front of the box.

That’s the revolution the oldster media just doesn’t get.  The days of passivity are done.  We’ve got an active audience. Which is engaged by truth.  All we saw last night was phoniness, an irrelevant train-wreck with the nutritional value of Froot Loops.  You didn’t miss a thing.

Posted via web from Bad Monkeys

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