How To Dance Real Slow: Putting the ‘M’ back in MTV

Republished from MOVE Magazine

If you happened to be one of 12.4 million people who stumbled upon Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, you probably caught a glimpse of a few celebrities: Justin Bieber channeling Elton John, Katy Perry channeling her inner Cheesehead and Lady Gaga channeling whoever the hell Jo Calderone is. Meanwhile, Adam Levine probably had his channel clicked anywhere but MTV. The Maroon 5 frontman tweeted, “the VMA’s. one day a year when MTV pretends to still care about music. I’m drawing a line in the sand. fuck you VMA’s.”

Levine — who, it should be noted, has in fact won a Moonman — does have a point. MTV hosting an awards show for music videos is kind of like ESPN trying to host a spelling bee. Wait. That is, the equivalent of The Learning Channel hosting a show about spoiled, six-year-old beauty queens. Um, scratch that. OK, it’s kind of like a network called ABC Family promoting a show that delves into the lives of knocked-up teenagers. All right, so maybe MTV isn’t exactly the only network not sticking to its mission statement, but it might be the one making the least effort to hide its general waywardness. In fact, the Viacom-owned channel recently removed the words “Music Television” from under its MTV logo — an honest move, given its current lineup composed of “Jersey Shore,” “Teen Mom” and “Sixteen and Pregnant.”

So, how does MTV do when it tries to actually fulfill its title? Surprisingly well. Adele and Beyoncé were stunning with their spot-on performances of “Someone Like You” and “Love on Top,” respectively. Oh, and Beyoncé’s preggo, in case you haven’t heard.

Lady Gaga’s male counterpart persona, while occasionally long-winded, was a refreshing break from her typical over-the-top style. It was nice to see her (him?) adorned in simple jeans, V-neck and blazer, rather than meat, frogs and blood.

Chris Brown’s dance/fly number was pretty impressive, what with its rap-collective shout-outs and Nirvana mini-tribute. Although, if Jay-Z’s reaction is any indication, the public eye still might not have completely acquitted Brown for the whole Rihanna incident.

The Amy Winehouse tribute was well-meaning, especially with the Russell Brand eulogy and Tony Bennett duet video, but Bruno Mars was a rather perplexing choice for the “Valerie” number.

The list of strong performances ran surprisingly long. Jay-Z and Kanye West, rap’s biggest BFFs, seemed to have as much fun (a lot) performing “Otis” as they did watching the rest of the show. And Young the Giant, apparently filling the role of obligatory “indie” band, might not linger in obscurity much longer after its gung ho VMA showing.

Lil Wayne closed out the show by celebrating the midnight release of Tha Carter IV with performances of “How to Love” and “John.” Unfortunately, no one could hear the latter thanks to the pervasive censors, but it was still a pretty ill way to drop an album.

Sure, there were a few rough spots, and most of them were Jessie J’s sit-and-sing commercial segues. Forgoing a standard host by relying on the house musician was a potentially ingenious idea, but God knows why MTV picked Jessie J to do it.

Overall, however, MTV hit most of the right notes, and Beyoncé’s baby announcement did a tremendous job of carrying on the VMA spectacle-creating tradition (and she didn’t even have to interrupt anyone to do it). Which raises the question: why doesn’t MTV do this more often? Why doesn’t MTV put the emphasis back on “M” rather than “GTL”?

Judging by the record-setting ratings, it seems as if the network could do well with more music-related programming. But if the “Jersey Shore” cast members’ appearance on the awards show was any barometer of its lingering popularity, it seems like we could be stuck with the “M” standing for “mindless” for a while.



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