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Why the 2011 MTV VMAs Stunk: Relive All the Lowlights

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Everyone loves to grouse about awards shows being disappointing, but last night's MTV Video Music Awards were stunningly bad and -- even worse -- criminally boring. Lady Gaga was supposed to "make history!" Britney Spears was supposed to get a tribute befitting a 29-year-old pop star receiving some sort of lifetime achievement trophy! Amy Winehouse was supposed to be honored by friends and fans! Somebody -- anybody! -- was supposed to do something. But the biggest news to come out of the network's 28th annual awards show was Beyoncé's pregnancy. We're happy for B and Jay-Z, but sad for the millions of people who tuned in to the big show last night hoping to be entertained (UPDATE: according to MTV, a record-shattering 12.4 million!). Here's why:

Lady Gaga fell on her rear.
Everything about Lady Gaga at the VMAs last night just didn't work. She started the show with a rambling several-minute monologue dressed up as her male alter ego Jo Calderone that had the audience straight-up baffled, then performed "Yoü and I" still in character, flung some beer around, jumped atop her piano, and slipped and fell on the aforementioned beer when she dismounted. Not a pretty sight. She returned as Jo Calderone way, way too many times after that (to introduce the lame Britney tribute; to accept an award) and her bit never improved. Gaga's just lucky Russell Brand wasn't hosting, because he wouldn't have been able to resist the urge to tear this lackluster appearance to shreds. (The literal fall comes at 4:16 in below video.)

 

Britney Spears was totally bamboozled.
MTV lured Britney Spears to the VMAs with the promise of big prize -- the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award -- and then failed to recruit any talent to honor her. What's up with that? A fake memo circulating a week before the ceremony claimed she'd be feted by Janet Jackson, Madonna, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and more lady pop stars, but that lineup failed to materialize. After watching a crew of (admittedly awesome) dancers re-creating her most iconic moves, Spears took the stage and was accosted by Jo Calderone (ug), who tried to hijack her moment with some sort of kiss (blargh), and then didn't even get to give an acceptance speech -- she introduced Beyoncé's performance (sad).

Amy Winehouse's crappy memorial.
Amy Winehouse died on July 23rd, which means MTV had a full month to assemble a decent tribute and utterly failed. Russell Brand's brief speech was a wise move -- he'd already penned a moving blog post about the fallen singer -- and the footage of Winehouse in the studio with Tony Bennett was compelling, but why ask Bruno Mars to perform one of her lesser-known songs (that she didn't even write)? Where were the big stars?

The VMAs need to hire a host next year.
Three straight years of hosts dissing the VMA attendees (Brand twice, Cheslea Handler last year) likely made MTV leery about having another emcee, but this year's ceremony could have used one. Comedian Kevin Hart played the role of sorta-host with a tame monologue to kick things off, but after that, the ominous female voice booming out the Nokia Theater's loudspeaker introduced a hodgepodge of musical guests and presenters. This led to uncomfortable segues, like when Rick Ross and Paul Rudd presented, or when Spears had to cut short her own tribute to announce Beyoncé's performance. A host would've given at least some structure (and much-needed comedy) to this otherwise messy affair.

It's no longer cool to be at the VMAs.
Remember when the entire music world used to turn out for the VMAs? It was the cool Grammys, minus the pomp and circumstance of that super serious ceremony. Last night, the VMAs seats were filled with whoever was nominated for a Moonman and an army of MTV-created stars. If you added up all the cast members from MTV shows -- Jersey Shore, Teen Wolf, something called I Just Want My Pants Back -- it seemed like they outnumbered actual musicians three-to-one. We're glad Ronnie from Jersey Shore enjoyed Wayne's performance, but where was Rihanna? Taylor Swift? Eminem? Sure, Gaga, Brit, and Beyoncé were all in the house, but this year's VMAs had a strange B-list quality to it.

Lil Wayne's (bleepin') Grand (bleepin') Finale
Recruited to close out the VMAs, and with Tha Carter IV dropping digitally at midnight, Lil Wayne had an opportunity to end the VMAs on a high note. Instead, MTV's big event finished with a "WTF? That's it???" Weezy opened his performance with "How to Love," a song we hate. After an interlude starring Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," Wayne launched into an expletive-packed rendition of "John" that was so heavily censored, it sounded like the broadcast was still buffering. Between the non-stop bleeps, the rapid-fire strobe lights, and the MTV control room's desire to make sure they got reaction shots from everyone in the audience, Wayne's grand finale was straight-up cacophony. Weezy's "John" performance also highlighted a glaring weakness of Tha Carter IV: Wayne uses the n-word to rhyme one line with another way too often. At times, Wayne will spit out as many as eight consecutive sentences that all end on "n-word." It's poor songwriting, a sign Wayne's skills might be on the decline, and when coupled with an MTV censor, a terrible way to finish out another disappointing VMAs.

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[Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

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