The MTV Video Music Awards: A Running Diary


It’s been another year, so it’s time for another one of these. Since the ceremony was in New York this year, I actually tried to get in, but no dice: they wanted to relegate me to one of those weird press bunkers like the one they had at the CMAs, where they have the show running on a couple of TVs and every once in a while a celebrity wanders through to get her picture taken. Whenever one of those photo-ops happens, they actually mute the TVs, so you end up seeing less of the show than you would if you just watched it from home. So I just watched it from home. Let’s get this party started.

Quick note: Matthew Fluxblog has been doing these things for years. I stole his idea last year, and I’m stealing it again.

7:24: On the red carpet pre-show, Suchin Pak is lovingly describing a Chevy Tahoe. This is not a good start. The All-American Rejects are in the Tahoe.

7:27: MTV’s resident weird bug-eyed old man John Norris now has frosted tips. It’s like he wakes up in the morning trying to think of ways to make himself more annoying. He’s talking to LL Cool J and 50 Cent, who are talking about their new bad-idea joint-project thing. LL bashes Def Jam, which is starting to become a cool thing to do.

7:32: My Chemical Romance, who apparently are about to release an epic rock-opera about cancer or something, play on the roof of Rockefeller Center, and it looks vaguely terrifying up there. The singer now has short blonde hair, and he’s wearing some kind of antique military waistcoat. They have a bunch of people dressed like skeletons as their backup singers. The song sounds like ass, but the spectacle is great; they’re like the new Smashing Pumpkins.

7:44: Suchin Pak asks Paris Hilton if her record-release party was the best party of her life, and Paris actually dodges the question.

7:47: Three of the four Killers now have mustaches. Brandon Flowers’ creepy-sloppy child-molester shit is unquestionably the worst. The drummer used to look like Ryan Seacrest; Bridget points out that he now looks like Jason Lee on My Name is Earl, which makes me wonder if they have a new drummer. (Fluxblog also noticed.)

7:54: John Norris interviews Diddy, but Diddy refuses to say a word. Instead, he has the guy who played the kid who worked at the country club in ATL do all his talking for him, which is some next-level Farnsworth Bentley shit.

8:00: The proper show begins with an awesome slow-motion shot of Jay-Z standing on top of a building surrounded by spotlights, looking vaguely like Michael Jackson on the cover of HIStory.

8:01: Justin Timberlake comes out, dancing to “My Love” with dramatic backlighting. Unfortunately, he’s singing and not lip-syncing, and his voice sounds really thin and chirpy. The track switches to “SexyBack” while Timbaland comes out, and Timberlake and Timbaland actually start doing some sort of crazy-goofy choreographed dance, Tim playing Jerome to Justin’s Morris Day and then cheerleading while Justin beatboxes. Timbaland’s dancing is great in the exact same way as OK Go’s choreographed videos are, but I’m afraid nobody’s going to notice.

8:09: Jack Black’s overblown-ego shit tends to be fun for about five minutes and then unbearable afterwards, but we’re in the good five minutes here, as he runs out in an astronaut costume, which catches on fire. Then, he’s in an Elvis jumpsuit and singing some goofy metal song while sending up the whole epic-intro shtick; Montel Williams is somehow involved. I enjoyed this, but there’s no way it’ll work for the rest of the show.

8:12: The Raconteurs are playing “White Light/White Heat” with Lou Reed? What the fuck is this, the Grammys? In related news, Jack White is a dipshit.

8:14: When Jack Black introduces Lil Kim, he actually starts reading her teleprompter lines, and I can’t even tell if it’s an intentional fuckup. Prison guards lead Lil Kim out to the stage, and she’s wearing an orange jumpsuit, which she then rips off; I love this shit. She babbles incoherently for a few minutes before managing to introduce the nominees for Best Male Video.

8:17: James Blunt wins Best Male Video? What the fuck?

8:25: Andre 3000 is wearing pants tucked into cowboy boots, just like a Williamsburg hipster-chick. “My Humps” wins Best Hip-Hop Video. I don’t know who votes for these things, but whoever they are, they’re zero-for-two so far. Taboo: “Yo, positive hip-hop can really make it!” Ha.

8:29: The Rock now has gross oily hair, and he’s out to introduce Shakira? That doesn’t even make sense. Shakira does “Hips Don’t Lie” as a big Bollywood dance number. It’s pretty good, except for the abysmal Wyclef guest-rap. Unfortunately, Wyclef and the Rock don’t take advantage of a golden opportunity to reprise “It Doesn’t Matter.”

8:41: I was ordering pizza, so I missed it, but apparently 50 Cent said something about KRS-One. I love it when he does that; I always imagine steam coming out of KRS’s ears.

8:45: E-40 seriously went all the way to New York just to stand behind Lil Jon and not say anything.

8:46: Ludacris and Pharrell emerge from a giant bank vault to do “Money Maker,” which would be a lot cooler if the song was any good. The Pussycat Dolls come up behind them on an elevator riser while Luda yells “Pussycat Dolls!” a bunch of times.

8:57: The Raconteurs are the “house band” for the night, which I guess means they get to play like five seconds of a song every time the show comes back from commercials. Jack White is a dickface.

8:58: Jack White does the obligatory Tenacious D bit, and it’s pretty funny.

8:59: Jessica Simpson can’t seem to make words come out of her mouth and form sentences. The Pussycat Dolls win Best Dance Video and read some of their thank-yous off a Blackberry; it’s definitely the first time I’ve ever seen anyone do that.

9:05: Chris Brown is out to introduce OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” treadmill-dance, which is pretty funny. I’ll take this opportunity to become the millionth person to say that I totally love these OK Go choreographed-dance videos and I wish they’d quit making music and just make dance-videos full-time. I’m actually really impressed that they manage to pull off the whole performance live without ever really fucking up. A couple of them lose the beat for a second or two, but nobody falls on his face. Bridget: “This sounds like ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire.'”

9:14: Shaun White walks out to “Kick Push” even though it’s a skateboarding song and he’s a snowboarder. I guess there aren’t too many snowboarding songs.

9:16: The All-American Rejects do an uneventful rendition of “Move Along.” I like this song, but it’s a bit weird to see a band playing a song that’s been out for months with no big guests or set-pieces or anything. This show is all about blinding spectacle, and this is maybe the most normal, pedestrian moment in VMA history.

9:19: I can’t imagine anyone really cares about Nick Lachey or Nicole Ritchie, but here they are together, presenting an award. Pink wins something, and half her head is shaved. She talks in a fake valley-girl voice and generally acts like an asshole. Bridget: “Don’t act like you’re too cool to be there if you’re there.”

9:32: Chamillionaire wins Best Rap Video? And he has cornrows now? Did he always have cornrows but nobody could tell because he always wore a doo-rag? In a nice moment, he dedicates the award to HAWK. In a weird moment, he gets mad that 20/20 scheduled an interview with him about racial profiling and then cancelled it.

9:36: Time for one of the night’s few epic performances. Beyonce recreates the “Ring the Alarm” video, complete with riot-gear cops and an utterly impractical trench-coat that she swishes around a lot. It culminates in a total Rhythm Nation dance sequence, and then she finishes singing the song on top of an elevated platform that takes her thirty feet above the audience.

9:46: Diddy rubs the Danity Kane chart victory in everyone’s faces.

9:47: It’s really weird seeing DJ Drama on this, yelling the way he always yells. T.I. charitably delays his own performance long enough to let Young Dro rap like two bars of “Shoulder Lean” before doing a triumphant version of “What You Know” in front of a giant lit-up “King” sign. A huge group of little kids run out to do the snap music dance, which doesn’t make much sense, since “What You Know” is like the opposite of snap music.

9:51: By this time, Jack Black’s whole thing has totally worn out; he’s just grunting and grindig and baring his teeth and generally acting like he’s spent most of the evening with his face buried in a mountain of coke like the bad guy from The Crow.

9:52: Speaking of coke, Jordan Catalano is now onstage. Bridget: “He looks like a bitchy high-school girl.” The All-American Rejects, who are totally drunk, win Best Group Video and actually seem to be excited about it.

9:56: The Raconteurs again. I sort of like “Steady As She Goes,” but Jack White is still a fuckass.

10:02: Shockingly enough, Rihanna proves herself to be yet another celebrity who can barely talk. She’s presenting an award for Best Ringtone? That’s a real thing? Fort Minor wins, and Mike Shinoda thanks Jay-Z. When the camera pans to Jay, he’s in the crowd sitting next to Nas. I know they’re friends now and everything, but that seems like a bit much.

10:05: Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy is wearing a goddam cape. Fuck that guy, seriously.

10:07: Panic! at the Disco must be the first band to blow up huge by exclusively targeting the high-school drama-nerd demographic. Their performance is some Moulin Rouge bullshit. I don’t understand why MTV bleeps the “god” part of “goddam” instead of the “damn” part.

10:10: According to Fergie, the girl from Little Miss Sunshine is “the future of film.” She comes out, and they dance to “Super Freak” together. I’m pretty sure this qualifies as child abuse. They’re supposed to be presenting the Best New Artist award, but the girl can’t seem to pronounce the words “Avenged Sevenfold.”

10:20: In a taped skit, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline play at being white trash. They’re oddly unconvincing.

10:23: Beyonce deservingly wins Best R&B Video for “Check On It.” Slim Thug emerges from somewhere and turns out to be about a foot taller than Jay-Z. I knew he was a big guy, but isn’t Jay also supposed to be tall?

10:24: Kanye West comes out to give an epic introduction for Hype Williams’ Vanguard Award, and he goes way off script: “Everyone wanna complain about te letterbox, but if you look at Andy Warhol, Picasso, what you paying for is the signature style.” The montage of Hype videos is just awesome. Busta comes out with the African dancers from the “Put Your Hands Up Where My Eyes Can See” video and performs the song, and then, in a great moment, Missy Elliott comes out in the Michelin Man suit from the video for “The Rain” with her hair in finger-waves and everything. Wow, that was awesome. In his acceptance speech, Hype comes across as a really nice guy.

10:35: Sarah Silverman does a riff about how Paris Hilton needs to lose weight, how Silverman is worried about her. It comes off way better than that random Dane Cook bullshit from last year.

10:43: Christina Aguilera comes out to sing one of the big, showy ballads from the second disc of Back to Basics with a huge string section and Linda Perry on piano. I like a lot of what Christina’s been doing lately: how she’s gained a certain poise and learned to deploy her melisma strategically. This song is seriously boring, though. Ryan Dombal: “It’s a little too ‘Dream On.'”

10:47: Lou Reed comes out to present an award with Pink, a pairing with some serious train-wreck potential. Reed is wearing, like, an Earth Day T-shirt tucked into some white cargo pants. Pink sings something about George Bush and then says, “OK, I’m done.” Reed slurs something about how MTV needs to play more rock videos. All this somehow leads to the two of them presenting AFI with Best Rock Video. Davey Havok says, “Wow, Lou Reed!” and reaches out to touch him, and Reed fliches back like Havoc had leprosy.

10:51: The Raconteurs are now playing “Cheap Sunglasses” with Billy Gibbons, which is pretty awesome. I’m running out of cusswords for Jack White.

10:58: The Black Eyed Peas are now presenting the Best Rap/Hip Hop Fusion award? Huh? OK, no, it’s a joke about how the other guy from Tenacious D is joining the Black Eyed Peas, which takes an incredibly long time to lead to a Tenacious D song. I thought that shit was over.

11:03: The Jackass guys are out to present the Viewers’ Choice Award, and they can barely stand up. This may be the most cracked-out awards show of all time.

11:07: Queen Latifah comes out to do an our-planet-is-dying speech and introduce Al Gore? What the fuck? Gore: “I was not planning on being here, but MTV told me Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back, so here I am.” Oof. He’s talking about global warming, of course, which I guess makes for a nice little throwback to MTV’s Tabitha Soren social-consciousness era, but it couldn’t be more awkward or out-of-place here.

11:16: Jennifer Lopez is wearing one of those latex caps that swimmers wear.

11:19: Panic! at the Disco wins Video of the Year as emo officially becomes the new hair metal. Some guy named Six jumps up from the audience to interrupt the show and promote his new MTV show, which I guess means he’s not even from the audience. Even the guerilla interruptions on this show are lame.

11:21: Axl Rose comes out wearing a shirt unbuttoned to the naval and emitting a high-pitched screech. Between Axl and Jordan Catalano, this show is coming pretty close to dismantling every celebrity crush Bridget ever had. If Julian Casablancas would start picking his nose and eating it and Adrien Brody would kick a dog, it would be complete. Axl is introducing the Killers, who do “When You Were Young.” It’s a good song, and they play it well, but I’m mostly just glad that the show is finally ending. For a show supposedly based on dazzling spectacle and furious unpredictability, this was an awfully boring show. With the trainwreck Jay-Z/Linkin Park/Paul McCartney collabo and the bizarro Sly Stone tribute, this year’s Grammys managed to be more interesting, and I’m not sure that’s ever happened before.