I think Snooki said it best: “I feel like a pilgrim from the [bleeeep!]-in’ Twenties!” Snooki was referring to the task of washing clothes in the sink (oh yeah right Sammi, like those short-shorts have never had “Ron Ron juice” spilled on them before), but she could have been referring to the ancient tradition of watching music on MTV. As Snooki would say, “Who does that anymore?” So yesterday’s Video Music Award nominations have an bittersweet flavor. During the VMA show, there will be brief snippets of all these videos — but then we’ll never see them on MTV again. It’s enough to make Sammi cry. Well, okay, anything is enough to make Sammi cry. (How long do we have to wait for the episode where J-Woww punches her out? Can’t come fast enough.)
MTV went on the air 29 years ago this week, which means 28 years and 51 weeks that people have been complaining MTV doesn’t play music anymore. But really, MTV doesn’t play all that much music any more, so the VMA nominations keep generating more confusion every year. All this year’s nominees combined didn’t get half much screen time as Pauly D’s Israeli stalker. (And why doesn’t she have her own show yet?) But MTV relishes its vestigial role as a starmaker, so every year it puts all its clout into making the VMAs the biggest, splashiest, loudest show-biz extravaganza of the year, honoring all this music for existing, after a year of paying barely any attention to it. Maybe MTV is like Sammi, clinging to that past relationship, hoping to get back together with music, even though music, like Ronnie, doesn’t give a crap because it’s busy getting obliviated down at the club. But like Sammi says (sniff!) “things don’t always end like a fairy tale ends.”
Lady Gaga got 13 VMA nominations, more than any artist has ever gotten in a single year. Yet it’s funny because Gaga has built up her artistic muscles by making videos that are defiantly too big for MTV — too long, too obscene, too flamboyant. You can’t make a serious argument that MTV played a role in making these videos such a huge part of pop culture. So are the VMAs trying to play catch-up with the Gaga school of cool, or trying to make amends? Either way, all the Gaga nominations were a shrewd call, because nobody can deny Gaga has revitalized the entire art of music video. That’s why she’s been imitated all year (and no doubt even more next year) by every pop star with a wig and a camera. As the Lady herself put it yesterday, when she got the good news about her VMA nominations: “God put me on Earth for three reasons: to make loud music, gay videos, and cause a damn ruckus.”
This year’s crop is an undeniable bunch of videos, as strong as any list of nominees ever. Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” and “My First Kiss”? Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”? Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”? Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” “Video Phone” and “Bad Romance”? These are all videos that do exactly what videos are supposed to do, which is combine a catchy song with a flamboyant pop star personality. They show exactly why fans continue to love music videos, and why stars continue to love making them. There can’t be any reasonable doubt about the state of the art — music videos are hitting an amazing creative peak right now, and anybody who disagrees just isn’t paying attention. The video starlets are definitely enjoying a moment. What isn’t clear is whether MTV wants to be part of that moment.
The VMAs are a staged date where music and MTV get back together mega-awkwardly — kind of like one of those scenes on The Hills (R.I.P., bitches!) when Audrina used to go out to a club and then “accidentally” run into Justin Bobby, just so she could have issues and feel feelings. We know this is a meeting of convenience, scripted just to fill a hole in an episode — but we still hope this meeting might lead to something. The VMAs are like that: Justin Bobby is MTV, and we the music fans are Audrina. We know we shouldn’t take it to heart — we know we’re just seeing each other once a season because we’re supposed to. We know Justin Bobby is full of crap when he tells us he misses us, or that we look nice with our new boyfriend YouTube, or that he regrets letting us slip away that night in Cabo. What was that line Justin Bobby used to feed Audrina? “We’re a big Catch 22. Ninety percent of my time with you is pretty right on … but I’ll pretty much always be there for you.”
That was a classic. Well, that’s what MTV tells music fans every year with the VMAs. It’ll pretty much always be there for us. And like Audrina, we know it’s a bunch of baloney, but we buy it because we want to believe. And we do. Pretty much.