Thank you, Katy Perry. You saved the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards. This was one of those award shows where all the entertainment comes from closeups of Katy Perry boredom faces. Damn, that girl has a warehouse full of them – what Taylor Swift is to “OMG you guys, no way, you really like me!” faces, Katy is to “How in the name of the saints and martyrs and all the ships at sea is this freakshow not over yet?” faces. And this year’s VMA flameout gave Katy – and the rest of us – loads to roll those peepers about.
Tonight Katy’s facial expressions ran the gamut from “One Direction? You actually have two: the Aaron or the Nick” to “either Alicia Keys fired her cough-drop roadie or this is the Whitney memorial montage.” Her funniest closeup came when she leaned in to nuzzle Rihanna’s throat while simultaneously rolling her eyes. It takes superhuman levels of boredom to even attempt the throat-nuzzle eyeroll, but Katy nailed it. Respect!
Most years the VMAs are a dizzy bash celebrating the hilarious highs and lows of pop music. Other years, like this one, they’re barely a show at all. Buried on a Thursday night, scheduled against the big Obama speech at the Democratic National Convention, the VMA trudge felt endless at two hours. Kevin Hart bombed Chelsea-style with his musings on Twilight and Jersey Shore. (Wait, Snooki rhymes with “nookie”? Why didn’t anyone ever mention this before?) You know it’s failure when your host can’t bag as many cheap laughs as John Kerry doing Rocky IV jokes. (As Lil Wayne would say, rest in peace, Apollo Creed.)
One Direction won a well-deserved Best New Artist award for “What Makes You Beautiful,” the song ‘NSync spent so many years trying and failing to get right. (Although the Backstreet Boys pulled it off a few times, especially with the unjustly forgotten “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.”) There were a few live moments: Weezy and 2Chainz getting raw, Taylor Swift doing the Patty Duke in her Daisies, Rihanna turning “Cockiness” into a pussy riot, Green Day kicking ass in the Foo Fighters’ usual token-rock-band slot. But the highlight was the all-too-brief snippet of “Gangnam Style,” which reminded everyone of the loud and sexy and bustling world of pop music that MTV spends all year working so hard to ignore. It’s almost like the whole show was MTV’s way of giving music the Taylor breakup call: “And I’m like, I mean, this is exhausting, you know?” Yeah, we know.
There was a surprising (and cool) shout out to the late great woman-respecter Adam Yauch, which just accentuated the dumbness of the VMAs kissing Chris Brown’s ass. And Chris Brown’s hair, like Chris Brown in general, just keeps accentuating what a fine job Sisqo used to do. Thong-th-thong-thong-thayonara, thucker.
They kept running ads for the final season of Jersey Shore, with a fan quoting the Situation’s immortal line, “This is the shirt before the shirt.” Unfortunately, this year’s VMAs felt more like the socks before the socks. And slipping them off to click over to a few minutes of Barack Obama felt so good – in fact, it felt like turning on some music and blasting it loud.