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Reality Bites: 2013 MTV Video Music Awards

No one would complain if Kanye stole the mike from Taylor Swift v.2013
No one would complain if Kanye stole the mike from Taylor Swift v.2013

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

My generation -- "Generation X" -- has a lot to answer for: "Urkel," grunge, the Macarena. However, our most egregious offense might be constantly bitching about the state of MTV.

"Remember when MTV was good?" is the perpetual complaint. "Good" is subjective for everyone, of course, but what persons of my age cohort are inevitably referring to is the presence of actual music on Music Television. Historians will argue whether video blocks consisting largely of Triumph, April Wine, and Steel Breeze were empirically better than a season 2 Teen Mom marathon, but the definition of quality seems to come down to what mindless electronic droning we prefer while we zone out on the couch for six hours.

Anyway, the Video Music Awards (or "VMAs") have been around since 1984 (sorry again). That first broadcast featured a garter-clad Madonna generating controversy by writhing on the floor to "Like a Virgin." Judging by reaction to last Sunday's broadcast, not much has changed. Our national pastime isn't baseball, it's freaking out.

To start with, I realize writing about the VMAs after two days of outrage and faux sociological discussion kind of makes this The Newsroom of TV blogs. What can I say, Reality Bites is a Wednesday thing, and even if it wasn't, I didn't watch the show until Monday night, because not even the promise of Lady Gaga in a clamshell bikini can tear me away from Breaking Bad.

Speaking of Gaga, it was funny how every element of her opening song ("Applause") - from the scantily clad aspect (not to get all 'get off my lawn' on you, but didn't they use to cut away from bare butts on MTV?) to the wardrobe changes to the Dieter from Sprockets back-up dancers - was structured like a closing number. Three years ago, they would've rolled the credits right after. Overexposure is a bitch.

By the way, that much seen Will Smith family pic was actually a reaction to Gaga, not Miley Cyrus, as was initially reported:

Parents of the year.
Parents of the year.

Either way, who brings a 12-year old to the VMAs?

If I must address the Miley Cyrus thing (which is apparently the case), I'll just say the most embarrassing thing about it wasn't the dry humping of, well, everything or the unfortunate sizing of her costume or even the ubiquitous tongue. That's all part of a sexual continuum that extends tumescently from Madonna's aforementioned floor show to Diana Ross batting Lil' Kim's boob to "Slave 4 U" and will probably end with Swift and Harry Styles resolving their differences by -- I don't know -- reenacting the "Sex Education" skit from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. It's what MTV does, and Cyrus is far from the first young woman to shed her squeaky clean tween image for something raunchier (Britney and "Xtina" were noticeably absent last Sunday night).

No, the worst part was Cyrus' continuing, desperate attempt to distance herself from her Disney past by hilariously swinging as far to opposite end of the entertainment spectrum as possible. I don't get paid enough to get into the socio-economic implications of Cyrus adopting so-called "ratchet" culture, but I will say it was so embarrassing I half assumed she was going for parody (see also Macklemore). Yet all anyone concentrates on is the sex, or at least the female sex, because heaven forfend she put on skimpy underwear while a paunchy Robin Thicke surrounds himself with significantly more attractive women and sings about how he knew they wanted it.

On a side note, Lil' Kim has seen better days. 

The best part? They Photoshopped Lydia in.
The best part? They Photoshopped Lydia in.

Jesus, how many awards are there? 30 minutes in and they gave out two. If the Oscars went at this pace they'd be 72 hours long.

MTV eschewed having an actual host this time around, though they did give former emcee Kevin Hart a few minutes. He was pretty funny, and dead on about Gaga's "yams." Jared Leto, on the other hand, is on the wrong side of 40 for those pants. I hope Leto has seen that Eddie Money Geico commercial, because it's basically his "Ghost of Christmas Future."

Leto introduced Kanye (I can safely leave his last name off at this point, right?), whose shadow did a delightfully AutoTuned version of "Blood on the Leaves." Justin Timberlake's "Video Vanguard" performance was somewhat more interesting, I guess. I've never listened to an entire song of his, for the same reason I've never sat through an entire Beyonce number: musically they're simply frameworks for elaborately choreographed dance routines. In that sense, a medley was perfect because it jumped around enough to keep me from switching over to Duck Dynasty.

And I guess this is where I express my outrage at the brevity of the N'Sync "reunion,: except that would require me to give what Clark Griswold described as a "frog's fat ass" about N'Sync. All I can say is that Timberlake's solo stuff is even less memorable than his former band's. Case in point: the One Direction midgets not only looked as if they had no idea who N'Sync was, they didn't know the words to "Mirrors." That was your musical 'Lifeclock crystal turning red' moment, JT.

Worse, we spent almost *20 minutes* on Timberlake. The show regularly cut to commercials for anywhere from five to seven minutes, and he got the bulk of the airtime over Bruno Mars, who can actually sing and play instruments. Mars, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact he's almost shorter than Prince, won the award for Best Male Video and followed up with a performance of "Gorilla."

Speaking of dorks, Macklemore was next. his speech was what you'd get if Blue October's Justin Furstenfeld rapped Brendan Fraser's soliloquy from Airheads. Mary Lambert remains the best part of that act. We also got to hear/see Drake performing "Started from the Bottom" while walking into the crowd. Apparently he learned the perils of stage diving from Miguel.

The show closed out with Katy Perry singing "Roar," another dim, vaguely "empowering" song a la Pink and Kelly Clarkson, the effect of which was immediately diluted by her taking a break to jump rope in a sports bra and flank herself with "ring girls." I wonder if Steve Dallas got a producer credit.

Seriously though, they should give some kind of achievement award to the line director who captured Swift's "shut the fuck up" (we're done pretending she's a nice person, right?), Styles' hilarious "U mad?" after Swift talked about the inspiration for "I Knew You Were Trouble," and Rihanna and her equally stoned companion non-reacting to absolutely everything. These shots were the best part of the night.

You may now return to your previously scheduled hand wringing.


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