We Love the VMAs Because They're Rigged
Anthony Quintano via Flickr
"If, for any reason, this voting process is interrupted, is found to have been tampered with in any way, or for any other reason that Sponsor believes in its sole discretion to be reasonably necessary, Sponsor reserves the right to select the winners at its discretion."
This is what it says at the bottom of the MTV Video Music Awards voting page, and what it basically means is that MTV can completely disregard the fan voting results and choose the winner they want, for lots of different reasons. Total baloney, right?! Nine year-old me is fuming right now at the thought of all my votes for Kelly Clarkson's "Behind These Hazel Eyes" being nothing but a waste of time, a mere speck in my DisneyChannel.com-filled browser history lost to some overarching marketing deal.
The idea of these popular fan-voted music awards shows "rigging the system" has been gossiped about for years now, although a quick skim through the terms and conditions page on many a voting Web site can give some solid proof to speculators out there. But it recently popped up again when a couple of Viners sent out some pretty angry, accusatory tweets after not winning the Teen Choice Awards they were nominated for.
Now, you may be thinking, "Sure the petty TCAs pick the winner that will leave the overall majority of tween girls satisfied, but the VMAs? Who strive on the basis of being 'all about the fans'?"
When you think about it, it makes tons of sense. The VMAs have been deemed "Super Bowl for youth," so of course such a huge annual event has to pull some stunts in order to keep such a large audience tuned in. Mind you, they didn't even start allowing fans to vote until the 2000s, and no one can see the results. So shouldn't we expect them to tweak the outcomes in order to make for a more entertaining viewing experience? I'm going to push it and say I even prefer it this way.
As an avid music awards-show fanatic myself, I can say that the last thing we remember from these events are the awards. It's a performance/fashion show at its core, and what fills our Twitter feeds the next morning isn't a recap of who won "Best Female Pop Video," it's Nicki Minaj angering Christians with her Exorcist-themed performance, it's Marilyn Manson showing up with near-naked Rose McGowan on the red carpet.
The basis of how networks choose these winners is all about media coverage. It's about viewership. It's about social-media stats. It's about business deals between artists and the powers that be. It's about making fans happy, and -- excuse me as I channel my inner conspiracy theorist -- it's also sometimes about making fans unhappy, because unhappy viewers cause social-media uproars, which in turn causes more media attention. Right? I just love the drama of it all.
These awards are all simply promotional tools used to make certain artists seem more prestigious, and it seems like each year a different artist gets his or her turn. Every time after a VMA or Grammy Awards ends, you'll hear people calling it "the year of _____." Maybe a certain artist racked up a high number of awards on that given night, or maybe we just happen to see a lot of a particular artist one year.
The 2004 and 2010 Grammys were all about Beyonce, who received six awards on each night. The 2012 awards were all about Adele, who received five Grammys and had the whole show lead up to her performance. Of course, sometimes artists deserve this heightened recognition, like the two I just mentioned. However, a lot of times you can just smell something fishy.
Who thinks this year's VMAs will be the year of Miley? Yes, I think that all of this is planned way ahead of time.
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Here's another example: Lady Gaga at the 2010 VMAs. That year, she received a whopping 13 nominations (the most in VMA history) and won eight, including Video of the Year for "Bad Romance."
I think it's safe to say that artists are informed beforehand that they won the award, and Gaga definitely knew this because she came prepared -- she arrived with three different wardrobe changes planned for the three times she was going to have to walk onstage, ending the night in her now-iconic meat dress (shock value at its finest).
She used this big moment to promote her music by singing a short clip of mega-hit-in-the-making "Born This Way," creating a huge stream of media coverage and getting the general public excited for its release. All of these things ultimately made the night, and arguably the next ten months or so, all about Gaga, and her Born This Way album went on to sell 1 million copies in its first week. What a marketing genius.
Another example of these business schemes in action is Britney Spears at the 2008 VMAs, the year after Spears' mental breakdown. Unsurprisingly, the night was all about her. Britney opened the show with "Piece of Me," had some lengthy monologue with Jonah Hill onstage afterwards, and won all three of the awards she was nominated for, including Video of the Year.
Many called out the explicit publicity stunt, while others argued back by saying she deserved the awards sooner or later, for all she has done for MTV. Was this just a way to make Spears' return seem like a true "comeback"? I guess it's all cool with me, because I just loved to see Britney onstage in a shimmery dress looking healthy again.
This leads in to one of the biggest reasons why I love the VMAs: the moments. Certain music connoisseurs, like Britney, Gaga and the late Michael Jackson, just know how to do music-awards shows right, those who you know when they arrive on that red carpet are going to create something for the history books.
Who can forget Gaga's blood-drenched performance in 2009, or even Miley and Robin Thicke's raunchy foam-fingered antics last year? Fiona Apple's angsty speech? The Michael Jackson/Lisa Marie Presley spontaneous kiss? Taylor Swift and Kanye? Nobody.
These moments are the pop-culture check points that people like myself live for. It's exciting to sit down that one night in August when the whole music industry comes together and to be almost guaranteed that something exciting and newsworthy is about to happen before our very eyes. Who's going to dominate the headlines this year?
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