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AMAs offend and entertain

Observer Scene | Monday, November 15, 2004

ABC is in the midst of resurgence. After years of being the worst of the Big Three in terms of ratings, ABC has two of the highest-rated shows this season. “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” heavily employ the themes of sex and the attainment of personal satisfaction without regard for the effect on others. If ratings are any indicator, the formula works. Moreover, ABC apparently has decided to utilize the formula in the network’s other productions, like Sunday night’s 32nd American Music Awards. Held in LA’s Shrine Auditorium, the award show was marked by dreadful production along with unending overt references to sex, drugs and violence. Gwen Stefani, lead singer of No Doubt, set the offensive tone for the evening. She sang the first single, “What You Waiting For?,” from her forthcoming debut album. Accompanied by Chinese influenced music and stage production, Stefani advocated “Take a chance you stupid ho!” Lenny Kravitz, with his newly shaved head, was chosen to follow Stefani. He performed an inspired version of his song “Lady.”For this awards show ABC chose a slightly different approach from comparable shows like the MTV Video Music Awards or the Grammy’s. Dick Clark, producer of the event, chose to present performers in pairs so that viewers ended up seeing artists of different genres back to back. There is no question it was to the detriment of the show. I am not sure anyone wants to or can even bear seeing pop star Jessica Simpson and country singer Kenny Chesney with Uncle Kracker, one right after the other. Jimmy Kimmel was emcee for the live telecast. The talk show host and late night comedian tried his best to offend as many artists and viewers alike. His opening monologue attacked Michael Jackson and very casually glorified the use of marijuana by music’s larger acts. Throughout the evening Kimmel made sure not to allow viewers to forget Anna Nicole’s Smith’s disturbing appearance. Smith was at the ceremony to present a performance by best new artist nominee Kanye West, whose latest video features her. The reality-television star at times appeared confused, crazed, illiterate and heavily intoxicated on drugs of some nature. In a tight black number, Anna Nicole asked the audience if they liked her body. After mistakenly calling West a female, producers quickly cut away from her for West’s performance. Kimmel later dedicated the evening to Smith.In terms of awards, Usher was the big winner. His latest album, “Confessions,” which has sold more than 7 million copies, won best pop/rock album. The 27-year-old music sensation also won for favorite male soul/R&B artist and best soul/R&B album. Usher performed his hit single “My Boo” with his rumored girlfriend, Alicia Keys. Their performance, which included a staged makeout session, received one of the few standing ovations for the evening. Keys also performed by herself and won an award for favorite female soul/R&B artist. Clearly, it was a memorable evening for the couple.Country artist Toby Keith won favorite country male artist for his album “Shock’n Y’All” and Brooks & Dunn won favorite country band. Gretchen Wilson took home her first American Music Award and performed “Redneck Woman.” The song was full of offensive stereotypes and coarse language. It fit in well with the overall theme of the festivities. Bon Jovi was honored with the event’s most prestigious award for its overall career achievement. Jon Bon Jovi accepted the Award of Merit and thanked the fans for their support over the years: “Even when I couldn’t, you gave me the chance to dream.” Clad in tight pants and cropped hairstyles, one was confused as to whether the group had left the 1980’s. The moment was, as Bon Jovi described it, “surreal but much appreciated.” American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino shined once again, delivering one of the few strong performances of the show. Her delivery was steeped in soul and likely reminded viewers why they chose her as their idol. Yet, someone failed to tell Barrino her hair looked like an unkempt toupee. Overall, Kobe Bryant’s appearance produced the greatest audience reaction. While presenting the award for best soul/R&B album attendants both cheered and booed the star basketball player. Bryant’s reception was symbolic of the night’s proceedings. Some performers deserved praise while most should have stayed home. Maybe then viewers would not have had endure such disinterest and disrespect.