In Memoriam: the V.M.A.s
Carlos De Loera | Thursday, August 23, 2018
The MTV Video Music Awards died of irrelevance Monday night, officials of the University of Common Sense said. The show had been suffering from the disease for years, a disease brought on by the increasing popularity of the internet. The show was surrounded by some of its closest friends Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith at the time of its death and will join its cousin “Total Request Live” — T.R.L. — in TV show purgatory.
When MTV first started in the 1980s, it changed how people consumed music by catapulting the art of music videos to the forefront of music marketing. For the first time there was a television network dedicated to airing music videos and people ate it up. MTV became the best way for artists to bolster their sales. The premise was easy enough: make a great video, sell a boatload of records. This led to an era of increasingly creative, innovative music videos like A-ha’s “Take On Me” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
To reward the artistry behind music video making that was overlooked by the Grammys, MTV decided to create its own award show celebrating this art form. So, in 1984, it held the first ever V.M.A.s and, right off the bat, the show was the center of attention. The first show most notably featured Madonna performing her hit “Like A Virgin” in her now-famous wedding dress/bustier outfit. People loved it, people hated it, but most importantly, people were talking about it. In 1988, Michael Jackson had a memorable performance of “Bad.” In 1989, Bon Jovi performed an acoustic rendition of “Wanted Dead or Alive” that planted the seeds for MTV’s “Unplugged” series. The ‘80s were good to the V.M.A.s.
The ‘90s continued to carry the momentum forward for the award show. The decade featured more great performances from Madonna, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, TLC, Oasis and so many more. While many performances were lauded for their artistry, this was a decade of controversy for the show. The 1991 show featured a fist fight between Poison bandmates Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille and a glorious performance by Prince in butt-less, yellow chaps. In 1992, Axl Rose wanted to pick a fight with Kurt Cobain that led to Cobain spitting on what he thought was Rose’s piano before Guns N’Roses’s “November Rain” performance. In 1996, there was a moment when Oasis’s Liam Gallagher mocked his brother/enemy Noel during a guitar solo before tossing beer all over the stage and storming off — classic Oasis. In 1997 and 1998, Rose McGowan and Lil’ Kim showed up at the red carpet wearing provocative dresses. The ‘90s were wild.
By the 2000s, winning a Moonman statue at the V.M.A.s really meant something — it was like winning a Grammy, except without having to deal with the snootiness of the the Recording Academy. More importantly, however, performing at the V.M.A.s was still a much coveted opportunity for artists. A notable performance meant free press for days or even weeks. There would prove to be many shocking moments through the 2000s. At the 2000 show Britney Spears made headlines by stripping down to her underwear by the end of her two-song set. In 2003 Madonna, Spears and Christina Aguilera all locked lips during a Madonna medley, much to the outrage of many media outlets. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the V.M.A.s in the 2000s came in 2009 when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video, forever changing the public perception of both of these artists.
Since the start of this decade the popularity and social relevance of the V.M.A.s has steadily dipped. What are the great moments of the 2010’s V.M.A.s? Bruno Mars had a truly great tribute to Amy Winehouse in 2011 and Miley Cyrus twerked in 2013; that’s pretty much it.
But what led to tragic death of a once great institution? Well, the V.M.A.s lived off of two things — the presence of superstar performances and its ability to shock. With the rise of the internet, superstars have realized that they don’t need to show up to award shows to get exposure, they could just go to Twitter, live stream a concert or do something more engaging with fans than a TV performance. Many big name stars like Beyonce, Drake and Bruno Mars all skipped out on the show. What also came with the rise of the internet was the inability of audiences to be shocked. Most of the things that made the award show shocking would barely make people bat an eye now, and no shock means no talk.
Ratings for the 2018 show were down double digits from last year, with many people not even taking notice that the event even happened, and why would they? It took place late on a Monday night and most of the performances were uncharismatic, uninspiring and unoriginal. People don’t really watch stuff on TV as it is, and there was no need to waste their time on this.
Remember August 20, 2018, the day the V.M.A.s were ushered into death by the unneeded, unwanted collaboration of Post Malone and Aerosmith.