L.L. Cool J put it best back in 1991 when he said – “Momma said knock you out!” Those were simpler times, back when rock still kicked it on the charts and country and hip-hop were still up and coming in the mainstream world of MTV. If you didn’t own Metallica’s “Black Album,” your own mother may have actually knocked you out. Flash forward to the new millennium and this year’s Video Music Awards and things look a lot different.
Everything looked different from my angle, a University of Massachusetts senior and music fanatic standing beside nationwide media to represent our school, instead of viewing it from a basement television in Massachusetts. Only five minutes after signing in and receiving my press credentials, the line between fan and insider blurred. Members of Death Cab for Cutie briskly passed me by as I watched the crew members set up the red carpet on the corner of West 51st Street and 6th Avenue, keeping on the move to evade the several young fans that noticed my pass and asked if I could get them into the show.
The first moment that clicked everything into the weird orbit of red carpet arrivals came when veteran VJ Mark Goodman walked the carpet, leaving me to wonder, “Who is that guy?”
Having access – as I did – to only the arrivals portion of the strange parade that is the VMAs is like setting up a circus with an all-boozed crew. You know something bad is going to happen, or at least something very strange.
The hierarchy of the guest list in New York City on Sunday night was that of a royal dinner. Everyone is there but you have to put in extreme effort to make contact beyond the B- and C-list celebrities.
Some of the biggest stars of the night seemed to cause a stir not for their work, but for their seniority in the business. Take, for instance, the chorus of teen screams and self-made journalists shouting for a comment from the likes of Sean “Puffy” Combs, who, although he has not released an album in several years, received the royal treatment on the red carpet. His name is his business.
Jackson family patriarch Joe Jackson arrived with some of his late son Michael’s siblings for an off-setting tribute to the recently deceased King of Pop. Madonna almost wrapped with the line, “Michael Jackson is a human being.” How touching.
One of the night’s brighter notes came thanks to “Late Night” newbie Jimmy Fallon, who graciously chatted with as many people as possible on his way down the red carpet. Fallon, who performed in Northampton in April, told me how he “flipped out because they were DJing 45s” at The Basement, where he was spotted getting down with the locals. With his love of 45rpm records, Fallon represents old-school America. He also knows how to party with grace.
With fifteen minutes until show time, self-proclaimed college dropout Kanye West and his posse arrived with a Hennessy bottle in hand. Media people thought it was funny, passing chuckles at the expense of the self-parodying partier. How can you top that besides robbing a teenage girl of her first Moon Man?
It’s a sign of the times – the past, present and the future that is. The past suggests that drinking may bring out your worst. From late Senator Ted Kennedy’s incident at Chappaquiddick to Mel Gibson’s twisted, anti-semitic tirade, the lessons are clear. In the present, a country-pop singer, Taylor Swift, wins Best Female Video for the first time. Kanye should have sat back and accepted the fact that we live in an evolving world of pop culture. If he was truly ashamed to see Beyoncé lose to a teenaged white girl from Middle America, then the idea of this award show has lost all of its relevance in its effort to commend what the masses recognize as talent.
Kanye West has made three public apologies since Sunday, so, touching on the incident may be nearing obscurity by the time this article goes to print. But, the anything-goes attitude of the Video Music Awards may already be something of the past. There is speculation that drinking may be banned from the award show in the future. If anything should get the boot, it should be Kanye himself, or at least celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. Lose one or the other and you can count on the VMAs gaining almost as much credibility as the Grammy Awards.
Lee Taylor can be reached at [email protected]