The reviews for the VMAs are in and they are…

bad. Overall, critics and audiences weren’t pleased with the show MTV put on—that is, unless you break it up into chunks.

Turn to your Twitter feed this morning and you’ll likely find a number of people still in awe of how Beyonce or Rihanna rocked the stage, how Britney Spears is back in the spotlight, how Drake is back on the sideline. Any moment with any pop star resulted in dozens (in the case of the former two, maybe even hundreds) of tweets and discussion items, not to mention articles buzzing about who wore and said what.

So the reviews of the show is bad. So what? MTV’s goal with the VMAs has, historically, been about creating big moments in a chaos chamber. The performances and kerfuffles they create in the meantime is the sundae, not the cherry on top.

“[We] put those chaotic elements in the room together and then we kind of let go. We don’t produce things really tightly the way other awards shows might,”Van Toffler, a former Viacom executive who worked on the VMAs for 28 years,told Billboard last year. “We love when people talk about the event.”

In the age of social media, having those two or three moments that get people talking—and, more importantly, sharing—seem to matter much more. The question is: Will other award shows follow?

I’m hardpressed to believe that organizations like the Academy or the Grammys will let performers bounce off and go balls to the wall the way they do at the VMAs, but the idea that a few choice moments are what viewers are after isn’t so far off from how many people I know watch bigger award shows. The Oscar’s has the openings, and maybe some choice winners in a category or two; the Grammy’s and Tony’s often feature some of the best musical performances audiences will see all year; the Emmy’s has a better (and more funny) version of the Oscar’s opening bit. While networks try to figure out what formula, host, and red carpet hook will reel in viewers each year, overall viewership of awards is dropping. Like in late night programming, people are more in for the clips than they are the ride.

The VMAs is perhaps the only show that understands this. And though many viewers don’t care about the actual award (not even MTV devotes itself to music videos anymore) they can care about the personalities involved. And any awards show that offers up its stage for a Beyonce medley? Well, that’s just that isn’t it?



Beyond the Grammys

I casually checked in with the Grammy’s Sunday, and for some reason could only find a livestream of the audience, not of the stage. But my choice just happened to coincide with Kanye West once again bursting onto the stage to defend Beyonce, in another “slight.”

The part I didn't see
The part I didn’t see

At the time, I saw the faces of horror change to definite laughter, and decided it must’ve been a joke. Since then the media has had another field day, building up the “diss” between Beck and Kanye. Luckily both Beck and Kanye have refused to play ball–now if only their fans could as well.

Reading any article on the subject, you’ll find opinions littered like fall leaves, which is to say almost unavoidable and eventually whatever beauty they had turns to rot. Beck fans maintain the artistry of the singer-songwriter: we know he writes all his own songs, he played 5 million instruments and poured his soul into the record. Beyonce fans lament that she wrote and produced all her own tracks, changed the world with her digital drop, and filmed an entire feature film to go with it.

What I did see
What I did see

It was probably easy for the media to paint his post-Grammy interviews where he stuck to his guns as Kanye being classic Kanye, causin’ a fuss and making not apologies. But what’s interesting is that he’s probably providing one of the most level-headed voices to this conversation. He’s made it clear that his was not a diss on Beck, but the Grammy’s themselves.

For myself, I can see how Beyonce lost due to voting problems (Beck’s was the only rock album, whereas Beyonce had R&B competition that could’ve Nader’d the vote), but there’s not much more I can offer to the conversation beyond that, because the Grammy’s won’t let me. They have a shadowy voting process that then moves onto the recording academy vote, and there’s really little insight into how they function, what their criteria is, or where our differences lie. They are as open as you can come about a sort of formal rigging system.

They may be called out, frequently, for being their own brand of racist, sexist, etc., but what more can we do? We’ve got nothing else we can do, because we have absolutely no idea what they are about.

tumblr_njimhsrubz1qchwcho4_250So let’s all stop reducing Kanye to an angry black man, Beck to a folksy scene-stealer, and Beyonce to a jilted artist, and start focusing our thoughts and most importantly concerns towards the shadow organization that needs it. Because while people mock Yeezus for speaking out against institutions and systems it’s getting boiled down to a celebrity feud, which is more of the same bullshit.