Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 VMAs

If you've lived as long as we have, you've probably spent many years being brainwashed by the hype-machine that is the VMAs. And, regardless of how old you are, chances are you stopped watching the show unironically after your second year in college.

But, unless you've thrown in the towel on life and your only point of reference for trends/art/cultural movement is the albums you discovered late in high school and college, then it's worthwhile to occasionally check-in with the Dear Old Lady of Pop Culture to see what the kids are up to. Even if you have serious doubts the kids are even paying attention at all to what you're being told they are.

The fact that the Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj seemed to be beefing, coupled with the fact that MTV was going to willingly give Kanye a chance to speak during the acceptance of his Video Vanguard award, presented to him by former beef-e Taylor Swift, now seemed as good a time as any to let the nanobots visit the kaleidescopic seizure that is the VMAs.
  • The entire pre-show. = -25pts
  • Nicki Minaj emerges from a tribal tesseract carried by dance warriors and proceeds to plant her flag. And by flag we mean her butt. = +4pts
  • Kanye Approval Meter: Entertained = +8pts 
  • During Minaj performance, Taylor Swift appears from a trapdoor in the tesseract and looks out of place amid the tribal imagery. Call us crazy, but the last time a white person found themselves so confused among a group of tribal dance warriors, bad things happened for an entire group of people. = -10pts
  • Taylor Swift avoids being cannibalized on stage with Minaj, Bad Blood kicks in, the lip syncing begins, and once again money proves that no beef is too large to be squashed when enough of it is on the table. = -3pts
  • Macklemore shows up to dance badly with group of black dudes and rap about mopeds. = -2pts
  • Macklemore inexplicably seeing himself at the center of hip-hop history. = -8pts
  • Freddy Mercury's zombie pops up during Macklemore's set and wonders what the hell is going on. +3pts
"Sing...brains..."
  • Macklemore's best decision during this set: Not having a black guy carry him on his shoulders during the big finish. Thankfully a roadie was nearby.  = +2pts
  • Watching said roadie be mercilessly ushered off stage once he was done hoisting Macklemore. = +4pts
  • You haven't seen hell till you've seen Zombie Mercury try to dance like Live Mercury. = -5pts
  • Proportionality of black people on stage to black people in audience during Macklemore set: 10:0. -10pts
  • Getting Pinhead to do your voice work. = +2pts
  • Miley Cyrus emerging from the Pansexual Anus of Morgoth. = +5pts
"This one smells like candy!"
  • Despite being scheduled to perform, The Weeknd is apparently not having any of this. = +3pts
  • Holy shit! Miley Cyrus also follows Miley Cyrus on Instagram?! = -1pt
  • In a hilariously unfunny cut-away scene, a svelte Ike Barinholtz and Andy Samburg give Instagram advice to Miley Cyrus while she wears what we can only assume is the tie-dyed crying face of Cecil the Lion. = -5pts
  • Miley starts the show off by taking an Ellen inspired selfie and shouting marijuana. = +2pts (For going with what you know.)
  • Britney Spears shows up to remind people that the VMAs used to be about the suggestion of being nude, not actual nudity. = +0pts (A wash.)
  • Uptown Funk, like HPV, shows up to remind you that it's still here and not going anywhere. = +7pts
  • Mark Ronson is so shy, guys! Like...so shy. = -2pts
  • In case you were wondering what happened to Flock of Seagulls, apparently pieces of them are floating around in Justin Bieber's dungeon. = +2pts
"First to three albums gets to keep the scalp!"
  • Jared Leto shows up because Joe Hemmerling wouldn't watch this shit if he didn't. = +3pts
  • The Weeknd shows up to perform with a Canadian entourage...which is a Canadian way of saying "by himself". = +4pts
  • It wouldn't be the VMAs if celebrities weren't competing at who grooves the most in their seat/standing in front of the person behind them. Taylor's got this y'all! = +2pts
  • MTV unsuccessfully attempts to start pre-speech beef with Kanye by attempting to light The Weeknd on fire.= +5pts
 "That the best you got?! Fire is the best back-up dancer!"
  • Kanye sees Taylor's dancing and deigns to stand and provide full body groove during The Weeknd's performance. Clearly, this is a test of wills... = +5pts
  • Kanye Approval Meter: Highest Groove. = +10pts
  • We love Rebel Wilson. But making a joke about people (code: Black People) who hate the police and how you hate police (STRIPPERS), before the hip-hop award is in such bad taste that the nanobots swear off watching Pitch Perfect until after Pitch Perfect 2 comes out on Blu Ray next week. = -20pts
  • Watching Nicki Minaj struggle to ascend the stairs due to the entanglement of her dress and shoes, then asking a Rebel Wilson and her "FUCK THA STRIPPER POLICE" shirt for help, finally proves that time is indeed a smashed beercan. = +9pts
  • Minaj, unhappy with the amount of money she was paid to squash her beef with Taylor Swift during the opening performance, decides to start a bonus beef with Miley Cyrus for an extra few bucks. = -20pts
  • Rappers are the new gay BFFs, which isn't new to anyone who's heard of Flava Flav. = +6pts
  • Who would have thought a pre-recorded joke about who killed Biggie Smalls would be the sharpest joke of the night? Not these nanobots. = +10pts
  • Taylor Swift wins an award...and does not get bum rushed. Cuts to Kanye in proportion to words Taylor says during her acceptance speech: 1:2. = +2pts
  • Kanye Approval Meter: Content. = +3pts
  • Demi Lavato pops a cherry during her performance, although given the ambiguous sexual nature of the performance, we're not sure who's cherry is being popped by whom or in what capacity. = (Still calculating...)
  • Iggy Azalea shows up to remind us that Australian rappers still have a long way to go when it comes to rapping. = -5pts
  • Justin Bieber not embarrassing himself during dance routine. = +3pts
  • Justin Bieber flying through the air with the greatest of ease..and then breaking down crying. Um, we're going to, um, go get a drink or something... = 0pts (Because we have a heart, people!)
  • Not showing any clips from the videos that are supposedly about social justice... = -5pts
  • ...and not nominating Kendrick Lamar's, Alright in this category. = -10pts
  • Remember when openly talking about doing drugs on live TV was against the law? Maybe we would if we hadn't taken so many drugs. HEY-YO! = +3pts
  • Ladies playing base guitars and singing live. = +4pts
  • Anybody know the total trust fund value of the fan-pit at a VMAs? = (No score. Just an honest question.)
  • Sam Jackson doing the voiceover for your career spanning montage. = +3pts
  • Going from Sam Jackson to Taylor Swift. = -6pts
  • Winning an award and not saying anything for what feels like 30-minutes. = +30pts
  • Taylor Swift holding Kim Kardashian hostage during Kanye's acceptance speech. = -10pts
"Now remember, K. Just stick to the plan and everything'll be fine."
  • #listentothekidsbro = +5pts
  • "If I had a daughter at that time, would I have went on stage and grabbed the mic from someone else’s?" - Kanye. = +5pts
  • Kanye calling out MTV for their several years of old West/Swift footage and then hyping Swift's presentation of Vanguard award. = +25pts 
  • "I STILL DON'T UNDERSTAND AWARDS SHOWS." - Kanye. = +5pts 
  • Kanye does his version of the Lincoln/Douglas debate as Lincoln AND Douglas, declares his run for president 2020, and drops mic. = +100pts
  • Watching Miley struggle to read the room/respond to that epic Kanye speech. = -15pts
  • Pharell shows up to do that song of his that sounds like all of his other songs. = -5pts
  •  FKA twigs mentioned on VMAs... = +3pts
  • ..and losing to a soon to be nobody. = -6pts
  • Miguel shows up and doesn't attempt to kill a fan with his boot heel. = +2pts
  • Can we get a mic check on A$AP Rocky! Hey yo, we need a mic check! No seriously, we can't hear what he's saying. = -3pts
  • Taylor Swift and a bunch of models win video of the year. = +1pt
  • Not one, but two quick shots of Miley's boobs. And the only people who care at this point are the people in the production trailer about to lose their jobs. = +2pts
  • MTV throws out a bunch of kids across America to introduce Miley Cyrus and the Divine Players. = -2pts
  • Joe Hemmerling gets his dying wish and finally sees The Flaming Lips perform at a VMA. = +10pts
Total Score: +124pts

Watching the show this year and thinking back to the show 10 years ago, it's insane to claim that this country hasn't changed. And, whether old people want to ever admit it (and they never do), culture is always changing and it will always, on some level, be designed and shaped by the kids. In the past, MTV used to work hard to present a show that could at least be somewhat palatable to the few centrist conservatives watching with their kids at home. Today, that conservatism, in a pop culturally political relevant way, appears to be all but dead and buried. Anyone seriously looking back at the past as some idyllic place of moral family values, would probably blow their brains out after what happened last night. This isn't to say the show isn't full of troubling racial undertones and seems to operate in the method of promoting gross cultural ignorance at how this level of consumerism is exacerbating the climate of scarcity in which most conservative ideologues reside and feast upon.

But thank God for Kanye, at least. While not always the best at articulating what's going on, he seems to get it (#listentothekidsbro). But who could say the perfect thing in front of thousands of people in the middle of an awards show? At his core HE'S A GUY WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND AWARDS SHOWS. To quote him, " I don’t understand how they get five people who worked their entire life, one, sold records, sold tickets, to come, stand on the carpet and for the first time in their lives be judged on a chopping block and have the opportunity to be considered a loser." Whether he knows this or not, what Kanye doesn't understand is the culture of scarcity that corporations (like MTV) use in their ever evolving Hunger Games.

If there is one thing we've liked about Kanye since the beginning it's his sense of self-reflection, even if we didn't see in him the image he wanted us to see. Other rappers may tell better stories, but no other rapper so often bends art and the reality around them to reflect on what they are, or are not as a person more than Kanye. If Kanye can't see past himself, it's because he's smart enough to see that no matter what he does, he's just a New Slave, part of a game of exploitation and forced docility that has been playing out for several centuries now. If we like him, it's because we get to see him work through these issues, while at the same time reinventing himself and shaping music and art with each subsequent album. If there is an artist who has done more than Kanye the last 10 years to shape this dialog and make impactful contributions (not all of them good) to the conversation, we're not sure who that would be.

So, yeah, fuck it. Kanye for president 2020.

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