Guys and girls, I want to preface this by saying, I'm not exactly sure what it would feel like to trip on E, but i'm pretty sure (based on what I saw when Emily Valentine slipped Brandon Walsh the pill in his soda on Beverly Hills 90210) what I felt last night was close.
I only watched half the VMAs because I started my DVR late and I'm an old person now and it was a school night, yo. But can I just go ahead and ask, what the heck was happening? First of all, the captions were all wonky and inverted. I know it was artistic and cooky in a cool way, but I felt dyslexic. My eyes and brain struggled to extrapolate the connections long ago made in reading class and trying to interpret the backwards r's was especially challenging.
The show started with Gaga in some kind of weird geometric gown and headpiece costume. As you perhaps can tell, though it is an unpopular opinion, I am not a fan of Lady Gaga. Sure, her songs make me dance at any given wedding, but the idea of her irks me to the core. She's a shock artist who acts like she's not a shock artist. Worse than that, not only does Gaga not claim Madonna as one of her (obvious) inspirations, but critics go out of their way to deny this connection. From the LGBT platform to the "queen of transformation" label, it's all so familiar.
The performance itself was rather tame, but I really took offense later when I saw her continuing to wear that seashell thong outfit in the audience. Bare ass on public seating? Ewww. Come on. Let's talk hygiene, ladies and gents. The ensemble didn't even make an statement (beyond reminding me of when Ariel became a human and was basically naked for ten seconds). And how do you strike up conversation in that? I saw a picture of her talking with Joseph Gordon Levitt in that get up. Couldn't that instantly qualify as sexual harassment?
Then, Miley happened. Several things to note here:
1. I don't like twerking, not matter who does it. I don't want a butt in my face. I don't want to watch a butt in other people's faces. I realize the world does not agree. But please stop doing it. Please.
2. No idea what the music video is like but I imagine the bears were a call back to that. I was intrigued by the idea of a sexy leotard outfit made of stuffed animal fabric with stuffed animal likeness recreated on the front panel. I'm sure I am alone in this too, but it was kind of punk and Japanese and I liked the attempt.
3. The tongue thing was so odd. More than discomfort or disdain, I felt perplexed. It seemed uncomfortable. She seemed like a rabid dog aggressively sticking her tongue to the side, pointed and sharp like a dagger. It was too much, and it really made me think her face might freeze that way and she'd always look like Gene Simmons from all those Kiss photoshoots.
4. But then again, maybe it worked? This is what really got me about this performance. Was it genius in that she was on brand and sensational? This was the VMAs, after all. You have to pull clothes off and act like a crazy drug addict/ stripper/ alien pod person/ possessed twerker to get noticed and make your psychotic mark, don't you?
Well, maybe you don't. Kanye West, who I loathe but wish was more lovable since he lays down good tracks with a fair amount of creativity, turned the lights out and let himself be a shadow over a pretty basic backdrop. It was so damn simple and so good because it was all about the lyrics and the beat, which he'd perfected. Justin Timberlake went a few better, classing up the joint with his suit and tie and bringing sexy back and asking (me) would you be my girlfriend? Seriously, the man is a consummate entertainer. His shock value is how impressive he is at doing what he loves to do: sing and dance.
Throughout the hour I watched, the crowd shots proved how annoying and eccentric a bunch of VMA-attending celebrities can be. It was like being in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but the Johnny Depp version where it's likely he ate some of the munchkins after he had bad dreams about going to an over attendant dentist who stuck the scraper pick thing in too far.
I swear, perhaps due to the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, that it wasn't always like this. There were the eccentrics but then there were the classic artists as well who seemed totally normal and down to earth. But even Taylor Swift seemed like a hallucination, her dance and karaoke JT and N Sync party in the audience was perhaps the equivalent of what my friends and I would've looked like in the same position (or in our living rooms). But somehow the whole thing felt way creepier, like she was a barbie bobble head with red lipstick, blonde hair and a permanent smile that suggested she'd go totally insane if the wrong trigger were to be pulled.
Sure, artists act crazy so we'll talk about it and here I am, falling into their traps. But it's more than that. Addiction to spectacle is so widespread in our society. We claim to hate it but we crave it constantly, just like an addict craves his product of choice. Though we deny it, we like feeling dazed and out of control and not know what is about to happen next or why. We like chaos, that feeling that we are in fact in the middle of a good trip.