Thursday, September 17, 2009

The VMAs 2009: A Return to Form

I always watch The MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) every year and sadly the last few years have been a tad disappointing. Last year's sojourn in L.A. with Britney being showered in awards was a marker improvement but it still didn't feel like a killer show. With the news that this year was to see the show return to Radio City Music Hall in New York, the place where the show started, then I got excited. When the list of nominees was announced there was also some excitementan. Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Britney competing for trophies meant that finally some genuinely huge videos (Single Ladies, Poker Face, Womanizer) were go to go up against each other. Also the line up of performers was suitably diverse and lead me to believe some prime entertainment was on the way.

And thankfully, the show didn't disappoint. A slick, entertaining and brilliantly judged piece of pure pop spectacle, this years VMAs was a true return to form. From the decent spread of winners (Best Pop Video for Womanizer felt just right and Single Ladies, in its all conquering glory, was a well deserving Video of the Year winner). Obviously Kanye West and Taylor Swift stole most of the show in their respective ways but everybody brought their A Game.

Madonna's opening speech was a fitting tribute to Michael Jackson and a great way of reminding of us why he was so loved and what he meant to others. The following tribute was eye popping but the lack of introduction for the dancers made it feel a little anonymous until Janet turned up. Although she seemed a tad rusty, her mix of emotion and pure charisma was a joy to watch and the audience reaction was priceless.

The rest of the performers uniformly gave their all. Taylor Swift was a tad cheesey but effectively showed us why the US teens have taken her to heart with her subway,out door dance fest, Beyonce felt a little bit rehashed but THAT dance will always be a show stopper, Pink reminded us why she is still a consistent and brilliant popstar giving plenty of emotion while flailing about the arena during a visually stunning "Sober". Green Day were enjoyable, if run of the mill and Muse were hard to resist as they worked their magic on a spellbound bunch of eager US fans and Jay Z and Alicia Keyes closing the proceedings was a powerful and glittering event bursting with star power. At this stage enough has been said about Kayne but needless to say he provided the defining moment of this years show even upstaging Russell Brand who did a good job even if his humour seems to fly high above the heads of most Americans.

To me though Lady Gaga brought the killer (no pun intended) performance of the night. A gothic meets Britney extravanganza she managed to cement her position as THE popstar of the last 12 months with a simple snarl. The re-arrangement of Paparazzi was epic and powerful and a canny reminder of what a great song it is. Also after all her talk of "The Fame: Monster" and her new fascination with horror movie images this performance places it all in context. It says alot that when the blood appeared on her stomach as I watched the performance for the first time that I actually gasped and for a second felt frightened. Gaga sold the emotion so much that you went on the journey of the bashed and beaten starlet been devoured by the fame machine. The little catch in her voice as she staggered around the stage was powerful stuff. And given how the whole ceremony focussed on the passing of a great pop icon it felt timely. The price that Michael Jackson paid was written all over the tableau Gaga brought us. And all this while busting out the dance moves and layering some lovely harmonies together. Fierce. Watch it here

Overall it was a fantastic show and easily the most talked about in years. The ratings for this years show are particularly strong and I can only hope that MTV continue to reach for the stars and make next years show even better

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