As if my August wasn’t already ambitious enough with the 100 Favorite Wrestlers series, I decided to return to an experiment of mine from earlier in the year. Remember when I reviewed every WrestleMania from X-Seven to 31 do get ready for the 32nd extravaganza (that I still owe y’all an eventual review for)? Well, seeing as I’m both a lover of music as well as wrestling, I decided to try doing a music-related counterpart to it. And what better way to do it than by reviewing one of the most recognizable awards shows in all of music: the MTV Video Music Awards.
Once upon a time, MTV actually played music videos, and created an award show in their honor. I’ve watched the VMAs regularly since 2001, long after it became an institution of the channel. While older folks these days may write off current versions of the show as laughably embarrassing popularity contests where nothing of importance happens, the legacy and reputation of this award shows keeps folks coming back and has lead me to claim it my favorite award show of the year. So in addition to the 100 Favorite Wrestlers series, I decided to devote time this month to looking back on the past 12 VMA ceremonies and critiquing the hosts, the presenters, the performers, the winners, and whatever absolutely crazy insanity occurred at the show. So without further ado, let’s began out jog down memory lane with the first VMA’s to take place in Miami, Florida.
Believe it or not, I stumbled on the 2004 VMA’s completely by accident. I was watching WWE’s now-retired program Sunday Night Heat when I saw an ad for it during the final commercial break. It said that the award show was coming on THAT NIGHT, so as soon as [name omitted] made Tyson Tomko submit, I turned to MTV for my VMA fill. The first of two straight years that the VMAs would take place in Miami, Florida, the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards appeared to be the biggest VMA’s of all time. But that’s mainly because of how big the American Airlines Arena in Orlando made the award show appear. It was a huge, colorful spectacle to the point that it looked like an absolute party; perfectly fitting for a Florida setting. And in a year with hit songs like “Yeah” and “Toxic” nominated in numerous categories, a party is just what the doctor order even in a year where we unfortinnately ended up stuck with four more years of Bush. Let’s kick off this series of VMA
There was no host for this show. Why? I have no idea. You would’ve thought they’d try to get Chris Rock back after he killed at the previous year’s show (as well as in 1997 and 1999) and graced the world with Never Scared. If not him, there had to have been some options in the Rolodex; it’s not like there weren’t any popular comedians or musicians at the time to choose from. But nope, they just decided not to have one. Let’s see if that helped the show or hurt it.
It seemed like everyone on this award show came with a surprise guest ready to bring on-stage to present with them. Will Smith bought out Shaquille O’Neal to present with him, JoJo bought Olympic gold medal-winning gymnasts on-stage to present with her, the Beastie Boys dug up Sasquatch from somewhere to present with them. And while technically doesn’t count, Jimmy Fallon ended up in an argument with the omniscient voice (apparently played by Will Forte from SNL) who introduced him and Queen Latifah to the stage…actually, he just introduced Latifah and not Fallon, which is why the late-night host got offended. As far as other presenters go, Dave Chappelle (who need I remind you, did not host the show) appeared more than once; first introducing Terror Squad then later announcing Jay-Z’s retirement, which if you recall ended up just being a very, very, VERY brief hiatus…..actually, it wasn’t even that because he released Kingdom Come two years later. Hell, before 2016, Taylor Swift regularly released albums in two-year intervals; that barely counts as a hiatus, Hov!
One (technically four) of the most baffling appearances on this show were the daughters of presidential candidates John Kerry and George Bush. Basically, they wanted to remind the folks amid the boos they received to get out there to not only vote, but also to donate to the Red Cross. I guess when you’re in the middle of a huge shindig, it’s important to remain grounded and remember other important events going on in the world, but it was still kind of random to me, especially since Diddy came out and did the exact same thing later on that night via his Rock The Vote campaign, and his stage time came complete with a Mase performance…that admittedly had nothing to do with voting. I don’t think you can breath, stretch, shake in the poll booth. Also, Jon Stewart appeared throughout the night to remind people to vote for the Viewer’s Choice Award, which Al Sharpton popped up one time to argue had no black nominees.I imagine with how prevalent social justice is these days, one of a sketch like that would pop up on this year’s show if not for the fact that the 2016 VMAs didn’t already have way more black nominees than the Oscars have the past two years. Oh, and instead of making a nominee video package for the Best Female Video category, they had Omarion sing the nominated songs, which is something I’m glad didn’t become a regular thing on award shows. Give me my nominee videos, dammit!
I will give the 2004 VMAs one thing: most of their performances for memorable for one reason or another. I’m pretty sure Usher‘s performance was memorable for all the women watching because he was shirtless in the rain. It was completely over the top, but if he could do it in the “Confession Part II” video sans rain, it wasn’t that weird to witness. What was weird to witness was MTV making three rock bands share a performance slot; Yellowcard, Hoobastank, and Jet all performed bits and pieces of their individual one-hit wonder songs “Ocean Avenue”, “The Reason”, and “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” back to back. I guess even MTV sensed each band’s lack of longevity to shove them into rock music’s one performance slot on the show. And if you can get through Hoobastank’s part, you’re a better man than I because frontman Douglas Robb sounded just awful here. Meanwhile, rap music was all over the show as Kanye West made his VMA debut with a pretty glorious performance of some of his earliest, timeless hits with an assist from “Guess What” singer Syleena Johnson the legendary Chaka Khan, and the Terror Squad had everyone including Bruce Willis leaning back immediately after Lil Jon, Ying Yang Twins, and Petey Pablo dated the hell out of this show with a performance showcasing their brand of crunk that peaked back around that time. Meanwhile, Christina Aguilera and Nelly gave us a collaboration that you’ve probably forgotten about by now; I know I haven’t listened to “Tilt Ya Head Back” in years personally. And OutKast (introduced by Amy Lee of Evanescence) ended the show out on an upbeat political note.
On the pop and R&B side, Jessica Simpson gave a heavenly, yet not all that memorable performance. But Alicia Keys absolutely stole the show when she, Stevie Wonder, and Lenny Kravitz absolutely tore though Alicia’s hit “If I Ain’t Got You” and Stevie’s classic “Higher Ground”. Looking back, part of me wishes they invited Red Hot Chili Peppers on-stage for the second half of the performance; lest we forget hearing their infamous “Higher Ground” cover in the first Power Rangers movie. But as is, it was fun seeing multiple generations of soul music come together like that. Also, there were three pre-show performances that I struggled to get through for the sake of this post. Jadakiss had a hard time staying on beat most of the time performing “Why?”, but I give him points for getting the underrated Anthony Hamilton into the VMAs. And I love “Pieces of Me”, “La La”, and “Boyfriend” as studio recordings, but it turns out Ashlee Simpson could not deliver the goods live. And through New Found Glory‘s performance, I learned that I cannot listen to the vocals of Chad Gilbert very long before tapping out. It’s like how TNA Wrestling fans react when Allie grabs the mic.
Believe it or not, Britney Spears’ “Toxic” was up for numerous awards at this show and won absolutely nothing. One of Britney’s all-time greatest clips, yet apparently, Britney as a sexy stewardess-turned-seductress couldn’t topple Beyoncé being a “Naughty Girl” in the Female Video race, couldn’t top Gwen Stefani murdering her bandmates in “It’s My Life” for Best Pop Video (also a Best Group Video winner over D12), and didn’t cut it as a Dance Video like “Yeah” by Usher did. We’ll get to Britney’s first-ever VMA wins down the line, but I’m just genuinely shocked that it wasn’t for this video. Getting back to Usher, “Yeah” also nabbed Best Male Video away from heavyweights like Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, and F’n Prince, as well as future heavyweight Kanye West, who didn’t win anything but surprisingly didn’t complain about it. He even lost Best New Artist to Maroon 5; if it was up to me, though, I’d go back in time and give that award to either Kanye or JoJo. Most likely JoJo; I stanned JoJo so hard as a youngster and still do. Forget apologies; JoJo’s a damn queen and always has been. Another Best New Artist loser was The Darkness, for their masterpiece “I Believe in A Thing Called Love”, which somehow got robbed by Jet for Best Rock Video, a category that also included “My Immortal” and another masterpiece in “Breaking The Habit”. Linkin Park would receive justice though as the animated epicness of “Breaking The Habit” did win the Viewers Choice Award later in the night and the band forever getting to the stage to accept their trophy from JoJo.