Apparently under the impression that their party in Miami the previous year was such a roaring success, MTV decided to keep the VMA’s in Miami for a second year in a row in 2005, once again hailing from the American Airlines Arena. And this year’s VMA’s are one of very real nostalgia for me as this was the year when I started to once again find my enjoyment of music as a balancing act with my enjoyment of wrestling. You could say 2005 was the year that began the real evolution of me into who I am today. And luckily for me, a number of my favorite artists from the time appeared on this show in some way or another. So I do look back on the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards fondly…..so why does it feel like no one else does? Well, I think I have an answer and I will get to it, but in due time. Let’s break this show down:
Unlike 2004, they actually got somebody to host this show. And after seeing who they got, I kind of wish they reconsidered. Sean P. Puff Diddy Daddy Combs (just going by “Diddy” at this time) was given the reigns this year and proceeded to be one of the least interesting award show hosts I’ve ever seen. He’s not a comedian, so we were spared an opening monologue, but we did get a performance from him that mainly boiled down to letting you know that he’s going by just the name “Diddy” now. He also did another performance later that was basically him pretending to be a concert conductor while audio clips of his late friend The Notorious B.I.G. played. I know Diddy misses Biggie, but why does he feel obligated to mention him everytime he does anything? All-in-all, these performances did not live up to his awesome VMA performances in 1997 and 2002. Then again, he had other artists as part of those performances; maybe everything Diddy does should just be a collaboration. The only real highlight of him as a host that I can think of was his celebrity fashion challenge where Diddy would donate some of his own money to the best dressed male and female celebrity of the night for a charity of their choosing. (Snoop Dogg & Gwen Stefani won; by the way). Other than that, this is proof that extravagance doesn’t always equal fascination, and that just because he can host a fun mansion party doesn’t mean he’d be competent at hosting an award show.
The most interesting performers on this show, believe it or not, were probably Beavis & Butthead. The animated MTV legends were given the task of urging viewers to vote for the then still-existing Viewer’s Choice Award. I don’t think I’ve ever found Beavis & Butthead that funny personally, but I was entertained by the fact that in an attempt to get revived by MTV and promote their DVD set that came out that year, they assumed they could win the Viewer’s Choice Award as a way to get back on the airwaves. Beavis’ reaction to finding out they weren’t even nominated is priceless. Maybe Heath Slater should try a skit like this to escape kayfabe unemployment and get back on the WWE roster. Aside from them, pretty much the only other presenter moment I think was noteworthy in the slightest was Eva Longoria; the Desperate Housewives star showed a lot of skin in a sexy swimsuit. Everyone already knew she was stunning for her age, clearly she was proud enough of it to rock this suit.
It’s not that the rest of the performers were bad; they just weren’t given anything to work with on this night. Common and Johnny Knoxville tried by having Common do a freestyle where he vows to win a VMA with his Taraji P. Henson-starring “Testify” next year; we’ll see how that works out for him tomorrow. But then we get moments like Hilary Duff referring to The Killers as “The Murderers”; clearly a joke, but it’s a very lame joke. We got Lil Jon saying his “What?” catchphrase over and over with Paulina Rubio, Jeremy Piven trying to squeeze any kind of humor he can out of Lil’ Kim‘s eventual prison sentence, Jessica Simpson bringing her trademark silliness with sister Ashlee, and Bow Wow comparing jewelry with Paris Hilton. Well, I guess they both needed to make sure they met the bling quota for their eventual Young Money signings. Gee, no wonder Diddy hosted; the presenters sounded more like they were having conversations at a mansion party more than they were actually presenting on an award show. Just look to Nelly & Lindsay Lohan for proof.
As far as performances go, I think I prefer 2005 over 2004; this primarily is due to the fact that more of my favorite artists actually performed this go-round. For example, one of my all-time favorite bands opened the show and one of my all-time favorite solo artists closed the show. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” kicked off the show, and as one of my favorite songs of all-time, Green Day opening things totally worked for me. And to end things, Kelly Clarkson‘s first VMA performance was one to remember. It certainly wasn’t her best live vocal performance in the later stages, especially when compared to performances like her outstanding American Idol Finale Medley from earlier this year, but with the addition of the rain and her rockstar energy, and this totally works as a VMA show-closer. As far as the show’s filling, we got a pretty hot Spanish-language performance from Shakira and “La Tortura” collaborator Alejandro Sanz, as well as a sexy performance from Mariah Carey in her comeback year. Like the previous year, multiple rock bands performed, but unlike the previous year, they all didn’t have to share one slot. Like aside from Green Day, we also got a performance from Coldplay, complete with Chris Martin getting interactive and running to the rafters of the building. I couldn’t find video of that performance online, but I did find My Chemical Romance‘s performance, featuring Gerard Way‘s vocals just sounding way off for some reason. And The Killers didn’t even take the stage for their performance; they were at a hotel or something.
But hip-hop still ruled the performance bill. Since reggaeton was huge at the time but still growing, they gave three artists the Yellowcard/Jet/Hoobastan treatment from last year by having Don Omar, Daddy Yankee (of “Gasolina” fame, if you remember how massive that song was), and somebody named Tego Calderón share a performance slot. The whole thing was introduced by Fat Joe, who was also the subject of some verbal shots fired by 50 Cent in Mr. Jackson’s later performance. And Ludacris and Bobby Valentino tried to get tropical with their “Pimpin’ All Over The World” performance; I couldn’t tell if it clashed too much or provided the right amount of flavor. You be the judge. They even dig out MC Hammer from under his mountain of bills and genie pants to perform “U Can’t Touch This”. In 2005. Freaking really. Also, Kanye West delivered a pretty good performance with an assist from Jamie Foxx and some lovely ladies, one of which was former WWE Women’s Champion Layla El. And here’s the confirmed proof in case you think I’m making that up. But perhaps the weirdest performance of the night was R. Kelly doing a one-man performance of an unreleased part from his “Trapped in the Closet” saga. “Trapped in the Closet” was a phenomenon at the time, getting parodies, TV specials, and even a controversial South Park episode in its name. But maybe he should’ve gotten the other actors to be in this with him. The only video I can find online of this performance has been snatched by Viacom, so I can’t show it to you, but this performance looked he was talking to voices on his head. P.S.: This chapter isn’t even in the official “Trapped in the Closet” video lineage. I’ve watched every chapter of this thing. This part is nowhere to be found. Like, what even, Robert? You performed a deleted scene basically.
And let’s not forget about the pre-show, which features the one and only VMA appearances of Mike Jones and Paul Wall, along with Slim Thug, who does appear on the 2006 show. It also featured a performance from soon-to-be superstars Fall Out Boy and Rihanna, and all three of these performances were better than the pre-show performances the previous year…OK, Patrick Stump‘s vocals in the FOB performance aren’t that great, but if you love “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down” enough, you could probably look past that. I actually recommend clicking the links and watching them for yourself.
The biggest winner of the night was Green Day. Keep in mind that back in the 2000’s, rock music still had a place in the mainstream, unlike now where hearing an electric guitar on the radio is about as easy as finding a tabloid magazine without a Kardashian/Jenner on the cover. And Green Day was perhaps the band of the year because of that, taking home four VMAs on-air for Viewer’s Choice (“American Idiot”), Best Rock Video, Best Group Video, and the coveted Video of the Year (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams”). As someone who was huge into Green Day at the time and still listens to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” a ton now, I say they earned those honors. And they weren’t the only rock bands to be awarded that night; The Killers won Best New Artist for their “Mr. Brightside” video, though I personally would have preferred Lil Jon-dubbed Crunk&B Princess Ciara winning that one. And when Fall Out Boy took home the MTV2 Award for “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down”, they were generous enough to shoutout My Chemical Romance’s “Helena” clip in their speech. MCR, for the record, didn’t win a damn thing despite being up for Best New Artist, Best Rock Video, the MTV2 Award, Viewer’s Choice, and one or two technical awards. They would eventually storm through a black parade and some danger days before breaking up completely moonman-less. Maybe they should’ve come back after all and avenged those losses.
Other genres had a pretty good night too; Kelly Clarkson beat out Gwen Stefani in two categories (Best Female Video, Best Pop Video) which I don’t mind as “Since U Been Gone” is and always has been better than “Hollaback Girl” in all regards. Missy Elliott deservedly won a couple of awards for a video that deservedly got a ton of play on MTV Hits, BET, and VH1 at the time, “Lose Control”. Collaborator Ciara accompanied her to the stage to accept both Best Hip-Hop Video and Best Dance Video. Ludacris won the Best Rap Video award for making a brilliant song and video that revolves completely around Austin Powers references, an idea that only Ludacris (and maybe Eminem, who was also nominated for a pop culture-filled video) could pull off. Another rapper who took home a prize was Kanye West, winning his first ever moonman for the version of “Jesus Walks” with the KKK member, slaves, and white doves. (I don’t think I ever saw that version on MTV Hits), while Alicia Keys and her purple piano somehow bested Mariah Carey ditching Eric Roberts at the alter in the Best R&B Video category. My favorite win of the night, however: “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz winning Breakthrough Video, which guitarist Noodle accepted via video message. Have I ever mentioned to you that’s my favorite music video of all-time?
Overall, I prefer 2005’s VMAs over 2004, but that’s mostly out of favoritism for some of the artists involved. An award show that features Missy Elliott, Kelly Clarkson, Gorillaz, and Green Day all walking out with prizes is OK in my book. Also, some of the performances are fine. So why is this VMAs not looked back on very fondly? The same reason 2004’s wasn’t, and not because it took place in Miami too. It’s because they once again played it too safe and nothing all that memorable really happened. Even the good performances probably wouldn’t be featured in VMA “Best Of…” retrospectives, aside from Kelly Clarkson’s unforgettably rainy spectacle at the end. And thank God no award show has ever been dense enough to book Diddy as a host again. Well, at least they actually got a comedian to host the next year; maybe he’ll bring some laughs (or thunder) for their Radio City return. Let’s hope he does.