Chances are this write-up on the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards may be funnier than the actual 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. And that’s saying something because a professional comedic actor was the host for this show. It was the first time since 2003 that the VMA’s returned to their home venue, Radio City Music Hall. Most of the best VMA’s have taken place in this location. Years like 1992, 1994, and 1997 are all well-remembered VMA’s that took place at Radio City, and 2006 seemed like it should join the pantheon of great Radio City-hosted VMA extravaganza. Instead, this show is remembered a dull two-hour slogfest that isn’t worth remembering. How is that possible? Is it another example of people hating just for the sake of hating something or was this show really all that bad? Is it just a victim of high expectations or would even lowering your expectations to Bikini Bottom-levels still not save this show? Let’s find out by breaking this show down, starting with what is sadly one of it’s weak spots:
This year’s host was Jack Black, who vowed to bring the thunder. He bought something alright, but I don’t know if thunder is the right way to describe it. I don’t know how else to put it: most of Jable’s jokes kind of bombed on this show. His trademark charisma, energy, and goofball charm was there, but his jokes were pretty bad for the most part. His opening had a random cameo from a confused Montell Williams and his subversion of expectations with a cannon not going off didn’t go over that well. Also, to promote his band Tenacious D’s movie, The Pick of Destiny, he did a few sketches with his bandmate Kyle Gass (a.k.a. Kage), in which they pretended there was friction in the band. Gass would appear later in the night with The Black Eyed Peas, claiming to have joined Fergie and the guys, which leads Black to run backstage and throw an over-the-top tantrum about being a terrible host and wanting his friend back. Cue “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt and the Tenacious D ‘reunion’, where they go on-stage to perform. Sadly, they didn’t perform “The Metal” or “Tribute”; that would’ve been epic. But the performance we got was an anti-climactic way to end what was already cheesy and unusual. You’re left going WTF more than LOL. Black is a hoot in movies like School of Rock and his humor works well when he’s keeping kids entertained by hosting the Kids Choice Awards, but I don’t think it worked well on this night.
Jay-Z kicked off the night by welcoming MTV back to New York in the opening. But what about everyone else? Well, like last year’s VMA’s, MTV got a little help from some of their former stars as the cast of Jackass had a sequel to promote and therefore were in charge of the Viewer’s Choice Awards vignettes. I don’t really remember any of their vignettes, but I do remember Wee-Man hitting Bam Margera in the nuts. While presenting Best Pop Video, Nicole Richie had the audacity to throw Danity Kane‘s name in the list of former Best Pop Video winners despite the fact that 2006 was Danity Kane’s debut year, and Abigail Breslin had trouble pronouncing “Avenged Sevenfold” while presenting Best New Artist. Britney Spears & K-Fed pretended to lose their son while presenting Best R&B Video and Lou Reed challenged MTV to play more music videos. (Spoilers: They failed.) Jennifer Lopez confirmed the launch of the now-forgotten MTV Tr3s network, and Snoop Dogg gave props to all the nominees before announcing Best Rap Video. Also, Axl Rose actually managed to go the whole night without punching anyone in the face, at least not to my knowledge.
Like two years earlier, the VMA’s decided to dedicate a segment of the show to social justice, leading to the totally out-of-left-field appearance of Al Gore to discuss climate change and what we can do to contribute to the cause. At least he didn’t get booed like the political daughters in 2004. Sarah Silverman came on-stage and did an entire comedy routine about Paris Hilton’s weight, ending it with “You’re supposed to be Paris Hilton; not Paris, France. Think about it.” I did think about it, and I’ve guessing she meant it to be satirical, but as someone who is often confused by most of Sarah Silverman’s comedy (unless she’s playing little Disney glitches or Laura Marano‘s guardian), you might not wanna ask me. Probably my favorite presenter moment was from Lil Kim, who made what I assume to be her first public appearance since leaving prison. It won’t top her infamous moment with Diana Ross in 1999, but it was certainly a highlight of this particular show. And who better to hand a visionary director like Hype Williams the Video Vanguard Award than a visionary the caliber of Kanye West?
Jack White‘s band The Raconteurs were the house band for the night, so they played us into and out of commercial breaks and got a lame, totally obvious joke made about them from Jack Black about how he and Jack White share a first name with colors as surnames. When it comes to performances, I feel like there was more effort put into them than 2004 and 2005 combined. I mean, OK Go must’ve practiced re-doing that treadmill routine from “Here It Goes Again” for a long time to make sure they didn’t mess up. Also, Justin Timberlake kicked off the show right with an electric medley of his first two FutureSex/LoveSounds hits. Shakira‘s performance was certainly nice to see as she injected a little bit of culture into the visuals; her vocals weren’t so great on this night, but it was beautiful and a joy to watch. Also visually interesting was Panic! At The Disco bringing the carnival from their video to the stage. And while Beyoncé’s “Ring The Alarm” performance might be her least memorable VMA performance to date, it’s still one of the better performances on this night.
Honestly, I think the weakest links from this show, along with the All-American Rejects performance that could’ve been awesome, but was so short I almost forgot to include it here, were the hip-hop performances. Missy and Busta did well in the Hype Williams tribute, especially Missy recapturing the imagery of her Hype-directed “Supa Dupa Fly” video, but you could probably skip the Ludacris and T.I. performances. Ludacris’ performance of “Money Maker” (a song I’ve never really cared for even when it was big, honestly) is only interesting when the Pussycat Dolls come out at the end, and even then, all of them except Nicole are basically just hot backup dancers. And though I love “What You Know”, T.I.’s performance with an obnoxious DJ Drama intro and Young Dro add-on that nobody asked for is as just boring and forgettable. If you watched the pre-show, you were treated to Fergie performing that ridiculous “London Bridge” song, which I only advise watching if you still like that song or have a crush on Fergie. Also on the pre-show, we got the world premiere of My Chemical Romance‘s “Welcome to the Black Parade”; I feel like this performance would’ve worked better on the actual show in a larger environment than on a roof, but at least Gerard Way sounded slightly better here than he did in the “Helena” performance from 2005.
As you probably remember (or maybe not), Panic! At The Disco won the Video of the Year award and had their thunder stolen by some guy named Sixx before they got to make a speech. If you don’t remember, it’s probably because neither Sixx nor P!ATD have fame the caliber of Taylor Swift and Kanye West, so this moment gets lost in the shuffle of award show interruptions. But it was strange that P!ATD won this award. Not that “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” sucked; it may have bombed on TRL, but I actually rather enjoy that video and it was becoming a huge radio hit at the time. But against videos from heavyweights like Christina Aguilera, Madonna, Shakira, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, their win kind of seemed like a fluke. But here’s the thing about each of the four artists I just named: none of them won in a major category this night. “Hips Don’t Lie” won Best Choreography, but lost everything else. Shakira, Madonna, and Christina were all nominated in the same categories for the most part (though Christina was absent from Best Dance Video) and constantly lost to other videos. Best Female Video went to “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson, which I approve of because that is one of very few music videos to ever legitimately move me to tears. Best Pop Video went to P!NK‘s pop culture lampooning in “Stupid Girls”, and Best Dance Video went to my personal favorite Pussycat Dolls video,“Buttons”. All these videos certainly weren’t bad, but it was totally a shock to see Christina, Madonna, and Shakira constant come up short despite so many nominations.
It was certainly a good night to be a rock band in 2006 as All-American Rejects won Best Group Video for Tyson Ritter’s t-shirt switching in “Move Along”, Fall Out Boy’s prom-themed “Dance, Dance” won the Viewer’s Choice Award (another category Shakira lost), 30 Seconds to Mars beat Lil Wayne and Taking Back Sunday for the final MTV2 Award ever, and metal favorites Avenged Sevenfold beat out pop/R&B favorites Rihanna and Chris Brown for Best New Artist. And in the actual Best Rock Video category, AFI was able to conquer Green Day, the Chili Peppers, P!ATD, and 30 Seconds to Mars. In the urban music fields, Beyoncé won Best R&B Video over Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey for her Pink Panther-themed “Check On It”, Chamillionaire rode straight to the Best Rap Video award for “Ridin'”, and somehow, someway, The Black Eyes Peas beat out Kanye West and Common for Best Hip-Hop Video, which does not compute if you ask me. “My Humps”? Better than “Gold Digger” and “Testify”? Not on my watch, it’s not. Also, James Blunt won Best Male Video over Nick Lachey, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, and T.I. “You’re Beautiful” was my least favorite video in the field, so that’s the category I most disagreed with personally. How Kanye kept his cool after being out on this night, I have no idea; guess he really wanted to save himself for the Hype Williams tribute. Finally, Mike Shinoda‘s hip-hop project Fort Minor won Ringtone of the Year, but despite the fact that I still love “Where’d You Go”, I have no idea why MTV felt this category was needed on a music video award show.
I remember hearing people say that the 2006 VMA’s was awful; I still hear people trashing this show. Personally, I don’t think it’s the worst VMA’s I’ve ever seen; that is yet to come. Trust me, worse is coming. But I definitely see where they’re coming from. As much as I did Jack Black in movies, this was not his night as a host. His material was really underwhelming. And some of the performances, especially the hip-hop ones, weren’t all that spectacular. Also, how did “Hips Don’t Lie” only get ONE award and it was in a technical field? Shakira and Wyclef got totally robbed. And once again, it marked a VMA’s where nothing headline-making happened. That used to be one of the hallmarks of the VMA’s is that what happened on the show got people talking and dominated headlines the next day. This is the third year in a row in which nothing of the sort came to be. Meaning that next year, MTV and the VMA attendees needed to step up their game and deliver a night to remember. Or they could just give up and half-ass everything. Hashtag: Foreshadowing.