FearlessRiOT Retro Review: 2007 MTV Video Music Awards

I should totally half-ass this review. I feel like I’m justified in doing that since MTV clearly half-assed putting this show together. I read somewhere that after looking at the disappointing ratings for the previous year’s VMA’s (which aired on a Thursday, need I remind you), MTV decided to go a little cheaper for the VMA’s in 2007. That’s basically code for they gave up and barely tried. All across the board, you could tell they gave up. The award show was taking place in a hotel. They technically didn’t have a host. They dumped a bunch of classic categories and replaced them with generic new ones. They even claimed the show would air ONE time and ONE time only, before forgetting that marketing strategy and going on to re-air the show numerous times the following month. This show took place in Vegas and MTV decided take a huge chance and gamble away most of what made the VMAs so great, and spoilers: the result was just awful. This is some bottom of the barrel stuff, and I can tell you exactly why. This is the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards.

The Host:

Actually, this year’s VMAs featured Timbaland playing the role of the maestro. Yes, really. The maestro. I know MTV had a band with the word “orchestra” in the name close the show nine years before this show, but the VMAs have never been anything resembling an orchestra. It’s an award show meant to honor pop, rock, hip-hop, and R&B music videos. What is the role of a “maestro” on the MTV Video Music Awards? I’m not sure; couldn’t be playing music heading into and out of commercial breaks because that’s what Mark Ronson was there for. Aside from jamming out with Justin Timberlake, popping up in Linkin Park’s set for some reason, and closing the show, Timbaland didn’t really do much on this program.

The Presenters:

SarahThis presenters lineup was boring. Sarah Silverman, long lost twin sister of pro wrestler-turned-author AJ Lee, once again came to the stage with some hit-or-miss comedy on Britney Spears and 50 Cent, Shia LaBeouf awkwardly stalled for time while waiting for an absent Fergie to come accept her award, Jamie Foxx tried to get Jessica Biel to dance and failed, and the cast of The Hills were about as interesting as you’d think the cast of The Hills would be at an award show. And this is coming from someone who had a crush on both Audrina Patridge and Lauren Conrad at the time. Eve and Nicole Scherzinger had both released singles that year, “Tambourine” and “Whatever You Like”, for their upcoming solo albums, but maybe presenting together on this show jinxed both of them because both songs flopped and neither album dropped that year. Kanye West and 50 Cent had the best presenter moment as they got the crowd cheering with a face-off ahead of their September 11th album battle between Graduation and Curtis. (Kanye won that battle, by the way, leading to 50 Cent not retiring like he promised.) I’d talk about the other presenters, but that would imply I remember anything they did on the show. Let’s move on.

The Performances:

RIhFOBIn 2005, MTV experimented with having performances take place outside the auditorium, but it was in 2007 that they decided to start doing it pretty much every year going forward. And since the VMA’s took place in a hotel that night, it was a no-brainer that the performances outside the auditorium take place in hotel rooms. The TimberPowers, Fall Out Boy, Kanye West, and the Foo Fighters were given their own individual suites to perform in, with fans filling up each room. They’d also have special guests stopping by for performances, including Gym Class Heroes, Ne-YoCobra Starship, Rihanna, Panic! At The Disco, and Lil Wayne joining Fall Out Boy while T-Pain and Jamie Foxx joined Kanye West. Foo Fighters had a ton of guests including Queens of the Stone Age with Cee-Lo Green, System of a Down‘s Serj Tankian (who went solo that year), the Eagles of Death Metal, and even the late metal God himself, Lemmy Kilmeister of Motörhead. Finally, the TimberPowers were joined by 50 Cent, Petey Pablo, and T.I. These performances took up a large chunk of the show and truth be told, some of them sounded good. I especially thought the performances from the Foo Fighters party totally rocked. But you know what would have made them better? Putting them on the main stage. While these suite parties were probably fun for the people in the suites, where was the fun for the people in the main auditorium and the viewers watching at home? If I wanted to see someone perform songs in a condensed bedroom with a bunch of random people watching, I’d just invite my neighbors into my room to watch me basically do my usual before-bed routine. Most of them performances had the potential to be great, but got dragged down by the fact that MTV relegated them to such a condensed space rather than the main stage.

BritneyThe main stage did get performances, though, but not very many; they had to watch the headline-making Britney Spears debacle, which is not a good thing. It was well known at the time that Britney Spears was going through the mental meltdown to end all mental meltdowns, but MTV and Britney’s team must’ve agreed that they needed the ratings and shoved her on-stage anyway, which surprise-surprise, totally blew up in their faces. Trey Parker and Matt Stone were spot on with the Britney’s New Look episode that came out after this. The other main show performances were much better; I don’t want to compliment anything that pairs Rihanna and Chris Brown together, but before the domestic abuse controversy, their performance here was widely applauded and understandably so. And the same could be said for Alicia Key‘s performance of “No One” (in my opinion, one of her least enduring singles) and her cover of George Michael’s “Freedom ’90”. Too bad Kid Rock and Tommy Lee were too busy engaging in fisticuffs to appreciate it. Like the suite performances, Linkin Park‘s set where they busted out one of my personal favorite Linkin Park songs probably would’ve been better if they actually did it on the main stage as opposed to some random location. And Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, and Timbaland tried their best to close the show on a high note.

The Winners:

BeyonceLet’s talk about those awful categories for a second. First of all, instead of Best Male Video, Best Female Video, and Best Group, they gave out Male Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, and Best Group. Suddenly, MTV must’ve thought they were the American Music Awards with these categories. Then came the actual new categories that absolutely no one asked for: Quadruple Threat of the Year, Monster Single of the Year, and Most Earth-Shattering Collaboration. Despite the terrible name they gave it this year, I actually didn’t mind a Best Collaboration Award. In fact, I don’t know why they didn’t already have one. But it was a good addition and I’m glad it’s still active today. But there was no reason to make those other two categories aside from a doomed-to-fail experiment. This is the MTV VIDEO Music Awards, and aside from Video of the Year and the technical awards that they never even award on the air, they dumped the video categories; no Best Rock, Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, or Dance Video. And in a year that saw videos like “Welcome to the Black Parade”, “Potential Breakup Song”, “Emergency”, “I Tried (So Hard)”, “We Takin’ Over”, “Never Again”, “Call Me When You’re Sober”, “Too Little, Too Late”, “Read My Mind”, “Wouldn’t Get Far”, “With Love”, “Walk Away”“The River”, “Seize The Day”, “Wolf Like Me”, and “Candyman” go un-nominated, MTV’s decision just did not sit right with me.

JustinI will give this show this, though; despite the awful categories, I really don’t object to the winners for the most part. “Umbrella” is still one of my favorite music videos and songs of the last 20 years, and certainly a classic in the Rihanna videography that’s getting rewarded with the Video Vanguard this year. So it winning Video of the Year and Monster Single of the Year put a smile on my face, even if it’s competition like “Stronger” and “Rehab” was just as strong. I also love that Gym Class Heroes were named Best New Artist, though Carrie Underwood (a rare example of a country artist landing a VMA nomination) and Amy Winehouse winning would also have been great decisions. I really approved of Justin Timberlake winning Male Artist of the Year and Quadruple Threat of the Year because FutureSex/LoveSounds was my favorite album at the time and is still one of my favorite albums. And there’s no way I’m objecting to Beyoncé and Shakira winning [Best] Collaboration; those two blessed the world when they made that song and video. I would’ve preferred Female Artist of the Year go to Rihanna or Beyoncé, but Fergie was damn successful at the time, so it’s not like I can say she didn’t deserve it. And though Gym Class Heroes, Linkin Park, The White Stripesand even the nowadays-boring-as-drywall Maroon 5 all released songs I loved that year, it’s hard to argue with Fall Out Boy, in a year where they won me over with gems like “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” and “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race”, winning the final Best Group Award the VMA’s ever gave out. (Still not thrilled with the Kim Kardashian cameo in “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”, though.) These wins, however, do not justify MTV thinking these categories and alterations were a good idea, and as it turns out Kanye West was even less thrilled with the proceedings. Shocker.

Final Verdict:

This may have been the riskiest VMA’s in years at that point, but I don’t mean that in a good way. This will definitely rank down there as one of the worst VMA’s I’m gonna review in this series, and that’s saying something considering I’m not exactly reviewing the period of the ceremony’s pinnacle of credibility. Cutting so many categories was a bad idea. Two of the categories they added were a bad idea. Putting performances in the hotel rooms and limiting what potential they had was a bad idea. Getting Britney Spears to perform knowing she wasn’t in a healthy state of mind was not only a bad idea, but it was also incredibly irresponsible as it did nothing for anyone but rags like TMZ and grocery store tabloids. The fact that it was easily the most memorable moment of the entire show is just tragic. Ladies and gentlemen, a prayer for the 2008 VMA’s in hopes of it being steps ahead of this one.

Coming tomorrow: 2008 MTV Video Music Awards.

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