Tuesday, 27 August 2013

VMAs: The Good, The Bad and The Downright Disgusting

On Sunday night, I said to a good friend, "I haven't said this in 10 years, but I am really excited for the VMAs tonight". That's no exaggeration, as I feel like the MTV Video Music Awards haven't been good since about 2003 or '04. What once seemed to be an alternative awards ceremony celebrating the best in the business and those who couldn't get close to a Grammy later turned into a seemingly overreaching spectacle to win viewership ratings. 

This year saw the awards return back to form. Although it wouldn't be the VMAs without a lil' controversy, it was nice to see a strong selection of nominees while also witnessing some incredible live performances. 

Ten of the show's moments have been spread (unevenly) into three categories; The Good, The Bad and the troll-under-a-bridge ugly. I don't think it takes a genius to guess which moments were the ugliest.

5. Lady Gaga's opener - 'Applause'

Yes, Lady Gaga opened the show with 'Applause', the first single off her third album 'Artpop'. While I'm sure some of you found time to cheer her, others were more likely to moan and groan, as after only four years, a lot of people seem to be sick of her already. My expectations for this performance were at a comfortable average to reasonably high, only to be exceeded entirely. 

Why Gaga found it necessary to wear four different costumes and three different wigs is unbeknownst to me at this moment in time, but for now I'll just take it as it was. An incredibly entertaining show opener.

4. The Surprise presenters

Something I didn't see coming were the appearances of Jason Collins, TLC and Lil' Kim this year. Even though Kim herself is a native Brooklynite (where the event was held this year), I never would've guessed that she'd actually turn up, especially since she left me hanging at Lovebox this year. Taking turns to introduce performances by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Drake, and the nominees for Best Rap Video respectively, the three were a pleasant add to the mix among the stars of the new generation, including Iggy Azalea, Selena Gomez and Bruno Mars.

3. Danity Kane's reformation

While a collective 'WHO?!' sweeps this post/nation/the internet, lemme say one thing. Danity Kane are my jam. Those who know me know this. Shannon, Aundrea, Aubrey and Dawn stepped out together as a group for the first time five years, acting like no time had passed at all. The band made famous on MTV's Making The Band released two albums in '06 and '08 before being disbanded by the groups creator, the Ciroc splashing Diddy in '09. Becoming the only girl group in history to have their first two albums début atop the Billboard chart, the new foursome (the fifth member, 'D. Woods' decided not to return for whatever reason), announced that they're currently readying a new single, titled 'Rage' from their upcoming third album. Sure they've been gone longer than they were together, and most people don't know who they are, but I remain excited.

2. Kanye West's 'Blood on the Leaves'

The most shocking thing that Kanye West can do at the point is act like a normal human being. Which is pretty much what he did the entire time he was on stage performing 'Blood on the Leaves' this year. West made a rare appearance at this years awards to perform a track from his dark, twisted but not so beautiful LP, Yeezus on Sunday night. While performing in front of the backdrop to Steve McQueen's "Lynching Tree", West flailed and wailed to the track which samples Nina Simone's 'Strange Fruit'. So maybe it wasn't exactly normal, but pretty normal for him at least. 

1. Justin Timberlake & NSync's Medley 

How could this not be #1? The recipient of this year's Video Vanguard Award blessed us with a 15 minute medley of almost every song he's ever released.  About half way through Timberlake headed towards the stage to reunite with the best boyband of all time, NSync for 'Gone', 'Bye Bye Bye' and 'Girlfriend'.

The choreography and vocals were air fucking TIGHT. 

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

and most importantly, Exhibit C:

And let's not forget about this:

I need a slo-mo of that:

Everyone, their mother, and Lady Gaga lost their minds:

The Bad

3. Katy Perry's closer, 'Roar'

To be fair, this show had the fewest poor moments since I started watching the show in 1998, so it was quite hard to pick these. So I'm sorry Katy Perry but this one goes to you. Also performing the lead single from her third album, Perry opted for a 'Rocky' themed stage set under the Brooklyn Bridge. The performance wasn't necessarily 'bad' exactly, just a tad slow and dull for a show closer. It probably doesn't help that I also don't like the song at all.

2. Taylor Swift's potty mouth

It's hard to know who she was referring to exactly or whether it was just clever editing, but there's a member of One Direction she clearly can't stand the sound of. Bad in the best possible way.

1. That weird voice Joseph Gordon Levitt was speaking in.

JGL took the stage to present the award for Video of the Year, only to grace us with a really weird 19th Century circus ringleader persona. Although he recognised his own ridiculousness, he was met on stage by the awards recipient, Justin Timberlake also using the same voice...which made it slightly less cringe-inducing. Slightly.

The Ugly

2. Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke's 'We Can't Stop/Blurred Lines/Give It 2 Me'

As this feature is already a lot more image and gif heavy than expected, I'm gonna keep this one clean and short. What the hell was I even watching when Miley Cyrus performed 'We Can't Stop'? From the sad teddy bears, to the backoff slapping, to Cyrus's 'twerking', I don't even know where to begin. At least for the final song we had 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar attempt to save this desperate and unnecessary attempt for Cyrus to shed her child star skin. Call me an old codger but I was kinda disgusted. 

I'm gonna let this image speak for itself and be done with it...


1. Everyone's reaction to it

...Except I can't be cause the reactions are some of the best things to come out of this years ceremony. Of course, the Parents Television Council complained as it's pretty much what they do, but the Twittersphere exploded. In fact, this performance alone produced a gargantuan 306,000 tweets per minute, breaking a record previously held by Beyonce's Superbowl performance in February. Low and behold my favourite tweet o' them all:


So there you have it. With 10.6 million live viewers it was also the most watched VMA telecast in recent years. More importantly there was something for everyone this year.
Unless you're a Chris Brown fan.

Credit to, fuckenamyy, tammygu3, Mashable, @flashinlightsU and MTV, and anyone elses .gifs I used from Tumblr.

Monday, 12 August 2013

It's Been Ten Years Since...

50 Cent was 'In Da Club'
January 7th 2003

For what felt like weeks on end I heard at least one person every day at school say “GO SHAWTY, IT’S YA BIRTHDAY”, having no idea what the hell they were talking about. It wasn’t until February of that year that I actually witnessed the song for the first time. Still as incredible as it was then (I'm listening to it right now), the Dr. Dre produced track was nominated for two Grammy awards and was listed in Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Songs of the Decade at numbers 13. Coming in at number one in 10 different countries (not bad for a seemingly unknown rapper), the track was also remixed and sung by Beyoncé, under the title ‘Sexy Lil’ Thug’. Beautiful.

Pops most talked about kiss occurred
28th August 2003

"The kiss seen around the world" touched down during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City, New York. Madonna, dressed as (for some unknown reason) a groom locked lips with a recently single Britney and the Dirrty Xtina, both of which were wearing slutty wedding gowns. The moment was great for so many reasons. Britney and Christina were performing on stage together for what seemed like the first time, Missy Elliott hopped out two thirds of the way through, and who could forget Justin Timberlake's face while his former lover lezzed out in front of millions? The only reaction face that trumps that is Mary J. Blige's look of sheer disgust when Aguilera took the stage. 

The greatest show in the world ended…
20th May 2003

Oh Buffster. I love the shit out of this show and I don't care who knows it. Beneath the "guilty pleasure" or "something that’s shit but you watch cause there’s nothing else on" was actually a TV show which changed the female protagonist forever. After an ill-fated attempt at a movie in 1992, Joss Whedon revived his creation and took it to network television in 1997. Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a tongue in cheek tale of a 16 year old teenage girl turned vampire hunter – or slayer – who would "combat the forces of darkness" aided by her Watcher, Rupert Giles and gang of high school friends. Buffy tackled the oh-so dramatic lives of every teenager with fantastical twists. High school was hell, (the school was literally located above the mouth of hell) drug abuse, attempted suicide and how dudes can change after hitting that for the first time. Was it a coincidence that shows such as Alias, Relic Hunter, The Vampire Diaries and True Blood followed in the years to come? Probably not. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been named in Time Magazine, Empire, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly’s best TV shows of all time. In fact, the 5th season episode 'The Body' is hailed by many critics as "one of the greatest TV episodes ever televised". I bet you didn't know THAT.

…and the second greatest show in the world began
8th August 2003

At long last, I finally had a teenage TV show to call my own while actually being a teenager. Once described as "less hairspray and less deodorant" by guest star Samaire Armstrong, The O.C first debuted in the summer of ’03 to both a killer audience and critical reception. From the youngest showrunner in American TV history, Josh Schwartz, (who was 25 when the show was made) the show about the wayward and brooding Ryan Atwood  being taken in by the family of his lawyer, saw an unexpected resurgence in the traditional rich kid teen soap drama. The show that brought The Killers, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie to light for many for the first time was also the show that brought us one of the most beloved characters in teen drama history – Seth Cohen. Awkward bookish and sarcastic white kids everywhere now had someone to look up to. Throw this in with a poor little rich kid, a spoilt little rich kid and the greatest TV father of all time, you've got TV gold. The O.C was shortly followed by shows such as One Tree Hill, 90210 and Gossip Girl, which we all know, pale in comparison, right?

Him and His Girlfriend – Boo – Wifey – etc
10th October 2002

The single was technically first released in 2002, but it wasn't until the following year that the track made huge waves. The “03 Bonnie & Clyde – Hov & B” married on 04-04-2008 (Beyoncé has a fetish for the number ‘4’) and spawned the majestic and REAL royal baby, Blue Ivy Carter last year. Since then, Jay & Bey have collaborated on a number of tracks including "Upgrade U" "Venus vs. Mars" and of course, "Crazy in Love" (more on that one in a sec). '03 Bonnie & Clyde' also saw a sequel on Jay-Z’s "Magna Carta…Holy Grail" LP this year, appropriately titled “Part II: On the Run. Oh, and the original was also produced by Kanye West. Imagine that. 

Pixar brought us Finding Nemo
30th May 2003

Often called Pixar's best film ever made (I disagree, we all know it's Wall-E, with Monster's Inc. coming a close second) the colourful, innovative masterpiece 'Finding Nemo' hit cinemas in May ten years ago. Nemo grossed close to 1 billion dollars and holds a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes - which leads me to one question and one question only. Who is the sick fuck in that 1%? I remember seeing a BBC news report on TV that the sales of clownfish had also gone through the roof thanks to the film. I for one am glad they all found a home.
Pixar are also planning a sequel, and the creatively titled 'Finding Dory' is set to be released in 2015. I could only imagine what it could be about.

Pharrell Williams was everywhere
All year

Pharrell’s distinctive sound had him all over the place. Literally, he had a song everywhere. His weird yet rhythmic cutlery clanging sound dominated 2003 like none other. As well as the NERD album In Search Of… (featuring 'Lapdance' and 'Rock Star') Pharrell, along with collab teammate Chad Hugo found time to produce some of the years biggest singles. Among those released that year included Kelis's 'Milkshake', Snoop Dogg's 'Beautiful', Jay-Z's 'Change Clothes' and Timberlake's 'Senorita' and 'Rock Your Body'. He's still got it after over 20 (TWENTY) years as an artist, songwriter and producer.

Martin Bashir lived with Michael Jackson
3rd February 2003
I have to relate this back to school once again. During break time while everyone outside was talking about this ITV1 special, one boy in my class asked me if I "watched Con Air on Channel 5 last night" …what? No. Of course I didn't. Along with everyone else in my year/school/life apart from him I was watching Living with Michael Jackson. What a mess of a nightmare this turned out to be. The show obviously started out as an up close look at what it was like to be the most famous and talented living musician in the world, but soon took a turn for the unexpectedly worrying. It was here that Jackson first spoke about sleepovers taking place in his house with minors on a number of occasions. Weirdly enough it was Bashir who came under fire from Jackson enthusiasts across the world. Martin was accused of mishandling footage, and editing the feature to make Michael Jackson look...well, you know. 

Dixie Chicks were ashamed
10th March 2003

The country sibling trio who had been famous across the pond since the early nineties spoke these now immortalised words during a gig in London 2003:

"Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas"

The Texan natives found themselves subject to mass media scrutiny (mostly in the south of course), losing sponsorship deals, radio airplay and even receiving death threats in wake of the comment. After initially apologising for the offence they caused, lead singer Natalie Maines backtracked, stating that she was proud of the fact they spoke their minds amidst the decisions George Bush had made to go forth with attacking Iraq. The controversy eventually led to the documentary film "Shut up and Sing" being produced three years later, shedding light on the backlash Dixie Chicks had received in the years thereafter. The band released the album "Taking the Long Way" in 2007, with its lead single 'Not Ready to Make Nice' dealing with the scrutiny head on. The album sold 2 million copies in the US alone and won five Grammy's including the coveted Album of the Year and Song of the Year awards for “Nice”. Take that republicans.

Bey, Blu and Black had a 13 week number one chart run
All originally released on 18th May, 6th May and 16th June respectively.

I feel like 2003 was a crowning moment in which the UK developed the taste for actually buying good music. A trend that started to fade around 2009.

It was this year that Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love was brought to us. Collaborating once again with Jay-Z the track found itself at #1 for three weeks in the summer of ’03. It was impossible to run from the big-band style introduction, as well as the music video, which would be on any and every channel possible for what felt like 8 times an hour. CIL became a staple in Beyoncé’s discography, and saw herself become the solo star she’d always wanted to be.

However, 'Crazy in Love' saw itself sharing the airwaves with another male-female rap-sung collaboration, in the form of Blu Cantrell & Sean Paul’s incredible "Breathe". Sampled from Dr. Dre's "What’s The Difference", the track stayed at number one for 4 weeks, and has stood the test of time as one of the best R&B collaborations of the last ten years. Yes I'm serious; I love this song that much.

What many thought was the Black Eyed Peas first single was actually the first from their fourth album. It was just their first single after recruiting Fergie. The single 'Where is the Love' featuring Justin Timberlake stayed at #1 for five weeks in June and subsequently became the top selling single of the year. As I said, this was the year that great music was released but for me, let's discount this one. Yeah it has a nice message and all that, but I never really “got it”. I'm sure that makes me a horrible person, but whatever.