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MTV's Video Music Awards At Barclay Center, Sunday, August 26th, 2013, Reviewed

Seven minutes before we go live
















When you watch a baseball game on TV, you are in front of the pitcher watching him communicate with the catcher, glance at third, wheel to 1st, throw to the hitter and then you are with the batter as the bat cracks, you are on the diamond and you are in the action. On television. When you are at the Stadium, the game becomes geometric, bodies move from a distance round and round the bases, like a triangulated diagram come to life, shapes that signify. At least, a different experience.

When you watch a late night talk show, you are at the whim of a director who keeps on pushing you into a position: it is like you have no peripheral vision, all you can see is what you’re being pointed at at any given moment. When you go to a filming, you can watch Letterman whisper to his director, shuffle paper, do other work, while a pre-filmed segment airs.

When you go to an awards show, I went to the live filming of MTV’s Video Music Awards last night, you can do both: see it from above where the stage area, actually four stages, can be drawn in and out at your whim. Three of them are on a straight line from a Moon Man sitting to a small stage connected by a runway to a larger stage. Most of the traffic occurs here.

Brought sexy back
















Or if you are at an Awards show you might, as I did, notice that you are sitting opposite Taylor Swift and fixate on the uncomfortableness of her date, Spiderman Reeve Carney, or wonder why she is walking across two rows of seats to chat with an also uncomfortable looking Joseph Gordon-Levitt. One thing is sure, Taylor is a good sport and a big fan. During Justin Timberlake’s spectacular 20 minute career spanning set leading to his receipt of the “Michael Jackson Video Vanguard  Award” from Jimmy Fallon, Taylor can’t sit still, so she stances and in a sleek black dress and a new close cropped haircut, she shimmies better than I’ve seen her do on stage. An hour later Justin would beat out Taylor for the Video Of The Year, but for now Taylor, like the entire Barclay Center, is awestruck at the rest of the members of N Sync joining Justin for “Bye Bye Bye”.

Certainly, the highlight of a superb evening of state of the art pop music entertainment. Opening with Lady Gaga performing “Applause” with a total of four costume changes in one song (She would spend the rest of the evening in bikini and boots) and pausing only to give Selena Gomez the best pop video award (Taylor would win Top Female), Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke killed it with stuffed bears and simulated sex from “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines”.

Iggy Azelea and Lil Kim gave Mackelmore and Lewis their best rap song for the dreadful “Can’t Hold Us” and later Ed Sheeran would give the duo the award for best social commentary single “Same Sex”. The sincerity is a little draggy. Iggy would later lose Best Newcomer to Austin Mahoney who first thanks God: Without him, I wouldn’t be here”. We should be so lucky. And later M&L would be joined by Jennifer Hudson for a performance of the song.

Kevin Hart pokes some fun at M&L and then introduces Kanye West who performs a show stopping “Blood On The Leaves”. What annoys people about West is neither that he is a great artist, nor that he is a fame whore on a crappy reality show, but that he is both. Me? This is the third I’ve seen him in less than a year and the third time I’ve been completely blown away by the man. He is our greatest hip hop star.

In the biggest disappointment of the evening, Daft Punk don’t perform but simply give Taylor, who kisses their masks!, the best female video award. Perhaps an equal disappointment, albeit not for me because I don’t care, was One Direction winning Best Song of the Summer for “Best Song Ever” which isn’t even their best song ever. I don’t know if you could hear it at home but they were getting booed in the cheap seats at Barclay.

Two thirds of TLC introduce Drake, who gives really good takes on “Hold On We’re Going Home” and “Started From The Bottom” and Selena introduces Bruno Mars who performs “Gorilla”.

And now the commercials  are hitting us fast and furious, every five minutes the evening stops and, hey, both Lady Gaga and Taylor have moved when I wasn’t looking. Poor Reeves looks thoroughly miserable, like he’d just been told there was a new stunt for tonight’s performance of “Turn Off The Lights”. No, wait, there she is, giving Bruno his Best Male Video Award and finally, Joseph recovered from his close encounter with Taylor. puts on a weird voice and announces Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” as video of the year.

Justin is giving his usual fake modesty pace Grandpa dead acceptance speech as I rush out, missing the remote of Katy Perry performing “Roar”.

This isn’t the Grammys. It isn’t the state of the art, it is the state of modern pop music. A snapshot of the charts and the charts are in spectacular shape. I might make a claim that it is about as good as it gets: West and Drake alone are major major performers. Gaga and Perry may not be perfect but they are certainly as big as any pop star at any date. They shine the way they are meant to.

The evening may well have been ultimate ethereal and meaningless but so is life, why shouldn’t pop music be the same? I had a pretty good time, I enjoyed the music and two of the performers, Kanye and Justin, were major. This is not the time to let you sense of propriety ruin you sense of fun. This is better pop music than the 1980s and the 1990s. Revel in the good times.


Pink, feat. Nate Ruess, “Just Give Me A Reason”


30 Seconds to Mars, “Up in the Air”


Selena Gomez, “Come and Get It”


Janelle Monae feat. Erykah Badu, “Q.U.E.E.N”


Justin Timberlake, “Suit and Tie”


Bruno Mars, “Treasure”


Capital Cities, “Safe and Sound”


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, “Can’t Hold Us”


Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”


Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, feat. Ray Dalton, ”Can’t Hold Us”


Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble”


Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, feat. Mary Lambert, “Same Love”


One Direction, “Best Song Ever”


Austin Mahone


Bruno Mars, “Locked Out of Heaven”


Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”

Grade: A-

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