Sunday, September 12, 2010

VMAs Tonight

Okay, so let's be honest: the VMAs are more or less a joke of an awards show. Music videos certainly deserve an awards show of their own, but the winners are decided by MTV viewers, which means whatever's popular will win, not what's best (kind of like all awards shows, Oscars included, but without much real achievements). But I'm a glutton for this sort of thing, and instead of one of my more traditional previews, I'm going to share some of my favorite videos nominated this year, and make a bold argument about Lady Gaga (some of you may not approve of this one).
Broken Bells, "The Ghost Inside"
Best New Artist nominee
Of course Justin Bieber (ick) is going to win this one, unless of course Ke$ha (ick x infinity) pulls the upset, but the best video in the category is easily this one. I like Broken Bells, and the concept and execution of the video is excellent. But the real winner here is Christina Hendricks, who gets disassembled and put back together for a bleak ending. She's as ravishing as ever here *swoon*
Jay-Z featuring Swizz Beats, "On to the Next One"
Best Hip-Hop Video nominee
I like Jay-Z, and this song is one of the highlights on The Blueprint 3 (along with the unfortunately overplayed "Empire State of Mind" and chill "Young Forever"). The video is just mesmerizing: "what does it mean?!?" This is Jay-Z getting artsy, and its a fun video, if not necessarily as deep as he might have thought it was.
Florence + the Machine, "Dog Days are Over"
Best Rock Video nominee
Video of the Year nominee
Art Direction nominee (thankfully there are professional categories)
Cinematography nominee
I unabashedly love this song, and the video. Its performance art at its finest. There's no message, no point, no homage, just fantastic visuals. And she can sing the hell out of a song, can't she?
Dan Black, "Symphonies"
Special Effects nominee
Breakthrough Video nominee
There are no words to describe how this song makes me feel. And the video is absolutely fantastic, as Black makes his way through various stages of film. Of course, it does blatantly appeal to the cinephile in me, so maybe I'm a bit biased. But I highly recommend the song to everyone. Powerful stuff.
Of course, these are just personal preferences, what I considered standouts from a decent-songs, boring videos crowd. Be sure to check out all of the nominees yourself, maybe there's something for you there.
Now, you've noticed that I haven't mentioned Lady Gaga, who earned more nominations this year than any artist in history. I've been saving her for a special section here, because I figure that she's going to dominate tonight. I'm focusing particularly on the Video of the Year category, which "Telephone" is destined to win. However, I don't think its the best video in the category, nor is it the best video Lady Gaga has made. I know, I know, heresy! But allow me to explain myself.
Lady Gaga has made it no secret that she loves excess. Her fashion, her music, her onstage personality; everything about her screams more is more. That translates into her music videos: each one is bigger than the last, stuffed to the brim with whatever she can fit into them. The "Telephone" video, however, is the beginning of a creative slide in her videos (certainly not in her music, which is still strong). At nine minutes, its almost a short film, at it pays homage to exploitation films, namely the films of Quentin Tarantino - even the Pussy Wagon makes an appearance. However, what was hyped to be astounding and revolutionary turns out to be less than that. The Tarantino-esque dialogue falls remarkably flat ("If you kill a cow, you have to make a burger"): it feels completely fabricated and inorganic. And then there's the problem with the length. Now, I don't have any issues with long-form videos, but this one is in need of an edit. The first three minutes are completely pointless, wasting time with scenes only meant to show off new outre fashion (the cigarette sunglasses) and give Lady Gaga an excuse to make out with a woman (while one of The Fame's weakest tracks, "Paper Gangster," plays in the background). But once the music kicks in, the video takes off with gleeful joy, and from then on its incredibly enjoyable. It never shakes those first few minutes though, and the video suffers from this: its excess that's too excessive. And this appears to be a trend for her, as evidenced by her god-awful "Alejandro" video.
Surely, there are better ways to make a video tribute to the gay community than using dancing Nazis? Not quite the best message...
Which is why I propose that Lady Gaga's best video, as well as the best video in the category, is "Bad Romance." Sure, there's no explicit narrative, so its not the "revolution" that "Telephone" supposedly was, and its more of a traditional music video. But is there really anything wrong with that? It also strikes the balance that Gaga was building toward before this but lost afterwards: its the perfect amount of everything she's about. There's stunning outfits, striking visuals, exciting choreography, and most importantly, it does the song justice without being superfluous. There's nothing within the video that doesn't fit the mood or meaning of the song, and its a terrifically crafted work of art. This is Lady Gaga in peak form, with just the right amount of restraint on her outsized persona, and she utilizes all of her artistic influences to create a compelling, enjoyable video. Hopefully, she'll return to this form in the future, rather than let her lack of quality control run rampant.
I'm sure there are plenty of you who disagree with this, so feel free to discuss in the comments. Are you watching the VMAs tonight?

No comments: