Viewing an award show as someone who produces and directs entertainment for event productions can be challenging. Sometimes I just want the freedom to enjoy it without having to pick it apart as an expert. But that's part of my job. To observe, learn, inform, love it or hate it.
My direct connection with the MTV VMAs stems from my years as a professional dancer/choreographer and having an opportunity to perform at the 1999 show with Ricky Martin and the 2002 opening number with Jimmy Fallon.
During that time, the VMAs were engulfed with star power and memorable moments. Perhaps it was all the legends that were still among us (Prince, Michael Jackson,…). The music industry was also at a different place in terms of sales, charts, and artist status as music videos were still very much aired on television. Today, the digital age has us filtering songs and music videos on tiny little screens making it all less important to truly invest in an artist and award shows. Perhaps that was the case las
t night on the MTV VMAs. Here are a just couple things that hit and missed the mark.
I loved the grand arches, augmented reality and video protection mapping. The flames, sparks and other images looked so realistic that it felt like they were coming at you. At times it did resemble an “X-Factor” or "America's Got Talent" finale but the graphics and transformations provided for the presenters and performances were very impressive for the most part. This digital set design was perfectly current and ideal for the audience and viewers.
I am a big fan of Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. But Nicki set out to remind us who still reigns. Her presence never fails. And about that Oculus performance. Can we just say wow, that was cool. The Oculus made for a perfect setting for a performer like her. It almost gave it a super bowl half time vibe. It was great to feature our new NYC landmark. I can't wait to produce an event there.
New York City
It was great to finally have the MTV VMAs back in New York City ...especially at Radio City Music Hall where it all began. Having the show in NYC gives it swag and much more. From Lincoln Center to Barclays Center, NYC has the most diverse venues to hold music award shows and iconic landmarks to feature special performances. I say leave Hollywood to the Oscars and Emmys and keep the VMAs in NYC where some of the most iconic American music originated.
This is one tradition that should not be broken. It’s like getting invited over for dinner and the door is wide open without a host formally greeting you, inviting you in and offering you an aperitif before the feast begins. Having a host gives you a beginning and an end. A host sprinkles you with hysterical or awkward jokes that every award show needs. A host forges memories for the audience and viewers and offers a type of reference where you can look back and say “hey, remember that crazy thing Jimmy Fallon did on the VMAs in 2018?”. The show lacked identity without a host.
Aretha Franklin Tribute
I love Madonna (huge fan) and didn’t mind her dedication actually. I think MTV just needed to cut her part down and add unique “soul”utions to honor the queen of soul. Perhaps an operatic or choral rendition of her songs or a dance performance based on her "I Knew You Were Waiting" and "Freeway of Love" music videos? After all, it’s called the MTV “Video Music Awards”.
Backstreet Boys as a 'Pre-Show' performance
Backstreet Boys is THE biggest selling boy band of all time. So it was surprising to see them do a pre-show performance for the VMAs. They are not an opening act. They deserved to be featured during the actual ceremony, which could of been a draw for some of the demographics they lacked. Don't give the goodies away too soon. In my opinion, pre-shows should stick to featuring emerging bands and solo artists. Backstreet Boys have paid their dues with over 100 millions records sold worldwide.
In closing, the digital designs and special fx of the show tailored wonderfully to today’s generation. However, stripping away key elements that made the VMAs what it is today will make it forgettable someday ...if not already. Where were the legendary performers besides Aerosmith? Where were the megastars across the audience, especially front row? Even during the years I performed we were graced with the presence of legends like Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown and so on. Was there no one else available to attend other than Jennifer Lopez (who looked fabulous by the way)? Having history with MTV and several of their television programs, I still have faith in them. But with this year's VMA ratings being the lowest of all time, you have to wonder what will they do next year.