Despite the fact that MTV hasn’t regularly played music videos for nigh on 20 years (we’re talking taking it back to Third Eye Blind and Len here), they still hold the “VMA’s” every year, which stands for “Video Music Awards,” as well as even the “EMA’s,” in November, the “European Music Awards” (which may very well be more justified, if not generally relevant, than the VMA’s).
Now, the immediate, especially depressing reason why they still hold these strange proceedings would be that Americans are PATHOLOGICALLY BORED ALL THE TIME, having become completely desensitized to true musical quality. Their cocaine stash runs out, say, it’s Sunday night, they need some people to make fun of for aesthetic reasons in their living room, their private womb, music videos are no longer a profitable enterprise for artists but MTV is still enough of a capitalistic trademark to be able to reserve the banquet hall and TV broadcast necessary for such a thing.
Then we get certain press sycophants “covering” the ceremony, as if in this day of Facebook and Bandcamp, all of a sudden MTV is going to swoop in in the night and reveal to us this hidden lair of meaningful pop, rock, hip-hop and R&B.
I just saw this Rob Sheffield Rolling Stone article that attempted to deride this year’s VMA’s by stating that “God is a bored woman” and I would take a chance to peruse the article except that typically when I read Sheffield’s writing I notice logical fallacies at a rapid-fire pace in the first paragraph alone. The real issue here, the way I see it, aside from Sheffield’s already established vacuous need for showmanship in music (more than evident from On Bowie), is the puzzling phenomenon that the VMA’s have truly become a BRAND in and of themselves, apart from the channel’s general output, and apart from even the manifestation of music videos themselves. Now, Sheffield might be a music video guy, being that he is a Radiohead fan — I’m not laying that out of the question.
One thing is for sure — he expects this bottomless fountain of entertainment to emanate from his TV, despite there being no evidence of said fountain’s enduring efficacy whatsoever… other than Green Day. Yes, Green Day. You heard me. Those skater brats, those three-chord simpletons, those poorly dressed vagabonds just following in the footsteps of so many Bay Area punk bands before them from Flipper to Operation Ivy, those… SELLOUTS, those… soundtrackers of the final Seinfeld episode with an ambient guitar/vox number? Whoa, now we might be hallucinating.
Anywho, in all fairness, as anybody who followed all fusions of music and television throughout that quaint decade of the ‘90s should know, the VMA’s have arguably provided enough entertaining and even… gasp… ARTISTICALLY STICKTUITIVE episodes to at least justify their overall existence. There was Beck’s twisted-expressionist-choral hit “The New Pollution” orchestrated with an entire live choir onstage, then obviously that Jamiroquai dude who insists to us for better or worse that life is “groovy” but at least had the audacity to bring out that airport-runway thing which gave the moving-ground effect he had in the “Virtual Insanity” video.
But how ‘bout this: Green Day are the only band I can locate on Wikipedia, off the top of my head, to perform TWO CONSECUTIVE YEARS at the VMA’s (what’s more, it was the absolute prime of their career, 1994 and 1995). But wait. It gets better. Neither song they performed (“Armatage Shanks”/“Stuck with Me”) was even available to the public yet, let alone famous. The second of these two VMA outings would have come in August ’95 and the album to spawn these tunes, Insomniac, waited until October of that year to wreak havoc on the world.
Apropos of Green Day generally being viewed as a “sellout,” too, you will not find two more quintessentially “punk” numbers in their whole catalogue, and in general their commercial followup Insomniac, a favorite of mine with its hearty midsection of “No Pride”; “Bab’s Uvula Who?”; and “86”; was full of plenty of uncompromising rock, far less poppy or radio-catering than its predecessor. These two performances at the VMA’s could have easily devolved into shameless self-promotion in the form of a living room prop for “Longview” or a psychologist/sex-fiend setting for “Basket Case,” as well as being another chance to flaunt their megahit “When I Come around.” They used it for none of these things in consecutive years and in this way delivered what I consider a memorable VMA moment for the ages (if not to necessarily say “meaningful”… that’s a bit of a stretch). Even through their last three albums after American Idiot (and I’m licentiously counting Uno, Dos and Tre as one album here… I think there’s a playlist somewhere on my blog chronicling the 16 strongest tracks from this trifecta and it does consummately make for a pretty strong album), Green Day continue to bring plenty of energy to wax, in the form of the direct and militant “Know Your Enemy,” the epic progression of the pop structure “Oh Love” and the dirge-y stomper “Say Goodbye,” reminiscent in meter and mood of “Hitchin’ a Ride” or “Holiday.”
Addenda: Spotify playlist – “A Buncha Green Day Crap”