September 16, 2009

Kanye West And The Video Music Awards

VMA 2009.JPG

I.

This is what he said:

I'm going to let you finish... but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time! Best videos of all time!
Hey stupid, this is the award for Best Female Video, not Best Video Of The Year.  Best Video is at the end of the show. 

But you knew that, didn't you?


II.

Question 1:   Why would Kanye West jump up to support Beyonce?  Why not Britney Spears?  Slow down, racial profilers: would he have done that for any/every black artist?  Why Beyonce?

Question 2a:  If one of the Jonas Brothers had taken the mic away from Beyonce and said "3OH!3 has the best video!"--- what would have happened?

Question 2b: Who would have beaten them up?  Do you think it would have been Kanye West?

III.

The VMAs aren't scripted, they are structured.  Structured shows are particularly deceiving because the audience is focused/distracted by the reality/improvisation/story, oblivious to the underlying control. 

The structure of the VMAs isn't the same as the Oscars, i.e.  an award show culminating in the award for Best Video Of The Year.  If it was the same, then why did my DVR say there was still another 20 minutes left in the show?

IV.

The Muppet Show
was about a cast of muppet performers putting on a variety show at the Muppet Theater-- the show you were watching.  It had three perspectives.

  • The backstage "unscripted" antics: Kermit trying to produce or direct; Fozzie practicing a joke on him, or setting up a bit; the drama with the guest star, etc. 
  • The onstage scripted "performance"-- The Muppet Show that took place in front of the curtain.  This included skits (e.g. Swedish Chef),  Fozzie's standup, and, most importantly, "the Big Number"-- the live guest star's performance at the end.
Looking at these two elements alone, the TV show's structure was: the first five minutes were backstage about starting the performance; then onstage the performance had its opening number;  then a backstage issue; then an onstage skit, then another backstage issue, etc.  Even though TV viewers saw a 30 minute show, the onstage "The Muppet (Variety) Show" performance filled only half that time.   The onstage variety show's highlight was "The Big Number."  But the TV show's story was about the drama of getting to the "Big Number."

This is an old set up.  But unlike many other "shows about the show," The Muppet Show had one additional element:

  • The audience actively commented on the show, in the form of the two old men, Statler and Waldorf, in the box seats.  "Look how stupid this performance is!"

waldorf and statler.jpg

It's not for nothing that the VMA artists are constantly reminding us that these awards are special because we, the fans, nominated them.

If a show is scripted and an actor goes off script, you're sunk.  But as long as the structure of the show is protected, it doesn't matter at all what happens within the show, the outcome will always be the same.  People could get naked, curse, fight-- it changes nothing.  In fact, at some point, these unplanned outbursts become anticipated. 

All that determines a successful show is: can Kermit get us to the Big Number, or not?

V.

Another analogy: it matters to you how a football team plays, who gets injured, misses a catch.  But to the people that directly benefit-- the NFL-- the money will flow no matter who wins, as long as the structure of the game is intact.  If Michael Vick meanwhile wants to drown some puppies, that's his lookout. 

The business of the NFL is not football.  The business of the NFL is business.

VI.

One scripted VMA subplot was Russell Brand's monologue, which was unsurprisingly horrible.  Brand is a hilarious standup comic, but it's impossible to perform something scripted when the audience is expecting something supposedly unscripted.  That's why every presenter's stupid attempts at humor were stupid-- they were scripted for an unscripted show, and it showed.  The best jokes will still inevitably fail under these conditions. 

Another scripted subplot involved Eminem and Tracy Morgan trying to get Best New Artist.  This evolved over multiple segments (waking up, training on a treadmill, singing with Cyndi Lauper) until they eventually gave up ("we'll get 'em next year, homey") and presented the award for Best New Artist.  It was funnier (though not much) than Brand could be because these were prerecorded segments; they took you out of "live performance mode" and you valued it as a scripted skit, e.g. no expectation of spontaneity.

The visceral disgust most people felt at Kanye West was evidence that it was not a staged stunt.  If it was, you would have smirked an "oh please."   This doesn't mean West didn't plan to do it, it means Taylor Swift didn't expect to have it done.

VII.

The audience-- people, Twitter, performers, Leno, The View, the President-- are can't help but comment on the show.  They don't understand that they are actually part of the show.  They aren't getting paid, but neither were Statler and Waldorf.   And they were the funniest part of it.   

My DVR may have said there was another 20 minutes of show left, but it was wrong: there's still another week or so.

VIII.

The VMAs, like The Muppet Show, are about getting to the Big Number.  In that sense, The 2009 VMAs are really the Jay-Z New Record Release Party.

This subplot-- scripted but presented as spontaneous-- was that Jay-Z was not in the house, but he was coming.

Before commercial breaks, shots with subtitles like  "Jay-Z's motorcade on the way to the VMAs" were shown; Jay-Z was coming!

limos.JPG
On one of these breaks, the voice over was:  "How will Jay-Z appear for his grand finale?"  Yes, how?  What will he have to say about all this?

I am almost 100% certain that not only did Kanye West plan to do this, but that Jay-Z was in on it.  Rappers regularly have other people do their "dirty work"-- it makes them appear to have power.  But that's my opinion, and it is absolutely worthless: how would I know?

But what I do know is that when you want to make a show called the Jay-Z New Record Release Party, here's what you'll need: an already established crazy person to say what you're thinking, allowing you to distance yourself from the suicide bombing; you'll want a sexy, gracious, generous, magnanimous wife who rises above the controversy and gives her speech time to Taylor (oh, look, Taylor happens to be right backstage ready to appear);



beyonce gracious.JPG you'll want as much hype as possible pre-game; and the grandest of grand entrances.

Jay-z to stage1.jpg

jay-z perfoms.JPGThis is how it ends/begins.  Walking from backstage to onstage, seen from his perspective.

They don't show anyone leaving.

IX.

"Why do we keep talking about this crap! Kanye West?!   Who cares!"
 
Do you think I'm unemployed, have tons of free time?  Do you think I listen to Jay-Z records?  I haven't seen the VMAs for a decade.  Yet here I am.  Something made me write a post on Jay-Z this week... somehow I watched-- looked forward to-- the VMAs this this year.  Oh, weird coincidence: this was the most watched VMA in history.  We were all compelled before it was broadcast to want to watch it.

"Not me." You're missing the point.  Maybe the VMAs didn't get you, but something is getting you, and those somethings are all the same thing.

Pop culture controls you even if you think you're separate from it.  It is everywhere, from the clothes you wear to the language you use to the way you think.  It is a viral pandemic that masks infection by pretending to be part of you.  There's no cure.  But if you know the structure of the virus, at least you can recognize the infection as not-you. 

"No way, I'm not getting infected,  I'm not exposing myself to all that trash.  I'm going to think for myself."
 
That's the virus talking.

---

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych


---

more on Jay-Z









Comments

Jay-Z is the boss. Beyonce ... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 2:17 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Jay-Z is the boss. Beyonce is Jay-Z's woman. Kanye produced a great deal of songs for Jay's album The Blueprint, and that's pretty much what launched Kanye's career and directly gave him to opportunity to become the success he is today.
Kanye would do anything if Jay-Z told him to, so it's not even a stretch to say this was set-up. But it was entertaining. Even the president commented on it. Everyone likes to point the finger and call Kanye an asshole (myself included) but he lives for the limelight, so everyone essentially wins.

And regarding the VMA show, gosh was it horrible. Everyone's performance sucked, none of the artists have any substance, it was basically a celebration of lackluster generic music and flashy outfits. Even MTV was sucking it's own dick over how much people were talking about the show. They had a Twitter visualization to analyze what you were saying, and at what points you said it, and what everyone else was saying at the same time.

The joke is mostly on me though, since I'm contributing more to the conversation, and nothing in it is important. That's why I like the last couple paragraphs of your post. That's also why I don't like it.

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How is it possible to recog... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 2:21 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

How is it possible to recognize this society so plainly without killing yourself or going dead inside? How is it possible to shrug off the rot and hypocrisy and live?

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Goddammit Morpheus, get out... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 2:35 AM | Posted by Meat Robot: | Reply

Goddammit Morpheus, get out of my head. Didn't I tell you I wanted the blue pill?

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@Anon 2:21I'd phra... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 2:46 AM | Posted by Meat Robot: | Reply

@Anon 2:21

I'd phrase it differently. I'd say, how is it possible to live *until* you have plainly recognized this society and shrugged off its rot and hypocrisy?

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1. In defense of my viewing... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 3:06 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

1. In defense of my viewing habits or;
2. The many faces of paranoia or;
3. Part II of Pop (Flava Black) Culture exposed
4. It's really meaningful and I, Alone, truly "get it"

and the winner is ...


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Beyonce's father felt for T... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 3:25 AM | Posted by kayleighkins: | Reply

Beyonce's father felt for Taylor's family and was the one who decided that Beyonce let Taylor have her moment. It's not that Taylor was magically backstage, Beyonce's dad stepped up, Taylor had to preform moments after, as well.

I did think it was extremely suspect that Beyonce laughed when he came out. When I saw it I couldn't believe she didn't have the reaction of the guy behind her which was basically, "Oh my God" and looking horrified.

Don't pull punches here, call Kanye a narcissist and a racist and just be done with the thing, you don't have to make up all this paranoia bullshit to try to explain why this asshole does things.

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Ha ha, "this asshole." FEED... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 3:54 AM | Posted by EH: | Reply

Ha ha, "this asshole." FEED THAT MAW. Teach the controversy!

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I don't see the muppet show... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 5:19 AM | Posted by Ba'alserrum: | Reply

I don't see the muppet show, I see hints of Smackdown VS Raw or other wrestling shows. They pull the exact same stunts all the time -- including the fake drama of pissing off the other wrestlers before the matches. If you know what it is, you can relax and enjoy the ride.

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1. it wasnt best female art... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 10:41 AM | Posted by dakidd_BReeZe: | Reply

1. it wasnt best female artist..it was best female video..

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"Once upon a time there was... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 1:48 PM | Posted by Basil Valentine: | Reply

"Once upon a time there was a magnet, and its close neighbourhood lived some steel filings. One day, two or three steel filings felt a sudden desire to visit the magnet, and they began to talk about what a pleasant thing it would be to do. Other filings nearby overheard their conversation and became infected with the same desire. Still others joined them, until at last all the filings began to discuss the matter, and more and more their vague desire grew into an impulse.

"Why not go today?" said some of them, but others were of the opinion that it would be better to wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, without their having noticed it, they had begun moving involuntarily closer to the magnet, drawing nearer to their neighbour, and the more they talked, the more they felt the impulse growing stronger and stronger, till the more impatient ones declared they would go that day, whatever the rest of them did, and some were even heard to say that it was their duty to visit the magnet, and that they ought to have gone long ago. And, while they talked, they always moved nearer and nearer toward the magnet, without realizing that they had moved.

Then, at last, the impatient ones prevailed, and, with one irresistable impulse, the whole body cried out "there is no use waiting. We will go today. We will go now. We will go at once", and then, in one unanimous mass they swept along, and in another moment they were clinging fast to the magnet on every side. Then the magnet smiled-- the steel filings had no doubt at all that they were paying that visit out of their own free will."

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True. Point stands. To... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2009 2:55 PM | Posted, in reply to dakidd_BReeZe's comment, by Alone: | Reply

True. Point stands. To Ba'alserrum: of course, that's the purpose of entertainment. All this is only to describe what's going on, not to reduce the enjoyment of it.

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<a href="http://kanyegate.t... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 12:29 AM | Posted by Andrea Harris: | Reply

I'mma let you finish.

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A special treat for you, a ... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 2:22 AM | Posted by delosmuertos: | Reply

A special treat for you, a video of Taylor Swift rapping with T-Pain. You are auto-tuned-in.

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oops, I tried to embed the ... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 2:24 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

oops, I tried to embed the video, here is the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPOiqtf2FTE

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A summary:Jay-Z suck... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 4:32 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

A summary:
Jay-Z sucks and has no street cred at all
Kanye West is an asshole and a momo in the closet
Everyone else involved is terrible too. Including taylor swift, I have no idea what she sings, but it is almost certainly terrible
The song "single ladies" is, however, really awesome so thanks Kanye for making everyone aware of that.

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"Pop culture controls you e... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 6:58 AM | Posted by Zachary Constantine: | Reply

"Pop culture controls you even if you think you're separate from it. It is everywhere, from the clothes you wear to the language you use to the way you think. It is a viral pandemic that masks infection by pretending to be part of you. There's no cure. But if you know the structure of the virus, at least you can recognize the infection as not-you." - The Last Psychiatrist - September 16, 2009

"Culture is a virus with roots in every mind…" - The Operator - September 10, 2009 in Insomnia #1788 (following a quote from Dr. Jim Taylor from PsychologyToday.com RE: popular culture)

Thank you for fueling my paranoia. (It's okay if you'd prefer not to admit reading my blog - that's just what you would say...)

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The Muppet Show was edgier ... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 10:25 AM | Posted by Sally: | Reply

The Muppet Show was edgier than the academy awards and the entire mtv network.

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That Kermit is a great acto... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 11:15 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

That Kermit is a great actor.

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Damn edgy anura... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 11:54 PM | Posted, in reply to medsvstherapy's comment, by David Johnson: | Reply

Damn edgy anura

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"How is it possible to reco... (Below threshold)

September 21, 2009 8:11 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by crumbskull: | Reply

"How is it possible to recognize this society so plainly without killing yourself or going dead inside? How is it possible to shrug off the rot and hypocrisy and live?"

Rum

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Or you submerge yourself in... (Below threshold)

September 22, 2009 3:03 PM | Posted, in reply to crumbskull's comment, by Roger: | Reply

Or you submerge yourself into a subculture you find less distasteful. Religion has been doing it for years.

Of course some subcultures only appears to be different from society at large.

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Yay "Imma let u finish" mem... (Below threshold)

September 22, 2009 6:36 PM | Posted by titmouse: | Reply

Yay "Imma let u finish" meme! It's catchy and will have a good run before people become violently sick of it.

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I really like your Muppet S... (Below threshold)

October 1, 2009 5:47 AM | Posted by Toni Zipevski: | Reply

I really like your Muppet Show analogy. In hindsight it is easy to say that the event was staged. It has proved to be beneficial to all parties involved: Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Jay Z and Kanye West. I've seen more press about this than I have topics that actually matter.

The reason why it worked so well is because it did something that award shows don't do, stir peoples emotions. You felt anger toward Kanye West for taking the mic of young and innocent songstress, you felt sympathy for Taylor Swift for being subjected to his selfishness and you rejoiced at Beyonce's selfless nature when she gave Taylor her moment in the limelight.

That is what television is about, stirring the emotions of the viewers as if they are part of the show. That is what we want from our entertainment. No matter if it is staged or not.

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regardless of the musical s... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2010 7:01 PM | Posted by see it here: | Reply

regardless of the musical skills of kanye west, he still is a [email protected] for what he did to Taylor Swift. I mean Barack Obama said so. So I just wanted to remind you all never to forget that lol. That was hilarious when Obama called Kanye a [email protected] Have you guys seen the video??

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you sound like a very annoy... (Below threshold)

April 25, 2012 6:56 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

you sound like a very annoying negative cunt.

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Russell Brand is hilarious?... (Below threshold)

April 25, 2012 2:44 PM | Posted by gral: | Reply

Russell Brand is hilarious?

I'm glad he's not the only person to ever try stand-up. I find him boring, pretentious and unclever. He's to stand-up what Jeremy Davies is to acting, presumed cool/hip due to long hair and refusal to shave and quirky mannerisms. None of those things demonstrates comic genius or acting ability.

Would agree if you used Dave Chappelle as example of stand-up genius.

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