WHAT CAN YOU SAY about the MTV Video Music Awards? It is what it is, and everybody (except, perhaps, its key target audience) knows what it is: a big-production parade of factory-made corporate music performed and produced by hard-working, expert performerbots and crack technical crews, with absolutely no soul or feeling. (Every once in a while, however, a genuine performance manages to slip in unnoticed.) Generally the VMAs induce a sense of despair and malaise in me -- I skipped the show last year -- but I watched it this year, figuring it'd at least be fun to ridicule.
* The only thing more disgusting than the Bush administration is some prancing, preening Brit mincing in on a high horse and telling Americans how they ought to feel about the Bush administration. We'll figure that out ourselves, thank you very much, Mr. Russell Brand. Also pretty disgusting: tasteless jokes about deflowering the Jonas Bros. and slamming them for their chastity pledges.
* The best way to view Rihanna doing "Disturbia" -- her zombies-with-lightsticks-"Thriller 2008"-filtered-through-"Dirty"-era-Christina-Aguilera number -- was with the volume down and, preferably, to avoid viewing her face. (She made that part easy, though, what with the thigh-high boots and fishnets.)
* Katy-come-lately Perry: "I Kissed a Girl"? Hey, nice original song title! And what a refreshingly subversive, "dangerous" concept: lite bisexual experimentation! Wow, we're really shocking the bourgiousie now.
* Pink is hard to categorize. She's clearly kinda punk in her origins and attitudes, so I wanna like her. Yet the vehicle she's chosen to ride to the top is pure glossy, gimmicky pop in the worst way. She lets just enough of her punky persona shine through -- in fact, she has to dial it up to overdrive just to overcome the sheer shiny plasticness of the music underneath it all. I've heard just about all of her hit singles, but I can't remember a single one, except the one that's out now -- again, disturbingly slick in its production, disturbingly like everything else out there, but at least I like the galloping beat (cribbed from Gary Glitter) and the Irish-jig "na na na" hook -- that's a little different.
* Kanye? Kanye, you out there? Look, you're from my hometown, I got mad respect for your story and your achievements an all ... but come on. Does the world really need another rapper trying to Auto-Tune himself into a singer?
For all you rappers who wants to sing, do like Kid Rock did and actually learn how. Drop some of that cash you're stackin' and get a respectable voice teacher. L.A. is crawling with them.
* Speaking of Kid Rock, he provided one of the best and realest performances of the night. (The rap by Lil Wayne: totally superfluous. And speaking of Lil Wayne: will someone please kill him already?)
* And last but not least: I think I have watched about one episode of American Idol, total. So I had no idea who Jordin Sparks was until I saw her on Larry King Live a couple years ago. And I thought: Wow, she's an amazing singer (though she deserves better material) and she's gorgeous and she's intelligent. What? Seventeen?
She carried herself and spoke with a maturity and charisma far beyond most 17-year-old girls. I mean, I don't go ga-ga over stars and I generally haven't been attracted to teen-agers since I was one, okay? Yet I found myself getting a mini-crush on this girl. But then, "girl" is not the word. As I watched and listened to her, the only comparison I could make was to some Christian homeschooled young adults I've known: they stick out like neon signs, since they tend to act and speak more like, well, adults than like the typical silly kids their age. As it turns out, Sparks actually was homeschooled, for a few years at least. And from K-8 she attended a Christian school.
So it's no surprise she showed the courage to slap back at VMA host Brand for his desperate, leering jokes about sex with the Jonas Bros. and crude putdowns of their chastity pledges. Sparks, who has pledged herself to premarital chastity as well, stepped up and reminded the world that "not everybody ... wants to be a slut." Good for you, Jordin. Keep being beautiful and talented and mature beyond your years and non-slutty.