Lucas Kavner at the Huffington Post dissects the breathtaking silliness of last night's first ever "Best Video with a Message" award at the MTV Video Music Awards:
"Certainly there's nothing wrong with rewarding artists who release music based on personal convictions, but isn't that kind of par for the course? If, as MTV president (Stephen) Friedman said, he wanted to 'reward' these artists for digging into their personal experiences to create powerful songs, did we really need to point out exactly what message they were trying to get across?
The most powerful songs in history come from 'deeply personal' experiences. In fact, every original song is personal. The lyrics come from somebody's brain and are based around either specific or universal experiences and then, in turn, inspire personal feelings in the listener. That's... what a song is.
There's something oddly icky about MTV assigning more 'meaning' to a song, as if Katy Perry's pop anthem about personal empowerment, which netted her millions of dollars, contains as powerful a "message" as a song from a rock band whose lead singer lost his close friend. Do we need MTV telling us we shouldn't be 'mean' to other people? Does this even make sense anymore?
Somehow this category rivals even the lamest of MTV decisions in recent years, a strange pander to the most common denominator of superfluousness."
As Kavner points out, almost every video nominated for this great honor featured a "message" that was as comically trite as it was predictable, particularly in a year that saw the publicity surrounding the suicides of several supposedly bullied-to-desperation kids reach cacophonous levels. From Katy Perry to P!nk to Rise Against, the theme was the same: you're somebody, loser; please don't kill yourself; it gets better. In the end, of course, the song and video with the absolute least subtlety in its point won out: Lady GaGa's insipid and shamelessly derivative gay anthem Born This Way took the prize.
If I sound especially caustic, it's because I can't help but see this kind of thing as perfectly illustrative of the fact that we're now apparently trying to raise a generation without the ability to think for itself. When an engine of pop culture pabulum as egregious as MTV actually begins translating the meaning of songs for viewers and rewarding the ones that are the most obvious and not the least bit daring, you know that Generation Y -- or whatever the hell is following in its wake -- has one more reason to shut down its collective imagination. Personal inspiration gets trampled in the name of whatever democratized, prepackaged and Wiki-approved form of supposed creativity appeals to the largest and lowest common denominator.
Then again, does anybody really give a shit about the VMAs anymore? The irony of MTV continuing to hand out awards for music videos is pretty laughable; I play more videos on this site than MTV does these days. Somebody wake me when the YouTube/Vevo Awards become a reality.