MTV AWARDS BOTH SLIM, SHADY: That was the headline I came up with for my college paper’s review of the 1999 Video Music Awards- and whaddya know, the same applies to the ’02 version as well.
The show began with a performance by Bruce Springsteen and ended with the “triumphant” return of Guns ‘n’ Roses, so in that sense it looked no different from the 1987 VMAs. But unfortunately the rest of the show was overly saturated with the likes of Justin Timberlake, P.O.D., P. Diddy, Linkin Park, Jennifer Lopez, and the sorry trio of Ja Rule, Nas, and Ashanti. We were treated to an entertaining “Battle of the Bands” between the Hives and the Vines (Hives win, hands down), host Jimmy Fallon did the best he could with less-than-brilliant material, and (best of all) Fred Durst was not in the building. But there’s just no excuse that in a year in which we saw the debuts of The Strokes, The White Stripes, Norah Jones, John Mayer, and numerous neo-soul figures, the Best New Artist award goes to… Avril Lavigne?
Eminem, as usual, was the evening’s big winner, and as he is currently the most important artist in all of popular music and his “Without Me” video was expertly made, I can’t say he didn’t deserve it. I also liked Em’s performance on the telecast (in which he sang “White America” in what appeared to be a State of the Union address-based set), although he gave up some points by simultaneously insulting both Moby and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. I can’t wait for the inevitable anti-Triumph dis on the next Slim Shady album.
G’n’R’s return was a nice surprise, and while they didn’t sound bad, the question of whether the band that took the stage tonight can accurately be called “Guns ‘n’ Roses” is questionable at best, as Axl was the lone original member on stage (Rose did try make up for this, however, as he is now roughly the size of two 1987 Axl Roses).
PS: No reference was made on the telecast to the Ludacris/Bill O’Reilly controversy, although Luda was in attendance, and at one point his likeness appeared in two consecutive commercials (one a spot for the upcoming “Real World Las Vegas,” and the second for the upcoming Tom Green movie “Stealing Harvard” in which his song “Rollout” was used). And when the show returned from commercial break, the intro music was another Ludacris rap, “Move.” I’m looking forward to Bill O’Reilly’s upcoming boycotts of MTV, the Las Vegas tourism board, Radio City Music Hall, Fox Searchlight Pictures, and Harvard University.

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