THE LEFSETZ LETTER: The VMAs

I'd be watching on broadband, it's just that MTV's site/broadcast IS NOT Mac-compatible. Time was Mac users were second-class citizens, but the Cupertino company is now held in more esteem than this lame cable channel and its adherents feel that anybody who doesn't play to them just doesn't get it, is left behind instead of living in the present.

It's not about video music awards, it's about technology. iChatAV is hipper than this lame, piece-of-crap show. THAT'S a connection, communicating with another human being, not viewing celebrity wankers making an appearance to add to the pile of cash they're accumulating in their ever-more-brief careers.

I find it more exciting to follow the moves of Apple, Google and Microsoft than any of the acts on this show.

I was going to go hiking, but tuning in this train-wreck had me riveted. It's like watching a futuristic vision, but even the Jetsons couldn't come up with something so lame.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

I started with the end of the pre-game. Kurt Loder and SuChin Pak fawning over the biggest concert ever. Ever hear of Live 8? Oh, MTV made like that didn't exist.

Then the show began.



1. Green Day

The sad thing is this above average band is the best thing we've got, our only white/rock hope. Where did everybody else's balls go? Personally, I find Billie Joe so cute I want to cuddle him, and last time I checked I was straight.

They played their song well, but what was with the fire? Like we've never seen this before?

Then again, I liked the outfits.



2. Diddy

Let's just call him Puffy. Ever been to school? Try to change your name and you're laughed off the playground. Why does Sean Combs get a free pass? Why doesn't the press call him on the constant name changes? It's not like Muhammad Ali, there's no religious element involved. Rather, every time he changes his name he gets more press. He hasn't done anything artistically valid since Biggie died yet he hosts this show. I just don't get it.

And "rapping" to "Relax"? I guarantee that twenty year old Frankie Goes To Hollywood track has more excitement and more validity than anything included on this show. Yup, even Green Day. "Relax" was a better record than "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams".

And what's up with the toothpick? My parents used to tell me that was LOW CLASS!

Then again, I guess I know nothing about fashion. Which Diddy is going on and on about. Giving away his watch of a brand that I can't imagine ANYBODY in the audience being aware of. Unless it's the embalmed celebrity attendees. God, does Gwen Stefani look like she'd prefer to be ANYWHERE else?

And giving away $100,000 to the best-dressed. God, has MTV devolved to the level of radio, stunting with CASH to keep people tuned in? And is this what happens when the music is lame, you've got to focus on CASH to keep people focused?



3. The lineup

If somebody was hip at MTV, they'd get a heritage act to appear on this show. Preferably Pink Floyd, who you know wouldn't do it. Then again, the show's not over yet, can Mick get by in a tour year without appearing?

If only there were a real band. Led Zeppelin remnants. Even the Allman Brothers. SOMEBODY who made it on music, not looks, who could come on and BLOW EVERYBODY AWAY?? With no stage set, no flash, just their TUNES?

There's a strange mix of urban and TV/movie stars. Please, please, please, change the name of the channel to CTV, for Celebrity TV!

Urban culture moves very fast, maybe that's why all music is now evanescent. The black acts of the past…it was about the tracks not the act or the live show. Now, it's an urban world.

I don't want to be racist, but where are the white acts/rock music?

Oh, that's right. They've been manipulated by the corporations. Whereas the black performers manipulate the corporations themselves, they've got the fat cats worried they'll whip out a gun or something…



4. Kanye West

I know hip-hop is based on braggadocio, but this is just too offensive. This guy really believes his crap doesn't stink. NOBODY'S that big, NOBODY'S that good.



5. The Audience

Not different from one on a game show. Thrusting their arms in the air before anything happens. A groupie isn't even this excited to have sex with a star. That's today, everything's phony.



6. Beavis & Butt-head

Not only is today's music lame, today's MTV is. They brought these guys out of mothballs. But, stunningly, it appears they deserved to be banished, because they're no longer funny.



7. Hammer

Wasn't it right around the time of his big success that things took a turn for the worse? Wasn't he the guy who had the biggest record of the year and then STIFFED, illustrating the paradigm for the business to follow?



8. The Simpson Girls

Could Ashlee have LESS charisma?



9. Star village

Managers of yore restricted personal appearances, for fear of blowing the mystery/charisma. It's not only Gwen, everybody here seems to want to be somewhere else.



II


Suge

Who bears responsibility for the rap wars, the rappers, Jimmy Iovine or MTV?

We have free will in America, ultimately the shooters must take responsibility. But, we live in a society, do we really want people going around SHOOTING people? I mean what if you get hit by a stray bullet?

Oh, you say you're not living in Compton?

Well, if you live in the city and you haven't heard shots, you never leave the house.

How racist is the U.S.A. You KNOW if white people were shooting each other there'd be a Congressional investigation. But black people? Off the record most white people will say it's just one less person to rip them off/hassle them. As if the worth, identity and ACTIONS of a person can be determined by the color of his skin.

Credit MTV. After finally agreeing to air Michael Jackson videos, they embraced black culture. Then again, do they bear no responsibility? Are they just a reflection? Can they make no decisions, have no impact?

Really, couldn't MTV ban the video of anybody who fires a pistol? Couldn't they decree certain videos wouldn't be aired not out of censorship, but a desire to establish a better society?

No, 50 Cent's badge of honor is he's been shot multiple times.

And Jimmy Iovine. Who enabled Suge Knight. Dr. Dre was unavailable but somehow Suge extracted him from his contract with Eazy-E and made a deal with him and Jimmy released his albums? Why do the label heads always get to stand on a tall pedestal and rant and rave about people stealing their product and their past actions, their PRESENT actions are never investigated? Never see the light of day?

That's the kind of culture we live in. Where there's no accountability. Money trumps everything.

Couldn't the VMAs have made REFERENCE to the Suge shooting? At least lamely deplore it? Oh, are they worried Puffy will whip out a gun himself??

I'm all for revealing the problems of the ghetto, but can we not use it as a sideshow, as pure entertainment? Can't we DO SOMETHING about the problems revealed?

No, not in America. We want LESS money to go to the disenfranchised. We're just concerned with ourselves.

What did JFK say? Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?

And what did Bush say after 9/11? GO SHOPPING?!!




III

The Killers

Not as good as the hype. Sure, better than a lot of the crap, but you wonder why music keeps declining in sales? If THIS is the best we've got… With all the hype, someone will go out and buy a Killers CD and then swear off buying music.

And what if you're not an up-tempo thrasher? What if you don't make in-your-face music?

Then you're done. If "Crime Of The Century" came out today nobody would know. There are no stations that play music that affects your mind, not your penis.


L'il Kim

Why ain't she in jail?

Used to be lawbreakers were the scourge of society, parents used to tell their kids to act in another way, now the media is the parent and it says breaking the law is COOL!


Eric Roberts

The new Macy Gray. Hyping the CD of his STEPSON?? I'd say he should be banished from MTV for such a faux pas, but the odds of him reappearing are almost non-existent anyway.

Everybody's constantly selling today. Being good and people PULLING what they want is for pussies. You've got to shove your product down people's throats. It's oppressive. Whether it be ads in movie theatres or the non-self-conscious ravings of not only celebrities, but wannabes on the street.


R. Kelly

Wait a second. Everybody else in America is guilty until proven innocent, but R. Kelly gets a pass? If you're talented your actions in your personal life are IRRELEVANT?

I mean there's a lot of evidence. About as much as there was with O.J. But, TV doesn't constantly parade the Juice for ratings.

Innocent until proven guilty. But, if someone is gonna make you money, you give them the key to the gate and treat them like royalty when they enter the building.

Meanwhile, last time I checked R. Kelly could actually sing. What's up with the lip-synch?

They say the public doesn't care.

And people don't. That's how lame they think music and the industry that supports it are.


Suge

An hour and a half into it, and still no mention of last night's shenanigans.


God

Only heard him thanked once. Could it be that he's been eclipsed by money?

That's the true religion of these people



Gap Ad

Don't blame Gap. Blame the lame acts who agree to appear.

Terrible management for Alanis. They've taken her from being the biggest act in the business to the mildly-talented person next door. All of her charisma has evaporated.

Jason Mraz. Can I really blame him? Since his RECORD company evaporated and no one believes in him anymore? Shouldn't it be a rule if your company disappears you can go to? Isn't selling your contract to somebody else kind of like slavery? Elektra believed in Jason, made him a heartthrob. I bet most of the people who bought his last record don't even know his new one is out.

Joss Stone. All she's got his her celebrity. That second record was a disaster. She's a celebrity, not a musician. A spokesmodel. And, you KNOW there are black kids who sing better but will never get a chance, never mind not as good-looking white people.

The nineties are over. All exposure is not good exposure. The GAP looks good here, the acts don't. The acts look exactly like they are, they're shills. Doing whatever it takes to remain famous, to stay in the public eye.

Does anybody have any integrity anymore? Can anybody say no?

God, watching this show you'd think the way to make it is to shoot someone and then make a endorsement deal with every corporation known to man.

Wait a second, that IS how you make it.


Biggie

Okay, now Puffy's a conductor?

If Biggie can sing years after he died maybe he can host next year's show. They can do amazing things with special effects these days.

Right now there are MTV execs scratching their chins saying THAT'S a good idea. Biggie, Kurt…passing the mic amongst the deceased…EVERYBODY will tune in for THAT!


Fall Out Boy

If we can do this it means ANYBODY can do this?

They have no idea of the truth of which they speak.

Isn't this the OPPOSITE of the way we want it to be? Don't we want our music stars to be BETTER than us, more TALENTED?

Didn't it used to be you had to woodshed, practice, didn't it used to be that not everybody could be a star?

Boy are things upside down.

You don't need to be talented to be a reality TV star, but you do have to have something special, that you've worked on, to make it as a musician. Oh, that's right, they're stars, not musicians.

Just how the labels like it. Then they can CONTROL you. If you actually have some ability you can thumb your nose at them, you can survive without them. But if you've got nothing, you lick the butt of your enabler, you do whatever they say.

Hate to tell you, being famous doesn't solve all of life's problems. Doesn't make you happier than everybody else. Do you really want to brave a hurricane, almost get shot at a party just to attend the VMAs in Miami and look like a loser amongst all the other so-called stars?



Reggaeton

Where's the band?

Give us ONE of these acts, not this lame medley interrupted for over the top introductions by Fat Joe.

And, Daddy Yankee singing to tape…

This reminds me of Ed Sullivan. Someone who doesn't respect the music showcasing it to look hip, to make money.

This music only works in a club. Fell flat in an arena. Did you peek at the audience?



Missy Elliott

She actually looks hot.



More Puffy

Wait a second, what exactly is his talent? Other than staying in the public eye, making himself famous, selling his record company again and again.

This is just like the music business. You don't need talent to make it. I thought the host had to be FUNNY!



Coldplay

They're putting the audience to sleep.

If they knew they were going to have this impact, why didn't they play a ballad? But no, MTV wants the HIT! But, they could have changed the song at the last minute, without the suits knowing. Oh, no, that's Elvis Costello on SNL, the guys in Coldplay don't have those kinds of balls. They play along.

Meanwhile, can you explain the outfits to me?

Please, please, please, all you people flooding my inbox telling me Coldplay is godhead, defend this performance. They look positively goofy, and appear to have about as much staying power as Haircut 100, A Flock Of Seagulls and the other British acts of the early eighties.


IV



Eva Longoria

I guess MTV has finally matured. Just like the networks, it now employs TV stars to goose ratings. USED to be that the music stars were bigger than any TV star. It's not that TV stars have gotten any better, it's that music stars have gotten worse.


Mariah Carey

The biggest selling female artist of all time? Should I just shoot myself now?

Couldn't Aretha Franklin come out of the wings and blow her off the stage?

And why does Mariah get to do two songs?

And the background singers rapping about HER?? The emancipation of Mimi? She's just as bad as the men are.

And the thanking of the audience when she was done. Reminded me of nothing so much as Sally Field…you LIKE me, you REALLY REALLY like me. Killed Sally Field's career, could SOMEONE please kill Mariah Carey's? Or is she like Jason in "Halloween", is she just UNKILLABLE?


Kelly Clarkson

Did she really change outfits? Remember in the seventies, when you wore what you wore on the street on stage, when it was about the MUSIC, not the LOOK!


Jamie Foxx

Isn't his year up? He didn't sing in "Ray", why does he get to sing here?



Pepsi Chicken Ad

Highlight of the show so far. Better than their Super Bowl ads last February. There's more innovation in advertising than there is music.


The Comedian

Bring back Andrew Dice Clay. At least use someone we've HEARD of. Who did this guy's agent blow to get on this show? Meanwhile, since he DID blow, don't expect to hear from him in the future.

Oh yeah, that was back when you had to be good. The old days. We'll probably hear from this guy again and again and again. There'll be a feature in "People". He'll be on "Extra" and "E.T.", and, of course, on MTV, since they have an investment in him.



50 Cent

Living proof that rap falls flat live.

Meanwhile, could it be that all the hype on this show for 50's movie, "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'" is because it's an MTV/Paramount production? Two Viacom companies?

Well, 50's getting more than one song…

One thing's for sure, 50's movie aint' gonna do the business of Eminem's. Unless, of course, it's actually good. Nah, that's impossible.

How about the Dr. Dre biopic? THAT'S what we really want to see…


Gwen Stefani

Did she know she was going to get the $100,000 fashion award in advance? Looks like it, she said who she wanted the money donated to without missing a beat. Normally, you win, your heart starts to beat, you can't think straight, you don't make commitments instantly, you can't even come up with answers!


"Hello It's Me"

Did John Legend really sing this in the Gap ad?

Musical highlight of the evening.


Paris and Bow Wow

A new cultural low. Debating who has the most valuable ice.

These are the values of our youth. Education is for pussies. Get plastic surgery and tattoos and be famous for nothing. Yes, as Mark Knopfler would say, that's the way they do it on the MTV.


More Jamie Foxx

Will Clive Davis have power from the GRAVE?

It appears that Jamie got on this show because he's got a new album. On J. But he didn't tell us, the MTV ANNOUNCER DID! Seems like a package deal to me. You want Alicia Keys? You get Jamie Foxx.


Destiny's Child

God, if only Jamie Foxx's introduction had led to Mya Rudolph and Gemini's Twin, from SNL.

Biggest selling girl group of all time?

I guess the Supremes are irrelevant.


Kelly Clarkson

"What you are about to see is incredible!"

God Diddy, you self-immolating, the Beatles reuniting, one more show from Pink Floyd this year…THAT would be incredible. Kelly Clarkson draining all the specialness from her ubiquitous hit. THAT'S not incredible.

God, she won "American Idol" because of her voice. But here, she wavers in pitch, her shouts sound like she's hoarse. To think the likes of Prince used to close the VMAs. To think there was a day when MTV represented all music, and didn't just pander to a consuming younger demo.

There was actually a moment you could believe in MTV. They seemed to be having fun, like Diddy said umpteen times tonight, ANYTHING could happen. It had the irreverent spirit of rock and roll. At least for a while.

Hell, it even BROKE like a band. Via word of mouth. Slowly. Uniting fans to petition cable owners to add the channel to their systems.

Despite the overhype, it's true. MySpace is the new MTV.

That's how the world works. People with nothing to lose test the limits, do something the suits can't even conceive of, and own the future.

Meanwhile, Kelly Clarkson has an amazing ass.


Paul Logus:

Re-VMAs-Suge

Ever wonder what the difference is between rock and rap??….in rap, the artists kill each other, in rock, the fans kill the artists. As for rap, the responsibility has nothing to do with mtv or Mr. Iovine. In rap there is a society/business issue. Gang mentality, mixed with an unrealistic idol worship of supposed mafia ways a la 'Godfather'. In rock, the reason is mental illness with regard to the fan with a gun….ie Lennon, Dime Bag,

—————————————————————————————-

Jake Gold:

Re-VMAs

Anything can happen….. If it's planned in advance. R Kelly was embarassing. We shut the sound off. How long was that segment? It seemed like an hour. Man, this show sucked. It was train wreck TV. Maybe that is what they wanted. I will ask my clients if this is what they aspire to. If they say yes, I will quit

—————————————————————————————-

Name withheld by request:

Re-VMAs

An absolute trainwreck…..I'm hardpressed to admit out loud I work in this business.

Show started out with me, 15 year old & Boyfriend and 13 year old all watching. Ended with 15 year old & Co playing cards and 13 year old on the computer (Myspace)…..unfortunately, I was still watching

—————————————————————————————-

Chris Misutka:

Re-VMAs

I am sure you are getting a ton of emails, so I will keep this short. Whilst I enjoyed reading much of what you wrote, I disagree fully on the Kelly Clarkson comment (in regards to how she sounded, that is). She sounded REAL. There was no tape, no nothing. Just her band and her, unlike many of the performances earlier in the evening. I appreciated that, and would rather hear her voice waver and get hoarse ANY day of the week as opposed to hearing perfect pitch and knowing – or strongly believing – it is not really 'live'. If I wanted perfect, I'd listen to the commercial release. Not that I am a Kelly Clarkson fan, but I did respect her "keepin' it real", if you will…and want such an experience from EVERY artist I see live.

I also give a nod to My Chemical Romance, another REAL live performance last night, albeit a shortened version of the song (huge fan of these guys…and still am this morning, even after Diddy introduced them as his friends).

On another note, glad I missed the Coldplay performance…

—————————————————————————————-

Karen Allen:

Re-VMAs

The show reflected the host. All hype, no substance. And it reflected MTV, who are so out of the music game they just shouldn't even pretend anymore.

—————————————————————————————-

Tony Brummel:

Re-VMAs

Why did you put yourself through watching that show?

—————————————————————————————-

Jim DelBalzo:

Re-VMAs

I watched for as long as I could stand last night. I felt a bit like my Dad must have when he was watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Is this music? The answer is no. The VMA's had more in common with the Oscars than they did with music. Everyone on was acting. Paris Hilton in a designer gown and diamonds. Oh please. This is not music. It is celebrity. Li'l Kim is notorious. When she brought her Phantom onstage, that is when I just about puked. These people, are trying to show their audience how different they are from them. The artists that we revere so much, tried to show how alike they were with their audience. Are we just getting old. That is part of it, but technology and channels like MTV and shows like All Access have made celebrity not musicianship the focus. Did MTV help create this mind-set. Definitely. But, it has been a hugely successful transition for them. I remember, when I worked at MTV, we used to actually play music videos.

—————————————————————————————-

Jeremy Shelton:

Re-VMAs-Suge

That's the truth about black girls having the talent but not getting the chance. Unfortunately when I say things like this nobody wants to hear it as I'm a black man.

—————————————————————————————-

Tom Cartwright:

Re-VMAs-Suge

Most record company executives (well actually, probably all) send their kids to private schools and, if they live in LA, live in gated communities totally devoid of any color but white. Their kids think "pimpin" is just a cool word and "ho" is a garden tool. The gangsta imagery is cool to them in much the same way The Sopranos is cool to their parents.

But no one is pullin' off drive-bys in Westlake Village and the number of babies born addicted to crack in Beverly Hills is zero. So it's Ok to romance the dope dealers and ex-and-present cons of hip hop. After all, it's artistic expression, and besides, they're just rappin' about life on the streets as they know it.

The fact that these executives make a lot of money off rap music is a cruel irony.

—————————————————————————————-

Jimmy Caterine:

This is just a note to say Coldplay is not 'godhead.' They wrote a few good songs about 6 years ago. Aside from that- everything about them is pretty aweful.

Just didn't want you to feel like you were the only one that doesn't care for them.

Related Post