Monday, June 25, 2018

We Watched The '91 VMAs

We were less familiar with the 1991 VMAs than any other year from the '90s, so it seemed like a good one to revisit for this series. With many nominatations from 1990 throughout the event and "it's the '90s" still among that year's popular catchphrases, we were reminded that it was the first VMAs comprised entirely of '90s music and pop culture.

#1 The Death Count

It gets tougher to determine every dead person who appears as you go further into the past, but it's crazy to think all these people were once in the same building together at the same time...

- Prince closed the show with his controversial "Gett Off" performance.
- George Michael (with Cindy Crawford) presented Video Of The Year to R.E.M.
- James Brown (with MC Hammer) presented the Viewers' Choice Award to Queensryche.
- Dennis Hopper presented Best Direction to R.E.M.
- Easy-E, alongside the rest of N.W.A. (minus Ice Cube), announced the winner as N.W.A. but a moment later presented Best Rap Video to LL Cool J.
- Bruce Nazarian performed in Was Not Was (an unusual choice for that evening's "house band").
- Layne Staley or anyone else in Alice In Chains were almost definitely not present, but "Man In The Box" was nominated for a pre-grunge era Best Metal Video.
- Bob Stinson or anyone else in The Replacements were more than likely not present, but their video for "When It Began" received two nominations (Best Special Effects & Best Alternative).

#2 Highlights

We're relatively obsessed with 1991-era pop culture and music, so this might be a biased claim. But we're happy to say the show was packed with generous highlights! This was an extremely fun awards show! Why can't they all be this good??

- Pee-wee's 90-second opening monologue might be one of the defining moments of MTV history. During the rehearsals, a different celebrity was originally planned to emerge from behind the curtain. (We forgot who, but does it really matter?) According to the lore, only 2 or 3 people who worked at MTV knew that Pee-wee was about to make his first public appearance since getting arrested for indecent exposure at an adult theater 41 days earlier. The crowd completely lost their shit and chanted "Pee-wee! Pee-wee!" BOOM. This amazing kick off unfairly raised the bar for future surprise VMA moments.

- We can't recall the last time we saw four outstanding TV performances all in one awards show. Almost every band or singer had an extravagant, lavish stage set-up, frequently with 20 or 30 additional musicians or dancers.

Van Hagar blasted through "Poundcake," which just happens to be their greatest song. Alex's enormous gong sat behind him unused for no apparent reason. Eddie kept a drill on the drum riser that he would pick up and use to zap his guitar multiple times while soloing.

Mariah Carey had a 6-year-old dancer join her ensemble 2/3's of the way through "Emotions." Whatever happened to little kid dancers at the VMAs?

Metallica was the one band who did NOT have an extravagant stage plot. The Black Album was still charting at #1, and its singles had not yet been beaten to an oblivion. "Enter Sandman" hasn't sounded this fresh in a very long time.

Save the ass for last. Prince unsurprisingly stole the show, showing the world his uncovered, unblurred, naked ass several times. His ass would be blurred during subsequent edited rebroadcasts and influenced our decision to tape future live editions of the VMAs in their initial least-cut embodiment.

- Aside from Pee-wee, the evening's most noteworthy celebrity might be C.C. Deville from Poison debuting a giant hot pink dye job which may or may not have indicated an intense coke binge occupying his headspace. A 2013 Rolling Stone listicle incorrectly states that C.C. was too mindless to remember Poison's plan to play "Unskinny Bop" during the telecast; however, Bret Michaels is clearly heard asking the crowd if they want to hear "Talk Dirty To Me." The crowd reaction during the song's first half was among the night's most enthusiastic, including a loud chant of "Talk dirty to me!" as Bret points the mic to the audience during the first chorus.

The embarrassing moments suddenly sneak up on them in the song's second half when C.C.'s instrument cable falls out of his guitar. His tone sounded horrible enough to mask a series of wrong notes, and he botched his somewhat rudimentary solo. ("C.C. pick up that guitar and talk to me!" *clunk*) As the other three band members scramble to say in control, the world visibly observed the reign of '80s pop-metal starting to crumble before their eyes. It's the night's most fascinating moment.

About 90 minutes later, Bon Jovi are accepting the Video Vanguard Award, and Jon Bon Jovi begins his acceptance speech with "Hey C.C.! Nice hair!" A moment later, C.C. is shown in front of the podium, back on TV again (probably even more coked up than during "Talk Dirty To Me") assisting "Downtown Julie" Brown with plugging the 1-900 number where viewers could vote for the Viewers' Choice Award. It's hard to say whether this was before or after C.C. was fired from Poison or engaged in an infamous backstage fistfight with Bret Michaels. It's equally unclear whether he was asked to join "Downtown Julie" Brown or if he just unexpectedly stumbled nearby where cameras just happened to be pointing, although he is very clearly pulling Julie close to him by the waist throughout the entire segment. (Poor "Downtown Julie" was also subjected to an upskirt shot during an earlier 1-900 segment. It seemed like she was a good sport about the whole thing, gracefully sneaking in subtle comments on the greediness of TV contests.)

#3 Other Notes

- The night's abundant David Lynch references included Chris Isaak joined by Kyle MacLachlan during his pre-taped "Wicked Game" acceptance speeches (on the set of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me). Sherilyn Fenn (a.k.a. Audrey) stars in one of the "Books: Feed Your Head" PSAs that may or may not have premiered on this night, while Dennis Hopper briefly reprised his role from Blue Velvet at the podium. (He points at an audience member and says "Don't you ____ look at me!")

- MC Hammer starred in two of the night's best commercials: The extremely classic Pepsi ad (where he sings "Feelings") was shown at least twice. In a Taco Bell ad, Hammer's parachute pants save him after alluding fans by jumping off the side of a skyscraper.

- Paula Abdul sings her contribution to the "shittiest songs of all time" canon, the obvious "Vogue" rip-off "Vibeology." It's quite possibly the worst VMAs performance of the '90s and certainly the worst of the evening.

- Steven Tyler walks up to the podium to present an award WITH A GUN. (To be fair, he was presenting alongside Linda Hamilton and was purposely in Terminator 2 cosplay mode.)

- Props to Was (Not Was) for their lounge version of "Big Bottom" as Spinal Tap took the podium.

- None of Arsenio's jokes are objectively funny. For example, he makes an obvious and kinda boring Rick James joke within the first 5 minutes. But he seems extremely comfortable throughout the entirety of the show and handles every quirk and unplanned moment with a very chill demeanor. At one point, the show returns from commercial, and he's standing next to one of LL Cool J's backup dancers asking her about life and how things have been going. He probably sits down more than most other awards show hosts. He wasn't the funniest or most outrageous, but we're tempted to say that he was ultimately the best "master of ceremonies" the VMAs ever had. And we're tempted to speculate that Arsenio ruled the VMAs during their best era, although we have not yet reviewed the '88, '89 or '90 shows that he also hosted.

Arsenio also twice used the term "ignorant" as an odd synonym for "ridiculously dope." We don't recall this usage reaching the suburbs beyond the VMAs.

At one point, Arsenio introduces Billy Idol as "a renowned nonconformist."

- We don't recall "Losing My Religion" winning as much as it did. Alt-rock heartthrob Michael Stipe did the thing where he wore 12 t-shirts with different social and political messages on each one.

- A "Wayne's World" bit (6 months before its movie premiere) was met with lukewarm applause. Wayne and Garth announced the winners of the technical awards, which included Faith No More's "Falling To Pieces." (A year later, Dana Carvey hosted the '92 VMAs.)

- Jane's Addiction surprisingly took home an award for "Been Caught Stealing." Dave Navarro was unrecognizable and was accompanied only by the video director who immediately announced that she was wasted and had just arrived.

- A good night for Queensryche: "Silent Lucidity" was performed with a 30 piece orchestra, and The 'Ryche surprisingly took home the Viewers' Choice Award.

- On December 31st, "You Could Be Mine" was named MTV's #1 on their top 100 videos of 1991, but it failed to win any awards despite multiple nominations. (Guns 'N' Roses premiered the "Live And Let Die" cover during their "via satellite" performance. Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 were released two weeks later.) "Groove Is In The Heart" was also nominated 5 or 6 times (including Video Of The Year) but failed to win anything. And for some reason, Gerardo's embarrassing "Rico Suave" video was nominated at least 3 times.

- In the international awards, we couldn't help noticing Sepultura winning Video Of The Year in Brazil.

- Pauly Shore's dreadful segment with Cindy Crawford creeped us out pretty badly.

- We were almost ready to get mildly excited for pre-grunge-beard Don Henley performing "Heart Of The Matter" (one of our '80s guilty pleasure tracks) but sadly he opted for a boring acoustic version.

- EMF should have changed the song title to "Unremarkable." (lmao.) We closely associate this band with Jesus Jones, another surprise winner for the night.

- Ads for some forthcoming unremembered MTV News series include shows called MTV Generation, Fade To Black and a show called Soapbox starring real kids complaining about MTV's redundancy.

No comments:

Post a Comment