Sunday, July 31, 2016

We Watched The '95 VMAs

MTV Classic is set to launch tomorrow at 12 noon. Its schedule for the next two weeks has already been posted on the VH1 Classic website and is also accessible by hitting the "guide" button on our remote control.

Long story short: Their programming choices are huge bummers to us, so we decided to finally start digging through our boxes of VHS's in hopes of creating our own "classic MTV" channel through the magic of plugging a VCR into a TV and inserting tapes.

This one tape was only labelled "Live Unplugged," so we inserted it, and the first thing we see is The Notorious B.I.G. and Salt N Pepa on the red carpet during the 1995 VMAs pre-show ceremony. Seemed like an ok tape to leave on while cleaning the house and getting other things done.

Here's our thoughts on the '95 VMAS:

#1 The Death Count.

For some reason, even though it was 21 years ago, it still didn't feel we were watching something from all that far into the past, despite the strikingly large number of famous dead people.

- Biggy Smalls was probably the strangest one, the first moment that truly shouted "there's no way this could happen today."
- Michael Jackson performed a 15 minute opening set. It was fucking amazing, but if memory serves correctly, the MTV News broadcast from that weekend would smear his performance for being too long and including both lipsynch and pre-recorded audience noise. I remember Billy Corgan specifically saying he didn't understand how Michael received a standing ovation.
- Patrick Swayze presented an award with Wesley Snipes.
- Left Eye performed in TLC and assisted with at least 3 very energetic and super adorable acceptance speeches.
- Whitney Houston presented Video of the Year and brought Bobby Brown with her unexpectedly.
- Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye" was strangely nom'd for "Best New Artist" although it's unclear whether he was present.
- Same goes for Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song" - nominated at least twice, but it's unclear whether the band or Weiland himself were present for the ceremony.

#2 Highlights

- Weezer won for "Buddy Holly," but neither Rivers Cuomo nor Pat Wilson were present, leaving Matt Sharp to carry the acceptance speech in an Eastern European accent and looking exactly the same as on the cover of Return Of The Rentals. "Thank you for having us in your country."
- Biggy Smalls (and Bill Bellemy) were the "best dance" presenters for Michael and Janet. It's possible Biggy was over his proximity awkwardness to Michael Jackson by that point since "This Time Around" had already been recorded.

#3 Other notes

- Besides Michael Jackson, none of the performances stood out as exceptional, although even stranger was that none of them stood out as awkward or embarrassingly awful, which would NEVER happen in the 2010s.

- "Waterfalls" had only been on MTV since early June and was a very last-minute inclusion to the nominee pool. The VMAs single-handedly propelled it from "summer song" to "all-time classic" over the course of one night.

- It's a bummer that Flea and Dave Navarro - who had performed earlier in the evening - were not invited to play bass and guitar for Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know." Taylor Hawkins is def on drums though. Alanis was the breakthrough performance of the night. Similar to "Waterfalls," the song had only been on MTV for about six weeks, but it had gotten so popular so fast. For anyone who hadn't yet heard of Alanis, this was her true moment of arrival.

- During the first break, two of the first 3 commercials featured Shaq.

- Dennis Rodman kinda low-key brought a beer with him up to the podium when presenting his award. Yelled a bunch of stuff about being the baddest dude in the room. Christopher Walken - to his left - just laughed and looked like he was about to respond but instead just said "let's see the nominees."

- Tom Petty, Seal, Hootie and the Blowfish and Dr. Dre all won awards that were up against videos that weren't nearly as popular, with MTV seeming to stack the odds in favor of whoever was definitely going to be present. For example, Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" won Best Male against a random Chris Issak song that no one remembers, Elton John, and "Lucas With The Lid Off." Did Jeff Buckley or Portishead stand any chance to win Best New Artist against Hootie? Were PJ Harvey, Public Enemy or Rappin' 4-Tay even present?

- Dennis Miller as host was probably a low-point. Not sure why he was asked to return in '96, although the options of the moment weren't especially great.

- During the post-awards wrap-up, MTV drunkenly tried way too hard to push for memorable live TV moments. The thing with Courtney Love interrupting Kurt Loder's interview with Madonna was kinda hugely blown out of proportion and appeared on way too many of those "best MTV moments" retrospectives in subsequent years. Kurt Loder also awkwardly tried to get Flea and Anthony Kiedis to make out while they were hugging each other.

- Not really relevant at all, but the last episode of The State aired on MTV about 2 weeks prior.

That's all we can remember.

One final note: We only recently noticed a strange trend throughout the mid-'90s when the VMAs seemed to encourage performances of non-singles from rock acts, possibly after realizing they were wrong for trying to force Nirvana to play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in 1992. Pearl Jam performed "Animal" in 1993, a year when they did not release any videos. A year later, Green Day chose "Aramtage Shanks" while STP played "Pretty Penny" in a setting that was similar to their Unplugged episode. 1995 was the first year when this idea seemed to backfire, when R.E.M. chose "The Wake-Up Bomb," a plodding non-single that wouldn't be released on CD until a year later. Green Day's remote broadcast from Sweden showed them playing "Stuck With Me," which was probably just the song that happened to arrive in their set list at the time of their time slot. A year later, Alanis sang "Your House," the unlisted a capella bonus track from Jagged Little Pill, except this time it was with an acoustic guitar player. The same night, Hootie performed "Sad Caper." In '97, Jewel performed "Angel Standing By." The trend continued until 1999, when Nine Inch Nails chose the title track from The Fragile, which was actually a pretty cool final deep VMA choice.