(This article originally appearred on Yahoo! COntributor Network in April 2012.)
When Queen Latifah took the stage for the 2011 American Music Awards, she asked the audience “Are you ready to see the biggest stars and songs of the year?” to a roaring crowd. “Are you ready for a show filled for unforgettable performance?’
Well, yeah, I’m ready for that and at around a $500K price tag for each performance, I think I deserve to see some bang for all my iTunes bucks spent. But is that what I got? Hardly.
Every decade bemoans what the kids are listening to these days, and most of the time it’s just that ol’ generation gap. But tastes aside, Sunday night’s AMAs perfectly displayed why all of us doing that now are exactly right — the event ushered in a new low in crass commercialism and product placement. Even a cynic like myself couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw J-Lo incorporating a Fiat into her performance to create a live car advertisement. In fact, one could refer to the whole evening as the J-Lo/Fiat infomercial.
Bills have to be paid, I know, but any integrity in the awards goes out the window when one of the winners is a shill for the evening’s biggest sponsor. I’m sorry, but there was no way Lopez wasn’t going to win her category with all the money Fiat was shoveling into the program. Of course, when several performers lip-synch an awards show, there isn’t much integrity to go around in the first place.
And yes, folks, Lopez was lip-synching a track recorded for the performance, despite a few “impromptu” references to the AMAs to seem live. How can I tell? Despite shaking her badonkadonk all over the place like the Tasmanian Devil of T&A, Lopez’s vocals never wavered or fluctuated one iota to catch her breath in the performance, till suddenly, at the end after the song, the mike was now on and you could hear her panting heavily.
I cry foul.
I also caught double winner Nicki Minaj with her mike down during a vocal part. Yep, she was lip-synching as well. Although one could argue some of the other artists probably should have done the same. Dear One Republic, pitch is your friend. Katy Perry, in what I can only describe as a Pepto Bismal-colored Jetsons look, was having some issues as well, but at least they were singing. Adam Levine, normally spot on for his performances on “The Voice,” was a bit shaky on a few notes, as well, but when you look that good, who really cares?
They also graced us with pretty straightforward, gimmick-free performances, barring the bizarre styling by Perry, which was a refreshing change from all the gimmickry run amok in the show. As did Daughtry, The Band Perry and almost Mary J Blige — who felt compelled to add unnecessary dancers to do booty shakes in slow motion. I would have liked to see Kelly Clarkson drop the stupid intro and all the distractions and just sing in that stunning red dress in a single spotlight.
Speaking of weird styling, what is that look Justin Bieber is going for? I kept thinking that turned up collar made it sort of like a crazy, space-age Elvis look. And not in a good, kitschy way like The King. I won’t comment on Christina Aguilera’s outfit or weight, because no doubt Kelly Osbourne will chime in soon enough. Um, Kelly, I know you said she made fun of you when you were overweight, but I think it’s about time to take the high road and stop being such a hypocrite. Let the girl have some curves.
And we certainly couldn’t speak about crazy style without mentioning Lady Gaga, or, the The Gag Hag as I call her, who was conspicuously absent. The Lady Gaga snub for Artist of the Year undoubtedly accounts for her missing a chance to revel in some ridiculous PR stunt for its own sake, or perhaps Polaroid didn’t want to pony up the funds for sponsorship. But there were a few certainly trying to fill her shoes. Namely, Minaj with her trademark pink wig wearing a downright stupid outfit with something that looked like headlights on her derriere. They didn’t even light up. What’s up with that? And wearing shoes she couldn’t even walk in to pick up her award for Best Rap/Hip Hop Artist — some poor guy had to help her across the stage as she kept twisting her ankles. But thankfully she was there, because no one else did the required “thanks to God” in their acceptance speech (along with a plug for the gospel album her mother is recording.)
Sweet baby Jesus, y’all…have none of you any shame?
Guys, close your eyes and ask yourself if most of these songs are really that good. Because if you have to rely on silly costumes, elaborate sets, and dancers to entertain people, you aren’t doing the music right. Likewise, if you go into complete overkill with all of the above and it’s still boring — you really aren’t doing it right. The 2011 AMAs were all style (and big budget) but very little substance.
At least be honest next year — slap a label on it that reads “This is a paid advertisement.”
The evening’s winners included:
Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group: Maroon 5
Country Female Artist: Taylor Swift
Country Male Artist: Blake Shelton
Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj
Soul/R&B Album: Rihanna, “Loud.”
Country Band, Duo or Group: Lady Antebellum
New Artist of the Year: Hot Chelle Rae
Latin Music Artist: Jennifer Lopez
Soul/R&B Female Artist: Beyonce
Soul/R&B Male Artist: Usher
Pop/Rock Female Artist: Adele
Pop/Rock Male Artist: Bruno Mars
Country Album: Taylor Swift, “Speak Now”
Pop/Rock Album: Adele, “21”
Rap/Hip-Hop Album: Nicki Minaj, “Pink Friday”
Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift