UPDATE: Lady Gaga was awarded "Best Video With A Message" for "Born This Way." The award, as HuffPost Entertainment points out on their liveblog, was "appropriately buried in the red carpet coverage."
MTV's Video Music Awards airs live tonight from the Nokia Theater in hurricane-free Los Angeles, and, naturally, crazy antics should be expected (according to producers, anyway. According to us, this is the only unscripted "crazy" thing that's happened at the VMAs in years).
This year, MTV will also make an attempt to tug at our heartstrings at the ceremony, premiering a brand new "Best Video With a Message" category, which aims to award artists who dug deep into their souls and took a stand against something or other.
"During the past year, we've seen a remarkable number of artists use their music to explore deeply personal experiences and issues they were passionate about to create powerful videos that resonated with and inspired millions of their fans," MTV president Stephen Friedman said in a statement earlier this month.
Let's take a look at the nominees.
The band, Rise Against, who premiered their video for "Make It Stop (September's Children)" here on The Huffington Post, are nominated in the category. A close friend of the band's lead singer inspired the song, which was aimed at gay teenagers who'd been pushed to suicide by bullying. The band teamed up with the "It Gets Better" campaign to produce the video and, out of all the nominees, it's the only one that contains any sort of specific "message." But seeing as you're probably a unique, living and breathing human being, you can take whatever you'd like from it.
In addition to "Make it Stop," Eminem and Rihanna are nominated for "Love The Way You Lie," which MTV explains, on their website, is about the "pain and peril of domestic violence."
In this song, Eminem raps about physically abusing the woman he loves and then asking her to forgive him, because the next time he's pissed off at her he'll just aim his fist "at the drywall." Before Rihanna's final refrain, where she basically admits she's going to stay with him because she loves the way he lies, Em raps:
"I apologize even though i know its lies / I’m tired of the games, I just want her back / I know I'm a liar if she ever tries to fuckin’ leave again / I'ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire."
Now, Eminem can say whatever he wants, but are we really going to reward him for having a message, here? Yes, domestic violence is horrible, but it's safe to say this song didn't have one clear "moral" that the two artists wished to clearly come across. It's not written in the lyrics, anyway.
Other nominees include Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," Katy Perry's "Firework, Pink's "F****** Perfect," and Taylor Swift's "Mean," which all, in some way or another, contain some of the most blatantly ubiquitous convictions in modern pop music.
According to MTV, Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" promotes a "world free from prejudice, judgment and self-doubt," while Katy Perry's "Firework" celebrates the "spark and originality in all of us." Taylor Swift's "Mean," on the other hand, "cautions negative naysayers that being mean gets you nowhere."
Certainly there's nothing wrong with rewarding artists who release music based on personal convictions, but isn't that kind of par for the course? If, as MTV president Friedman said, he wanted to "reward" these artists for digging into their personal experiences to create powerful songs, did we really need to point out exactly what message they were trying to get across?
The most powerful songs in history come from "deeply personal" experiences. In fact, every original song is personal. The lyrics come from somebody's brain and are based around either specific or universal experiences and then, in turn, inspire personal feelings in the listener. That's... what a song is.
There's something oddly icky about MTV assigning more "meaning" to a song, as if Katy Perry's pop anthem about personal empowerment, which netted her millions of dollars, contains as powerful a "message" as a song from a rock band whose lead singer lost his close friend. Do we need MTV telling us we shouldn't be "mean" to other people? Does this even make sense anymore?
Somehow this category rivals even the lamest of MTV decisions in recent years, a strange pander to the most common denominator of superfluousness.