“Ok sweetie. Sit down. We need to talk. I know there’s a lot of things changing right now… you may feel things you haven’t felt before and want to try new things…”
Yeah. I’m not a parent, but I can imagine having the birds and bees talk with your child is about as awkward as life gets. In fact, just writing this I can feel both of you reading squirm at that opening block of text. Well, music industry, it was always going to happen. We need to talk.
Tonight, I perched on a table in a South London bar to watch the EMA awards being live streamed. After a few years of not watching these kind of up-the-arse smoke-blowing events, I had hopes that things might have changed for the better. Boy was I wrong.
It started off with some promise. Eminem. Back, with a track that was surprisingly accessible. I walk on water, but only when it freezes. Cause I’m only human, just like you. Surrounded by graphics of melting ice caps, it was hard not to feel like this was to be the start of something beautiful. Well, if you happen to be reading this while watching, switch off now; pretend the high carries on. Plus, Corrie’s on the other side.
From here on out, it seemed like every possible attempt to garner a bit of credibility. Quick, shout London a few times and send Stormzy on in a police car. Someone get Paul Pogba and Delle Alli in. Or dress up Osama Bin Laden’s corpse and puppeteer him into introducing U2. (On further research I discovered this was actually Jared Leto, taking a well-earned break from charging fans thousands of pounds for meet and greets…)
But why, I hear you ask, does and MTV awards show need to barter for credibility? Well lets get to the awards. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that there was going to be a strong element of bubblegum in these awards. It’s sadly, how this industry seems to work: if you have enough cash, you can buy any award you want. Whilst I could pick a few issues out here – Ed Sheeran for best live performance, Shawn Mendes as best song and best artist – what really irked me was when it came to the best ‘alternative’ and ‘rock’ awards. Imagine Dragons, Lana Del Ray, Lorde, The XX and Thirty Seconds to Mars as the 5 best alternative acts MTV could find is absolutely laughable. If we were all to be honest here, what we’re looking at are 5 pop acts who got a guitar strapped to them for a bit of ‘street cred’.
Rock had a better listing: Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Royal Blood, The Killers and U2 is just about bearable, even if it is a random collective. However, clearly feeling overwhelmed with all of the attention a credible lineup brought, MTV lessened the load by giving the award to Coldplay, who’ve not released anything for over 2 years. Eminem summed it up when collecting the Hip Hop award with “I’m not really sure how I got this, I haven’t released anything for a little while…” clearly as dumbstruck as we were.
What really bugs me with this is the wealth of great rock and alternative music that has been released this year even! Neck Deep and Lower Than Atlantis, to name but two, have released albums that charted highly, had primetime airplay with singles and made huge strides for the alternative side of music. Both sold out the five thousand cap Brixton Academy in doing so, too.
And yet, the music industry still chooses not to honour these efforts. Such achievements are swept under the rug and ignored, in favour of bands that at best can be regarded as having strap on alternative appeal (perhaps Foo Fighters and Royal Blood aside). It seems to me that there are two industries at the moment: the music industry that acknowledges and encourages all forms of music and the music industry based on formulaic songwriting, repetitive, disposable songs that will be forgotten before the artist even goes on tour and money. Oh and prettiness. Cause ugly people don’t get to make music anymore, you may have missed that memo.
The rest of the show? Well, in between a schedule with more breaks than Ross and Rachel you got to see an acid-fuelled set from Ke$ha, complete with a look that screamed “I’ve come straight from Glastonbury Festival to this karaoke bar”, Bono donning an Elton John halloween outfit whilst mumbling along to some unknown U2 track and The Killers proving why they definitely should have retired on the Mr Brightside money. Oh and all the trailers for Daddy’s Home 2. That actually looks pretty good.
And then fade to black, complete with image of George Michael. But come on. Even he’d have lost faith in this.