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Frank Ocean Thinking About You VMA Performance Was Amazing: MTV Video Music Awards Review

Last night’s Video Music Awards were jam-packed with all the meaningless glitz, glamour, and flashy stunts we’ve come to expect from MTV, cable’s trashiest television network. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me on that. All the stars were there, slightly inebriated, chillin', smiling at their screeching fans. The screeching seemed particularly loud this year, like the organizers had handed out microphones at the entrance to every girl who looked under 18, or looked like they cared deeply about what was about to transpire. It probably was because boy bands are back. The VMA’s were so predictable it was frustrating.

One Direction was the big winner of the night, as to be expected. They won for best Pop Video, Most Share Worthy Video (whatever that means), and for Best New Artist, an award that was decided by fans texting votes over the course of the night. One Direction also performed. Organizers set up their stage so the band had to walk through a gauntlet of frenzied girls that swarmed towards them as they passed. It was an all-the-boy-you-can-touch buffet for those lucky fans. Their screams were louder than the song at times.

One Direction beat out my favorite Frank Ocean, whom I had voted for Best New Artist (Yes: I voted in the VMAs, what are you gonna do about it?). That was to be expected though. One Direction is the 90's boy band reincarnate. They are perfect MTV-fodder. They harken back to simpler times when MTV was at its teeny bopping height, when music still had somewhat of a home on TV.

Frank Ocean also performed. He stripped down his song “Thinking About You” making it semi-acoustic (one electric guitar), more sparse, airy, and monotone. 

 

The stage design was the most elaborate of the night. Frank was sitting on a rock, singing his song around a campfire with a guitar buddy. But the campfire was much more awesome than just a campfire—it was an epic, misty, Lord of the Rings-styled swamp campfire! The song was the lowest energy, but most emotional moment of the night. It was very beautiful. Frank Ocean nearly sung himself to tears, something he is won't to do. His performance was the most tweeted about moment of the show. (You can see all the nights performances here; they were all pretty good).

Frank Ocean was nominated for three different categories last night, but didn’t win any of them, which kind of surprised me. Not even taking into account that Channel ORANGE is the best album to drop this year (because MTV doesn’t care about that), I figured that if they’re going to nominate him that many times and ask him to perform, he’s bound to win something. But I guess Frank Ocean is just not MTV enough when it comes down to it.

Rihanna won Video of the Year, which I called in my last article on the state of the music video. Read it and weep! She deserved it, and I’m happy for her. Chris Brown also won for Best Male Video. I feel dumb for mentioning them in the same paragraph and contributing to that played-out conversation, but they really are always neck and neck. They just can’t seem to escape each other.

All in all, the VMA's went exactly as MTV wanted them to. One Direction won, reinvigorating MTV’s glorious boy band past, and Nikki Minaj and Rihanna won for its newer directions. The beautiful moments of the night were the moments that were least MTV. Alicia Keys also gave an inspiring performance, which featured members of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team—‘The girl is on fire!!!’The rest of it was all very superficial and very entertaining, exactly the kind of programming that MTV does best.

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