Thursday, September 17, 2009

Was Kanye Right?


I ask that question not in how he behaved- thankfully, he's been almost universally panned for grabbing the microphone from Taylor Swift and interrupting her acceptance speech. Even the President agrees. No, I'm referring to what he said regarding who should have won Best Female Video.

Taylor was right in the middle of saying how she had always dreamed of winning, when Kanye grabbed the microphone and said he was really happy she had won but "...Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time." Hold up, let's re-wind that... Kanye said that B's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" was one of the best of all time. Really??? This would mean it's in the league of say, Michael Jackson's "Thriller", Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or "Like A Prayer" by Madonna. And, um, sorry folks, I don't think this video comes even close.

But how does it fare against it's competitors in this partcular category? Well, Katy Perry's "Hot n Cold" was fun, full of her usual bright, flirty costumes (Lady Gaga, please take note of how "unique" can be nonfrightening). But, it's no "I Kissed A Girl", so it losing is not a shock. Speaking of Lady Gaga, she was up for the nom as well for "Poker Face." It was creative, and different- maybe too different? Kelly Clarkson made a welcome reappearance on the pop world this year with "My Life Would Suck Without You", her first single since 2007's disappointing (to some- it has gone platinum) "My December". The song packed a punch, knocking Britney Spears' out of the number one spot. But the video? Not such a knockout. It was cute, not the best. One of my favorite videos of the past year-period- was Pink's punky "So What" in which she told the world she'd be fabulous without hubby Carey Hart (the two separated last year, but happily, have since reconciled). In the video, she's crazed- cutting down trees, riding through traffic on a lawn mower, attacking newlyweds- and it makes for an entertaining video. To be honest, I would've been happy if she won this category.

So should "Single Ladies" have taken home the prize? Let's actually look at the video itself, sans the catchy lyrics. You've got the ever beautiful B, along with two back up dancers, clad in tight black bodysuits dancing. It's shot in black and white, with a flat background and lighting that changes from bright to dark. And B has a mechanical glove thingy on her all important left hand. And really, that's it. There's no storyline, no costume changes. She looks gorgeous, but when doesn't she? The dance moves (often duplicated on YouTube) aren't groundbreaking. I've seen more complicated choreography in some Britney Spears videos. The most interesting thing about the video was when Justin Timberlake spoofed it on Saturday Night Live.



If you want a great example of how a simplistic black and white video can be exciting with great dance moves, watch JT's 2006 video for "My Love."

What about Taylor's video which actually did win? It's a pretty straight forward story- poor nerdy Taylor, the band geek is in love with the super popular jock, but he's crazy about the stuck up mean girl cheerleader (also played by Taylor). Sure we've seen it before (think "She's All That"), even having the singer play dueling roles (see Mariah Carey's "Heartbreaker"). So, it's been done before- but I say so what. Every generation repackages the old and presents it as new. The teens today are going crazy for "Gossip Girls", a show about overly mature teens who use SAT words (see Dawson's Creek"), sleep around and manipulate (see "Cruel Intentions") and are filthy rich (see "Beverly Hills, 90210"), just like their 90's counterparts did (me included). Everything old is new again.

I like "You Belong With Me", both the song and video. It's nice country is seeing a resurgence on the pop charts. It's been awhile since the days of Faith Hill and Shania Twain's cross over success. Strictly dealing with the song versus "Single Ladies", Beyonce's song would take top honors. Not because it's better, in my opinion, but because it's a perfect pop song. Uptempo, simple lyrics, easily recognized with a catchy hook. However, pitting the two videos against each other, Taylor definitely wins it. There's a story there, one that countless generations can identify with. The underdog wins, which is pretty much what happened when Taylor beat Beyonce.

Happily, as we all know, things ended well. Beyonce won "Best Video of the Year" for "Single Ladies," and Taylor was able to finish her acceptance speech. So everyone involved were winners. Except Kanye, of course, who was wrong on his rudeness and who should've won. MTV (surprisingly) got it right.

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