Waiting for OK Go: MTV Awards' Existential Moment

Musicians from band Ok Go perform at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards in New York
Members of OK Go perform "Here It Goes Again" at last night's mostly tame MTV Video Music Awards. (Gary Hershorn -- Reuters)
By Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 1, 2006

NEW YORK, Aug. 31 -- We wait -- and wait and wait -- for the quintessential MTV Video Music Awards moment. And it arrives, by our estimate, at 9:07 p.m. That's when the highly synchronized foursome of OK Go brings down the house with the first live performance of the group's YouTube charmer "Here It Goes Again," a rousing dancing-on-treadmills routine.

What does it say about the VMA that the show's highlight was inspired by a music video that took off not on MTV but on the Web?

Two things.

One, the VMA, held at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, still knows how to put on a show. (More evidence: Vampy Britney, in a live feed, asking a busy K-Fed: "Where's the baby?" Al Gore, to wild applause, giving a short lecture on the effects of global warning. And comedian Sarah Silverman telling Paris Hilton she's too fat.)

Two, the VMA is more pop-culture spectacle, Us Weekly on the tube, than a celebration of its namesake.

Sure, the Moon Men trophies were handed out to the likes of Panic! at the Disco (video of the year), the All American Rejects (best group video) and Chamillionaire (best rap video). But, really, viewers don't tune in to one of cable TV's biggest shows to find out who takes home the honors. Not even this year's addition of ringtone of the year. (Fort Minor's "Where'd You Go" won.)

Now in its 23rd year, the VMA tries to stay ahead of the pack of more buttoned-up awards ceremonies by inviting an eclectic mix of performers, presenters and guests who keep the folks at People, Us Weekly and Star gainfully employed. This year's host was the indefatigable Jack Black -- he sings! his eyebrows dance! he dresses like Elvis with a hangover!

With new albums to promote, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, the Killers and a very fierce Beyonce all performed, using the VMA plugathon to target that hyperkinetic, iPodding, YouTubing audience. (Think what you will about JT and his post-N'Sync success, when he opened the show by singing, on key, "I'm bringing sexy back," he sounded like he meant it.)

Lots of channels these days have wacky awards shows -- the TV Land Awards, the Video Game Awards, etc. -- and MTV has got to outdo the knockoffs.

We might have seen Britney Spears's beloved K-Fed rap his little heart out at the Teen Choice Awards nearly two weeks ago. But we had to watch the VMA to see Lil' Kim, fresh out of the big house, walk onstage in an orange jumpsuit and declare, "You just can't keep a good bitch down," before presenting the best male video honors to James Blunt, who also won for best cinematography.

On the VMA red carpet, which we are allowed to roam before the festivities, we bump into the super-tanned and super-blond Hogan family -- the Hulkman gives new meaning to the word "towering" -- while Ciara, the diminutive songstress, struggles to tell us who made her slinky, glittery number. Her stylist takes our notepad and spells out "LILY ET CIE."

It's delicious to see Pink, who spoofed Jessica Simpson in her nominated video "Stupid Girls," walk the carpet minutes after Simpson does. (A surprised Pink later accepted the award for best pop video, acting like a Valley Girl.)

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