By John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 10, 2007
Britney Spears was not ready for prime time.
The fallen pop idol made her much-hyped comeback last night to open MTV's disjointed and just plain boring Video Music Awards show, giving a thoroughly underwhelming performance of her new song "Gimme More."
Dressed in sequined black underpants and bra, an out-of-shape Spears moved tentatively around the stage, getting totally outgrooved by her backup dancers and badly lip-syncing her way through the song whose main lyric was "Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme."
To make matters worse for Spears, raunchy comedian Sarah Silverman took the stage next and proceeded to bury her. "She is amazing," Silverman said. "She is 25 years old and has already accomplished everything she is going to accomplish in her life."
Then Silverman added a doozy: "Have you seen Britney's kids? They are the most adorable mistakes you will ever see." That wasn't the end of it, but the rest of her remarks weren't suitable for a family newspaper.
At least Silverman shook things up a bit during a show that otherwise lacked the quintessential VMA moment, as in years past when Eminem put the smackdown on Triumph the Insult Dog or Diana Ross manhandled Lil' Kim's pastied breast. About as controversial as it got (barring Silverman's public hanging of Spears) was when multiple winner Justin Timberlake admonished the network, twice, to "play more damn videos."
Like Spears, the awards show never seemed to hit a groove. MTV was hoping to reinvent the program, which has dipped in the ratings over the past five years, and opted to spread the action throughout Las Vegas's Palms hotel and casino. Along with one main stage, there were also performances in a number of suites throughout the resort.
Timberlake, Kanye West, Timbaland (the evening's "maestro," according to MTV), Fall Out Boy, the Foo Fighters and 50 Cent were among those performing away from the main stage. When the network did cut to them, they were sometimes halfway through a song, robbing viewers of enjoyment.
The full performances that viewers were treated to probably made them wish MTV would go back to its old ways, ratings be damned. Young phenom Chris Brown channeled Michael Jackson, circa 1984, and Alicia Keys gave rousing renditions of her new song, "No One," and George Michael's "Freedom." The show, which ran just over two hours, ended on a high note with Timberlake, Timbaland and Nelly Furtado giving the audience an electrifying performance.
As for the awards themselves? Well, among them, Fergie was named Female Artist of the Year; Fall Out Boy was Best Group; Best New Artist went to Gym Class Heroes; Timberlake won Quadruple Threat of the Year and Male Artist of the Year; Rihanna won Video of the Year and Monster Single of the Year for her ubiquitous hit "Umbrella"; and Beyonce and Shakira won Most Earth Shattering Collaboration for "Beautiful Liar."
The Spears appearance likely will goose the ratings for the VMAs. MTV President Christina Norman called this year's version of the show a "total reinvention." Ratings have been sinking steadily since 2001, when the show peaked with nearly 12 million viewers. Last year, the VMAs drew 5.8 million viewers, its smallest audience in 10 years.
And if you missed it last night, sorry. MTV promised that the live telecast would be the only one (though it does plan a "remix" of what viewers voted as the best acts, and you can also catch the show on MTV.com).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.