Last night's seventh annual MTV Music Video Awards show was a long night of self-promotion, the lowlight of which was MC Hammer accepting the Best Dance Video award surrounded by his posse, all of whom were clutching Diet Pepsi cans. Hammer, of course, has an endorsement deal with Pepsi, which was also a sponsor of last night's show. At MTV, the borders between art and product remain unattended.
Hammer also won for Best Rap Video. Other multiple winners included Aerosmith (metal/hard rock, Viewer's Choice), Sinead O'Connor (Video of the Year, female video, post-modern) and Janet Jackson (choreography and Video Vanguard Award). Jackson thanked God and her fans, "without whom none of this would have been possible."
Many rock and rap artists probably would give the same tribute to MTV, though at least one of the show's featured live acts managed to hit the platinum plateau the hard way -- through the courts. The 2 Live Crew performed its closing argument for the defense, "Banned in the U.S.A.," with leader Luther Campbell wearing a flag headband and red-striped pants, bleating the chorus while sharing the stage with the First Amendment. O'Connor, referring to the recent fuss over her refusal to allow the national anthem to be played before a New Jersey concert, said she intended no disrespect but was focusing attention on censorship, particularly racism disguised as censorship. And Steven Tyler of Aerosmith thanked Tipper Gore and Jesse Helms "for making sure that as long as there are a few four-letter words, they'll sell an extra million records." So much for politics at MTV.
The entertainment in the three-hour live cable broadcast, emceed by the obsequious Arsenio Hall, kicked off with Jackson's "Black Cat" (and a notable black bra) and closed with a sublimely ridiculous "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" version of "Vogue," but the much-anticipated New Edition reunion was a major bust, particularly compared with the kinetic choreography of MC Hammer and his 30-member troupe.
Among individual winners: Billy Idol's "Cradle of Love" won for Best Video for a Film (Idol pointed out that it lasted longer than the film); Michael Penn was named Best New Artist, in an uncommon display of actual taste; and David Fincher was named Best Director, though he had an inside track, having directed three of the four nominated videos (he won for "Vogue"). The night's big shutout: Paula Abdul, zero for eight.