Monday, November 23, 2009

Hasty, Unformed Thoughts on the American Music Awards*

*Or the two AMA performances I've seen on YouTube.

So Adam Lambert closed the show and did this:

or hadn't you heard? And look, I'm not trying to be a Glambert hater or anything (I swear!), but my initial reaction (beyond the fact that his voice went off the reservation more than a few times) was that it was all so tediously desperate. Like, I get it when you're dragging the girl across the stage like she's a bag of meat. I get it when you're grinding the guy's face into your crotch. I get it when you're feeling up the girl's leg to her crotch. By the time he got to making out with the (male) keyboardist, I had to laugh. It was so very "Not enough? Well how about THIS? Shocked yet?" (By the way, Adam's trying to sell that kiss as "spontaneous" -- um, totally!)

I'm not offended by the sexuality -- though you put that shit out there on network TV and you know the outrage you're signing up for. And if he wants to be a provocateur, that's fine. But be provocative about something other than the desire to be provocative, you know? There's a fine line between Madonna's long history of shoving our face in it -- which always seemed to come at least partially from a place of rage that women weren't allowed to be sexual in the same way as men were -- and this kind of Marilyn Manson "please be offended so as to give me a reason for existing" theater. I honestly believe Adam is striving for the former (swap out women/men for gay/straight) but this kind of itchy-trigger-finger excess tips the scales to the latter.

EDIT: I should add that I also found the whole thing kind of hot shit, and if he'd pulled back on the throttle juuust a bit, I might have loved it. You know, sketchy vocals notwithstanding.

Also, I'm trying to reconcile my negative reaction to Adam with the fact that I remain endlessly amused by Lady Gaga (her AMA performance above). I think for all Adam's insistence that he's here for pure entertainment, Lady Gaga actually achieves it. And make no mistake, she's attention-seeking for attention-seeking's sake too. So why do I take to her more? I think maybe because her fakeness seems more organic. She just seems like a weird person, and while she's wearing latex face-masks and dresses made to look like bloody entrails and light-up granny panties all to make a show of herself, I feel like first and foremost, the show is for herself. We're invited to take it in or not, but she'll be sitting in her fire-cube regardless. I'm not sure what Adam would be doing with all those backup dancers if he didn't think we were watching.

Of course, despite the fact that I'm no fan of Adam's performance, fifteen minutes into watching The View -- and particularly Elisabeth's oddly passionate anger at Adam -- and I'm arguing Adam's side of the debate. And with the Thanksgiving weekend coming up, I suspect I'll be doing more of the same. I've been in these arguments before -- if I try to argue nuance, I just end up talking to myself for twenty minutes. I have a feeling I'll be sticking to the following talking points: Your damn kid should be in bed by 10:45 anyway, sometimes there are performances just for adults, and blah blah blah gay double standard. ...Okay, maybe I'll just avoid this topic altogether. I'm already bored.


momo said...

OK, you have articulated many of my thoughts after watching the whole AMA mess just to see i I could spot a few of the SYTYCD former dancers who had gigs as backup dancers. Re: Lambert, it was sad to see that he tried too hard. Kitchen sink and charmless, vocal mess. I miss the Adam who had to woo his fans; I don't want the Adam who does what Shakira has done: turned herself into a parody of herself, with what seemed like fifty stripper-style dancers thrusting their crotches in unison. Talk about tasteless and offensive--almost all the women, including Carrie Underwood in her gold diaper, were dressed like prostitutes and several of the men swore like thugs, but Adam is the one all the fuss is about.

Lady Gaga was the only performer who managed to get my 15-yr old kid to stop doing her homework, even though she had to put up with me yelling at the TV and laughing at Twitter jokes. I though Mary J Blige sang a boring song with real heart; Whitney proved she's not high, but to me she is still a technician with no soul who has had a terrible influence of pop female vocal stylings for over a decade, Rihanna threw down the glove to Gaga but got royally served (drone, primp), and Alicia Keys did the same but with slightly more talent so it was sadder. The Black Eyed Peas showed why they got us all dancing even though they can be annoying too, and Green Day was a shadow of their former self. So many BORING SONGS! Louboutins, WtF? BORING.
Lady Gaga seems to be bringing something authentically creative to all the fakery. Maybe I feel that way because of her political statements in Washington.

Kristen said...

But what about your football picks? My day was incomplete yesterday!

Joe Reid said...

Yeah, I forgot to post them. As always, they were reprinted over at Cam'ron's blog. I did quite well.

Kirk said...

Yeah, I agree - it was a totally overdone clusterfuck. He seemed nervous, and off his game, vocally... I do think that they'll get it together once they have a dozen or so shows under their belt, though.

I guess we'll see!

DuchessKitty said...

I'd been avoiding watching or discussing anything about the AMAs because I just think it's all so exhausting.
But your thoughts and insightful commentary Joe made me actually watch the YouTube clips to see what the big deal is. And yeah. Uggh.
The desperation and the "look at me, look at me!, What are you looking at?" - ness of Lambert's performance makes me sad.

Joe Reid said...

"after watching the whole AMA mess just to see i I could spot a few of the SYTYCD former dancers who had gigs as backup dancers"

Oooh, which ones?

momo said...

Courtney Galliano danced for Adam Lambert, Mark Kanemura danced for someone, I thought Janet Jackson (he's in her video) but it could have been Gaga (he's going to be on her tour). NappyTabs did J-Lo's choreo (whoops).
But the stupid cameras kept focusing on the singers.

Tom said...

I haven't gotten the Adam Lambert thing since about Week 7 of Idol. He did the same thing every week... good song choice, huge screech, done. Same thing here... except three screeches. Have we really reached a point in 2009 where we're begging for new songs that sound like "Tainted Love" combined with an low-rent, out-of-tune version of a Freddie Mercury shriek?

As to Lady Gaga -- I think the difference is that she's insanely talented. A lot of the other stuff you can forgive when the songs are just good. Adam's single is pretty terrible. It's not catchy, has a stupid hook, and no one wants to sing along to shrieks. On the other hand, people can hum "ohhhh caught in a bad romance" to themselves.

And really, with Lady Gaga, I kind of get the sense that her entire existence is an ironic dig at fame. From the names of the albums, to the double entendres in the songs, to everything else -- it almost feels like her whole career, to this point, is one big piece of performance art looking at how easy it is to manipulate the mass media.

Jennifer said...

I could not say anything you've said better than you said it. Adam's whole "clutch my pearls, I cannot BELIEVE people are shocked or complaining" is so disingenuous. Or he's stupid, which I doubt.

Hipster Mongoose said...

I agree. I barely know who Lambert is and never watch music related awards shows. And yet I find myself bristling over the criticism in the local bar I frequent when compared with the relative sins of the other performers.