I don’t know why this surprised me, but the first ever YouTube Music Awards can only be described as an absolute s**tshow.
The award show’s director Spike Jonze (who likely died inexplicably in the opening minutes of the show given how quickly things went south) warned us in the weeks before the ceremony that things would get “messy” while he tried to create a 90-minute event that captured the “raw messiness” of a YouTube video.
That mild warning doesn’t even come close to making up for the awkward symphony of unadulterated madness that took place live in New York City just a few hours ago.
Hosts Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts may as well have hosted the show live from a war zone with the number of botched skits flying throughout the duration of the unscripted show. A few of the writer’s room hits that fell flat in front of a live audience included: Watching (or rather, waiting for…) the hosts to run around looking for award winners, watching the hosts dig through four cakes before they could announce an award winner (losing 40,000 viewers in the process), presenting a beautifully gracious Lindsey Stirling with an award covered in cake, and producers telling the hosts to climb a ladder instead of walk a few feet to the (perfectly visible!) stairs right next to them. The phrase “things can only get better” did not ring true tonight.
To help you understand just how bad things got, at one point actress Rashida Jones appeared out of nowhere, with no introduction, and handed the hosts a pair of babies before walking away. No joke. She seriously just handed them two babies and walked away. It’s safe to say it was pretty loud in the studio, and Loud Noises + Babies = Crying (and possibly childhood hearing damage, but the show is “raw,” so who cares… right…)!
So, now we have two hosts holding crying babies while also trying to simultaneously juggle microphones and present Macklemore & Ryan with their well-deserved YouTube Breakthrough award. “Messy” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
This was an opportunity for YouTube to show that they have the both the technology and the talent at their disposal to rival even the best televised award ceremonies, and just like every other YouTube-organized live event, they have once again fallen short of the mark. Schwartzman and Watts did a great job of rolling with the improvised punches, but it would have been so much better if YouTube called upon some of the personalities that lead the platform to host the show in a slightly more structured format.
While the show’s failures were extreme, there were also a number of glorious moments highlighting the potential of the platform. Notwithstanding the technical problems, every musical performance at the show was outstanding. The history of YouTube medley was a tribute to ‘traditional’ YouTubers in what was otherwise an event focused squarely on the mainstream. To feature viral video stars like Walk Off The Earth and Tay Zonday alongside people like T-Pain was a great mix, and something sure to rack-up serious views if ever packaged as a separate video. Other performances of the night showcased production values worthy of a big-budget music video.
Lady Gaga‘s stripped-down performance of her new song “Dope” proved to be a crowd favorite; supremely emotive and compelling as a performance. It also drew in the highest audience of the night at 240,000 concurrent viewers. Eminem also killed it with his performance of “Rap God.”
For a show plagued with technical problems and performed under the thumb of an oppressively poor choice of format, the YouTube Music Awards perfectly recognized both the best and the worst of the music scene on YouTube.
The website has a truly global reach, as demonstrated by K-Pop group Girls’ Generation walking away with an award – A win that amusingly caused confusion among the ethnocentric American audience. Isn’t that what musicians want on YouTube? – An opportunity to showcase their talents on a truly democratized global stage? Even though they’re a manufactured group, the fact they won against the likes of Justin Bieber and One Direction shows that this category is open for anyone who captures the hearts and minds of the world stage.
Both ‘traditional’ YouTubers and mainstream artists were represented alongside each other, much to the distress of YouTube Community Purists, just as they are in the real platform. While a ceremony a polished as the GRAMMYs would be grossly out of character for YouTube, I do hope the powers that be take the time to recognize the things they’ve done wrong and take steps to correct them before they try this again next year. Traditional media has always looked down on YouTube, while most mainstream stars continue to disrespect the ‘little internet videos.’
Next year instead of giving them something to laugh at, give them something to aspire to.
Nominees and Winners from the Inaugural YouTube Music Awards:
VIDEO OF THE YEAR:
Girls’ Generation – I Got A Boy – WINNER!
Epic Rap Battles of History – “Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney”
Demi Lovato – “Heart Attack”
Justin Bieber Ft. Nicki Minaj – “Beauty and A Beat”
Lady Gaga – “Applause”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Same Love”
Miley Cyrus – “We Can’t Stop”
One Direction – “Best Song Ever”
Psy – “Gentleman”
Selena Gomez – “Come and Get It”
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Eminem – WINNER!
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
RESPONSE (COVER) OF THE YEAR
Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix, Radioactive – WINNER!
Boyce Avenue Ft. Fifth Harmony – “Mirrors”
Jayesslee – “Gangnam Style”
The Piano Guys – “Titanium/Pavane”
Walk Off the Earth Ft. KRNFX – “I Knew You Were Trouble”
I Knew You Were Trouble – WINNER!
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – WINNER!
INNOVATION OF THE YEAR
DeStorm – “See Me Standing” – WINNER!
Anamanaguchi – “Endless Fantasy”
Atoms for Peace – “Ingenue”
Bat for Lashes – “Lilies”
Toro Y Moi – “Say That”