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January 11, 2001

And The Winner Is ...
Surprise! Dick Clark put on another crappy award show ... but he didn't do it alone.

By Mike Haney

Watching Monday night's American Music Awards, I learned two things I probably should have known, but tried not to think about: 1) ABC is still on the air (I thought it just went black after Monday Night Football), and 2) Dick Clark is grossly out of touch.

I know he's been involved in rock and roll since its birth and was a major force in bringing the rebel art form to middle America in the 1950s and '60s. And I know he hasn't aged outwardly since the mid-1980s, but he is old. Really damn old. Seventy-one actually. Surely there are some really cool people in their seventies, but none of them have any business producing a music award shows.

Dick Clark is old. Really damn old. Seventy-one actually.
Award shows suck enough by their very nature. Music, like all art, is far too subjective to really choose the "best," no matter how many categories it's split into. But Dick Clark proved that letting a senior citizen run the show can sink an already-sagging genre to new lows. His show's production was mind-numbingly boring, from its nominee introductions to its lavishly-staged but uninspired performances, and its winners were even more "yea, so what?" than last week's Grammy nominations.

Yes, all the stars were there, many in the now-requisite "risqué" attire showing cleavage that I didn't need to see (thanks, Ms. Lopez). But in a part of the year notorious for soft record sales, what artist would pass up the free publicity of several audience close-ups on national TV? (Although I would appreciate it if somebody could explain to me the why the camera kept flashing to Brooke Shields every 10 minutes.)

Wow, Real Live Blinking Lights
For years, the Grammys and the AMAs were the only two real award shows, and they fed off each other's boring sets and graphics, neither pushing the other to be too creative. Then MTV came and fucked everything up. The channel's Video Music Awards and Movie Awards shows set a new standard in award show production every year (until recently anyway), coming up with unbelievably creative and funny ways to introduce nominees and transform old concert halls into dream-like environments.

Clark needs to let the AMAs go, and turn production over to somebody who can't collect Social Security.
The Grammys have at least made an effort to catch up to MTV, but Clark refuses to recognize today's rapidly changing cultural styles, recycling the same set for more than a decade, employing video effects that are noteworthy only in their cheese factor, and returning again to an announcer that might as well be selling push lights on late-night infomercials.

Clark reportedly spent millions more than usual on this year's show, and moved it up three weeks to avoid competing with late-January Super Bowl hype. But throwing more money at the problem isn't going to fix it. Clark needs to let his baby go, and turn production over to somebody who can't collect Social Security.

Oh, M'god, is Marilyn Wearing Women's Clothes?
Clark tried to divert our attention from his piss-poor production by inundating us with live performances, but nearly all failed to rise to the occasion.

Proving how out-of-touch he really is, Clark said before the show he was actually concerned that Marilyn Manson's scheduled performance might be too controversial for network TV. Of course, what can we expect from a guy who pre-tapes his New Year's Eve show?

I can only hope Spears' orgiastic writhing in a sea of scantily-clad women and stripper-pole choreography gave Clark's aging heart the same workout it gave mine.
Ironically, Dick probably thought he was being safe by giving a performance to teeny-bopper co-host Britney Spears. I can only hope her orgiastic writhing in a sea of scantily-clad women and stripper-pole choreography gave his aging heart the same workout it gave mine. Maybe she can't sing, but no one in showbiz is more in tune to what their audience wants to see. What's the line on her actually having sex on stage at this year's VMAs?

The rest of the performances barely merit mention. Boy-wonder Billy Gilman led the show with an eerie five-minute Star Search flashback. Overrated hillbillies 3 Door Down are so worried about being a one-hit wonder, they used their performance to promote their next single, warranting a collective five-minute "Huh?" from the audience. Busty Britney look-alike Jessica Simpson made us all believe for just an instant that she could actually sing, and then debunked that idea by yelling the same lyric into the mike for the last two minutes of her song. And veteran rockers Aerosmith, who received some fabricated clone of a lifetime achievement award, brought in quasi-circus freaks to make us think the new single they performed was somehow different than every other song they've released in the last decade.

Even We Couldn't Take it "Higher"
Unfortunately, I can't blame all of the AMAs failures on Clark. The winners were our fault, kids.

The AMAs, unlike the Grammys, are a populist award show. Nominations are based on record sales, and winners are chosen by polling "a random sampling" (that phrase always sounds a little suspect) of 20,000 record buyers.

We are the ones who made Faith Hill get up on stage three times and struggle for something to say that would draw attention away from that ridiculous new haircut. "Breathe" is not a bad album, but I almost feel sorry for Faith. I've seen this movie before and I know how it ends. (Has anybody seen Shania anywhere other than nude celebrity sites since she was the awards darling two years ago?)

Our greater crime was feeding the already bloated ego of Christ-obsessed Creed lead singer Scott Stapp. His band took home two awards, and highlighted another AMA problem: muddled categories. Creed beat Britney Spears and N'sync for "Best Pop/Rock Album" and then won "Best Alternative Music Artist." If they are in the same category as bubblegum pop, then what the hell are they an alternative to?

God-willing, maybe Dick Clark will retire from the music business in the next year or at least suffer a stroke that renders him incapable of producing the 29th Annual AMAs.
In an even greater categorization snafu, Eminem was nominated for both "Favorite Male Pop/Rock Artist" and "Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist." (Forgive me, I'm from Minnesota, but what exactly is the difference between rap and hip-hop?) Sadly, he was denied both awards, beat out by fellow poser gangster Dr. Dre and fellow poser bad-ass Kid Rock (who provided the highlight of the show as he actually had to accept his award from and shake hands with boy-band 98°). I wonder why GLAAD wasn't outside the Shrine Auditorium protesting those two nominations? I guess they're not willing to argue with record sales.

I'm sorry to say Dick's strange categorizations did give us one chance to redeem ourselves, but we blew it. The nominees for "Favorite New Soul/R&B Artist" somehow included the brilliant but relatively unknown duo Mary Mary, but alas, we gave the award to another obscure new artist, D'Angelo rip-off Donell Jones.

Maybe like me, you weren't among this year's 20,000 AMA voters, so you're comfortable in the idea that we're not to blame for that awful three hours of television. And God-willing, maybe Dick Clark will retire from the music business in the next year or at least suffer a stroke that renders him incapable of producing the 29th Annual AMAs.

But it wouldn't matter. We will continue to buy the over-hyped records that create the predictable nominees and because we want assurance that others are making the same regrettable choices, we will continue to watch this show and others like it. Yes, just like Dick Clark, the show will go on, and even if we don't vote, the blood will again be on our hands.

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