In a couple of weeks we’re going to see Justin Timberlake dance and rappers recite indecipherable lyrics to backup tapes as girls scream as instructed by the producers at the MTV Video Music Awards.
You can already see the billboards. There will be an incredible press run-up. The winners will be paraded all over the media. The gig will be presented as the cultural zeitgeist, as where it’s happening. The illusion will be put forth that if you just watch this one show, you’ll know what’s happening in America.
But that isn’t true at all.
If you want to make it in MTVille, first you have to look good. Then you have to sing the song Clive Davis wants you to. Oh, you might get to write a few words, but the song doctors will rule, as will the producer. Sans the auto-tune, sans all the production, you will fall hopelessly flat, sans charisma and talent, you will resemble nothing so much as the high school dropout next door.
But don’t worry. There’s another high school dropout ready to take your place. There’s an endless line of wannabes. Doing whatever it takes to feed the machine. Doubt me? Just watch the damn channel.
You’ll see angst at the VMAs. And references to illegal substances. The aura of Paris and Lindsay will hang in the air. Hell, both will probably appear. It’ll be everything you hate about music, TV and society all wrapped into one. But will it be ACCURATE? Is this really a portrait of America?
Go here: Tim McGraw – Taylor Swift (CMT Awards). You’ll see an evanescent TV star reading canned patter, poorly. Lame jokes as bad as the ones on MTV, just without the risque element. But, as you listen to the girl you don’t know unless you’re addicted to TV, you’ll hear the audience. Not the screaming meemees of MTV, but real live people, reacting.
And then Taylor Swift will take the stage. SOLO!
Nobody on MTV can take the stage solo. They can’t carry a tune, never mind hold the audience. But this also cute teenager singer, she’s playing the guitar, she’s got no vocal effects, she’s performing MUSIC!
Her guitar skills might not be in the league of Mayer, never mind Clapton. But, unlike Madonna, she’s really playing. And she sings better than the Material Girl too.
And the song she sings… She wrote. At least that’s what my e-mail says.
When you think Tim McGraw
I hope you think my favorite song
Some day you’ll turn your radio on
I hope it takes you back to that place
When you think happiness,
I hope you think that little black dress
Think of my head on your chest
An’ my old faded blue jeans
When you think Tim McGraw
I hope you think of me
Oh, think of me
This is young love. This is teenage angst. Not the stories of bullets and bitches on MTV. This is real, not a pose. You fall in love over the summer, for the very first time. Then it’s over. Does he remember you? You remember him.
I heard "Tim McGraw" on the radio today. It made me fire up YouTube and look for a video. But I wasn’t expecting this live awards show rendition.
The show is hokey. But the live reaction, by people actually listening, seems real. Yes, the staged moment with Mr. McGraw at the end might make you wince, But the whole clip, the whole experience, will make you smile.
Melody and hooks are not dead. Nor is authenticity. They’ve just gone a little south, down to Nashville. There are people who want singable songs, that reflect their lives, that they can identify with. Songs that are personable more than blockbusters.
But "Tim McGraw" IS a blockbuster. Because when you nail it, you get a hit.