They call it silly season, the summer time, that period in which a relative sparcity of serious news stories creates space for some seriously strange ones. “Squirrels go Nuts on Crack” would be one example, from The Sun, 2007. Into this season comes the annual MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, recently held in LA. I suppose it isn’t too strange that the host, Miley Cyrus, wearing eyeballs and bubble wrap, should get into a live spat with one of the artists. What did strike me as strange was that in the aftermath of this theatrical orgy of ego somebody said something supremely sensible, heartfelt and wise. It was the artist Pink. She said, of the VMAs, that the performances were generally “gross and embarrassing” and “I felt sad because music is supposed to inspire. It saved my life. This trash won’t save any kids life.”
Cue enormous backlash from offended artists and their fans.
Charges of potential hypocrisy aside, what saddens me about the uproar Pink’s comments provoked is that her words caused more of a stir than the content on stage and on screen that night. We live in an age where PVC, guns, motorbikes and mascara make up the sum and parts of the year’s best music video (Taylor Swift, ‘Bad Blood’); where something ludicrous, vacuous, desperate and debauched (Nicki Minaj, ‘Anaconda’ – I do not endorse watching this) comprises the year’s best Hip-Hop video. BEST. The best musical graphical offerings this year folks. Surely Pink is onto something here.
This trash won’t save any kid’s life. But neither will any other kind of music really. Trusting in any of it to save us is a bad idea. It can move and inspire us but it will all in the end let us down, because it’s man-made, mortal. It’s subject to corruption and it won’t last. Even if the music itself is timeless or uncorrupted, artists are. Amy Winehouse, queen of soul, could not find enough in the music to sustain her and took her own life. Knowing where to turn when your heart cries out for something more, or when all your material aspirations come true but you are still enslaved, is a great mystery, and sadly not one that Cyrus and co. seem in any rush to try to fathom.
Pink put it like this: “In a world that is even scarier and with lives still worth saving, who will stand up and have soul? Disenfranchised to say the least. Let down by my industry and peers.”
Who indeed? Maybe we could see it coming. Pink is right: the irony is that the music industry should show its truest colours on the same night it shows the world its fakest face.