Daily Archives: September 19, 2009

The Right Place, The Right Time: The Week in Awards Shows

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Tis the week of awards shows, it seems.  Beginning with MTV’s annual VMA this past Sunday and wrapping up this coming Sunday with the Emmy’s.  In between these two high-profile events is an award show I never really paid attention to until David Archuleta kind of forced me to.  If I could follow David on iCarly, Hannah Montana, and – Oy! – the Teen Choice Awards – the ALMA Awards Show, celebrating the year in Latino/a achievement, is certainly a dignified and worthwhile event I could tune into for the sake of David.  And, I must say: David has been showcasing himself superbly.  

The funny thing is, while I was happy to know that David was in New York this past weekend to sing “America the Beautiful” at the U.S. Open, I was thinking – unwisely in retrospect – how David was missing a huge opportunity to attend the VMAs, where the current hip and popular music artists (whom I consider to be his “peers”) were hanging out.  Considering the debacle that event turned out to be, I’m very grateful David didn’t get associated with the tackiness and attention-grabbing antics of that show.  His superb and stellar musical performance at the ALMAs basically put every single one of those music artists ON NOTICE.  Better still was an attentive Latino/a audience, one that can still appreciate the romance and beauty of a ballad, an influential audience of heavy hitters in the entertainment industry who can now bear witness to a young man who embodied for them what a RISING STAR in music is all about.  

Here’s the thing, because I do want to contrast David’s appearance at the ALMAs vs. his absence at the VMAs.  We’ve all heard by now the controversy of hip-hop artist Kanye West rudely disrupting pop country teen star Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech to protest her win over Beyonce. While so many have commented on everything from the racial spectacle to the sexism and ageism of Kanye’s actions, few have commented on a more obvious setup (because I’m willing to believe that some of these “unscripted” moments do have a script handed down by Viacom-owned MTV): that of “adult” pop music pitted against tween-driven pop music.  How interesting that, when the most controversial thing to occur at the VMAs last year was Jordin Sparks attacking host Russell Brand and other “sluts” for making fun of the purity rings worn by the Jonas Brothers and herself, this year, the “youngin’s” were not the highlight of the show, except Taylor Swift.  

There were no signs of the JoBros or Jordin, let alone David.  Indeed, I specifically remember critics putting MTV on notice for becoming too “Disney,” too “Nickelodeon” in their under-18 heavy theme last year.  And this year, in the midst of all the outrage against Kanye, there were a few critics actually praising the VMAs for returning to their “roots” of bad behavior and “shock value” since they were getting “soft.”  In short, MTV and everyone else had witnessed Kanye West drinking from a bottle on the red carpet – knowing full well that he was getting ready to have another “Kanye moment” – not to mention enough people backstage saw him walking on the stage toward Taylor Swift before he unleashed his outrageous behavior .  So, don’t tell me that “moment” wasn’t engineered to ensure that MTV is now seen as the “edgy” network that not only hasn’t gone “soft” but is shocking enough to give the tween-marketed stars a rude awakening to the harder, edgier music world of hip hop, rock, and a bloodied Lady Gaga.  Yes, there was outrage, but all three artists – Kanye, Taylor, and Beyonce – have now benefitted from the “shock” moment, most of all MTV.

It is this aspect of the music industry that is so antithetical to David’s musicality – this need to manufacture “reality TV” moments and spectacle upon spectacle (Pink’s little Cirque du Soleil high wire act was cool, but was that really necessary for her song to go over well? And don’t get me started on Lady Gaga’s get-ups and her blood-soaked theatrical ending, or Jay-Z’s President-Obama-like entourage plus Wrestlemania entrance).  The irony of it all is that David, who “keeps it real” in a far more real way than Kanye ever could, came to our attention through manufactured reality – courtesy of American Idol.  Yet, there he was on TV, before an appreciative audience of his compadres, singing “Contigo en la Distancia,” rather than one of his own pop songs, in all its sincerity, not a bum note to be heard, adding his varied nuances on select notes, enunciating Spanish words in a perfect accent, just bringing down the house and drawing blood (without the spectacle of blood).  

The same intelligence that David displays in his musicality applies to his selection of public appearances.  From avoiding the Teen Choice Awards show to conveniently being engaged in another event during the VMAs, David emerges in the right place at the right time.  The ALMAs was the perfect venue for him to appear, miles away from both the teen pop star and reality TV star personas that have been foisted on him.  What we have just witnessed is, indeed, a rising star, showcasing his talent in a way that can actually (and finally) be taken seriously.  

I expect bigger things to come.