This year, like every year since 1981, the MTV Video Music Awards came into our living rooms and launched an all-out assault on American values. This week has been filled with front page spreads on some of the worlds largest media outlets showcasing the most controversial moments of the show. Holding fast to a tried and true tradition, the 2013 VMAs were a debaucherous spectacle that indulged, glorified, and magnified all manors of American excess while occasionally distributing awards to attending musicians and I loved it. I always do. When you lock a large collection of musicians, actors, and miscellaneous celebrities in a room and give them booze and a live television audience, some antics are bound to occur. I find the whole thing inspiring. This year there were memorable performances from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, and of course an extended medley from the reigning “President of Pop” Justin Timberlake who resurrected NSYNC for a glorious but short lived reunion. For good reason, the absurd and provocative combination of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke has inspired an impressive amount of discussion regarding their effect on our collective moral compass.
Somewhere buried deep inside this wonderful cultural abomination there happens to be some music and since it doesn’t seem like anyone else is going to, I want to take a moment to talk about a stunning performance from one of pop music’s most promising acts: Bruno Mars.
Even though Mars has only been a prominent solo artist since his 2010 breakout feature on B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ On You”, he spent years before that writing songs for the likes of Ke$ha, Flo Rida, Adam Levine and he also co-wrote Cee Lo Greens unforgettable “Fuck You”. In the past three years he has been nominated for 14 Grammy awards though he has taken home only one win. He is a gifted songwriter, singer, guitarist and he spent much of his youth as a performing Elvis impersonator (Mars also performed as Michael Jackson and Little Richard as a child). His style borrows from each of these and he has cited Prince, The Police and Led Zeppelin as key influences on his first two solo albums Doo Wops and Hooligans and Unorthodox Jukebox. There is a lot of fluff and nonsense in pop music but it would appear that Bruno Mars is taking his job very seriously.
His latest single “Gorilla” isn’t a house music dance floor banger or a trite emotional ballad. It is just a powerful pop anthem thats driven by live instrumentation, soaring vocals and a build that would make his classic rock influences proud. His performance at the 2013 VMAs featured a full live band, ample pyrotechnics and a relentlessly passionate vocal performance from Mr. Mars. It wasn’t scandalous or controversial. It was just a rock solid performance from a musician who, despite selling millions of records, still attacks the mic like he’s got something to prove. He is a dedicated student of pop music and he performed with heart and integrity so naturally no one seems to care. Its a damn shame.
My point is, its time you show Bruno Mars some respect.