Highs and Lows Of The First YouTube Music Awards

11/05/2013
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(Radio.com) Sunday marked the inaugural YouTube Music Awards, a spectacle that balanced precariously on directoral innovation and viral "Harlem Shake" videos. The awards tapped famed auteur Spike Jonze, known for his surreal style and subtle humor in his many music videos and feature films, to serve as the event's creative director. It was a bold idea: to create live music videos, direct and produce them in real-time, and create something more than just a taped theatrical presentation. They were going to create actual music videos. It was ambitious and worth of respect for attempting to stand apart from the other award shows, but did it work?

Well, sort of. With Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts hosting, much of the show played out like an improvised world similar to Charlie Kaufman's movie Synecdoche, New York: A series of obtuse vignettes that sort of felt connected but really weren't. Combining something like Avicii, Lena Dunham, live streaming, and choose-your-own-adventure storytelling is delightful in theory, but a little clunky in execution. This was one of seven "music videos" that were produced from the show. Here is our rundown of what really worked, and what really didn't.

Eminem – "Rap God" (Created by James Larese)

What worked: This one's all about Eminem. With a rather stilted performance on SNL the night before, Em took his most dexterous song in years out for this shot. The simple black & white made for a good backdrop to put the spotlight on Em's supreme ability as a performer.

What didn't: With Em just kind of pacing around on stage, the camera had a hard time finding focus, and after the black & white backdrop gave way to the crowd, there was no real hook to the video anymore, just Em and his hypeman performing with their backs to the crowd.

If this were a movie, it would be called: Pi 2: Return To 8 Mile

Lady Gaga – "Dope" (Documented by Spike Jonze and Chris Milk)

What worked: The stripped-down, raw performance stood out mostly for its subtlety, not usually Lady Gaga's forte. Watching her just wail it out behind the piano in just a ball cap and a flannel shirt–and some convincing dope fiend eye makeup because yes, this is Gaga–was a welcome surprise and something we'd like to see more of from Mother Monster.

What didn't: The too close-up, too dark shot made it hard to see what was really going on. Sure, we were told Gaga had the waterworks going, but that black shadow over her face made it hard to see those alleged tears.

If this were a movie, it would be called: The Dope Fiend's Lament

Arcade Fire – "Afterlife" (Directed by Spike Jonze feat. Greta Gerwig)

What worked: This one is all about actress Greta Gerwig, who showed off her Francis Ha dance moves to get over a break-up. She sashays out of her apartment through a snowy forest, where she completely ignores Arcade Fire's Win Butler creeping in the shadows, and ends up on stage with the band alongside a bunch of young ballerinas. This clip seems like the best example of what the YouTube Awards were going for when they said they were filming live music videos.

What didn't: Some of the choreography was a little well…cheesy, like it was taken right out of Fatboy Slim's "Praise You" video, also directed by Spike Jonze, who stars as the lead dancer in the clip. Except here, no one was in on the joke. They probably should have gotten a real dancer to star in this one, but bless Greta's little heart for her willingness to do this at all.

If this were a movie, it would be called: The Break-Up 2: Electric Boogaloo More highs and lows from the event here.

Radio.com is an official news provider for antiMusic.com.
Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.

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