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2003 MTV Video Music Awards: Recap

By Sal Cinquemani ON August 29, 2003
awards_vma_03.jpg

It's not often that a 71-year-old is up for six awards at the MTV Video Music Awards. Johnny Cash's poignant "Hurt," a cover of the Nine Inch Nails tune, managed to score nods in the Video of the Year, Best Male Video, and Best Direction in a Video categories as well as three technical categories, including Best Cinematography, the only award it won. (Curiously, MTV opted to relegate the Best Direction award to the pre-show, while Best Choreography was presented in all its bootylicious glory.) It's not surprising Cash was shafted: "Hurt" was never played on the MTV mother station, and he was up against some of today's hottest artists, three of which (Beyoncé, Coldplay, and Justin Timberlake) took home three statues apiece. But what does it mean that the video was even acknowledged at all? Surely it's one of the saddest, most striking clips of the year, but what about Sigur Rós's frighteningly relevant "Vaka (Untitled #1)"? What about Queens of the Stone Age's groundbreaking "Go with the Flow"? The clip lost the Breakthrough Video moon man to Coldplay's slightly overrated "The Scientist" (which employs the same gimmicky backward technique as Pharcyde's "Drop" and "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Amish Paradise," but with a hollow punchline).

So what went right? Three-time host Chris Rock was almost as funny as last time, and Avril Lavigne, who clearly had no idea where she was or who Duran Duran is, helped Kelly Osbourne surprise the reformed '80s Britpop band with the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award. Missy Elliott, who's been nominated 17 times but has never won, finally got her props for the inventive "Work It," co-directed by Elliott and Dave Meyers. The clip won Video of the Year and Best Hip-Hop Video. Christina Aguilera, whose "Dirrty" was disssed, seemed winded during her performance of the non-hit but sufficiently trashed it up with Dave Navarro on "Fighter." Beyoncé got her groove on with a line of Rocket-esque backup dancers for her twin hits "Baby Boy" and "Crazy In Love," but note to Mom: Please lay off the big bows and shiny fabrics. VMA staples Metallica closed out the show with a medley of MTV hits past and present (Michael Jackson's "Beat It," Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and the White Stripes's "Seven Nation Army," among others) before breaking out into a song from their new album, St. Anger.

But all of that was upstaged by—who else?—Madonna. The reigning queen of MTV added another notch to her boy-toy belt of greatest VMA performances. The first, of course, was her performance of "Like A Virgin" at the inaugural ceremony 20 years ago (we'll get back to that in a minute), and the second was an elaborate interpretation of her hit "Vogue" in 1990: Madonna and company (her dancers and longtime backup singers, hot off of her Blond Ambition Tour) were dressed in Victorian garb, lip-syncing to the track, and flashing their bloomers. Not only did "Vogue" find Madonna at one of her many creative peaks, but it raised the bar for VMA stage performances and for pop music performance in general. While Madonna is one of the few pop singers who usually refuses to lip-sync, pomp overshadowed vocal technique on that night, but no one seemed to care.

The same can be said for her opening performance at this year's VMAs. Like her very first VMA performance in 1984, a bride emerged from a giant wedding cake singing "Like a Virgin." Judging by the first few squeaky notes, it could very well have been Madonna circa 1984, but after a few not-so-innocent (and not-so-sexy) bars, the bride lifted her veil, revealing a well-publicized non-virgin, Britney Spears. Soon a dirrtier bride, a dark-haired Christina Aguilera, began to warble through the song's chorus. The pair rolled around the stage in vintage Madonna style, which in and of itself was a sight to behold. Of course, the "groom" would soon take the cake (for those who hadn't been tipped off already, both Beyoncé and Jay-Z spilled the beans during the VMA pre-show). Dressed in a black top hat and tuxedo, Madonna began to sing "Hollywood," the second single from her latest album, American Life. The trio strutted the stage arm-in-arm before bringing the spectacle to a climax with two open mouth kisses. (Cue shot of Justin Timberlake, not sure what to make of his famous ex and his current touring partner swapping spit with the most famous woman in the world.)

Madonna rarely shares the stage with other stars, and for it to be Britney and Christina—who have been compared to and who cite Madonna as a primary influence—was nothing short of surreal. (Rumors abound that J. Lo was to have originally appeared in Christina's place, in which case Madonna would have been the best singer on the stage that night.) Add to that an appearance by Madonna's new Gap pal, Missy Elliott, who has been pegged as one of the greatest video artists since the Material Girl herself, and you've got a PR coup of diva proportions. It begs the question: Who thought this shit up? According to Fight the Good Fight Ministries, Satan did. A post on the nonprofit Christian organization's website chided MTV for "leading millions of impressionable youth down the greased pole to hell." The group claims that Satan is using a "legion of demonic beings" (Madonna, Britney, and Christina, no doubt) to "promote musical terrorism" (read: lesbianism). Of course, like terrorism itself, what would a Christian website be without a little propaganda and fear? The group exhorts: "God's word warns that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God but will be sentenced to the lake of fire." Quite honestly, I would much rather be in the lake of fire with Madonna and Christina than up in heaven with these nut-jobs.

It's been close to a decade since a public appearance by Madonna has caused such a firestorm of controversy. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution apologized to its readers for printing a thumbnail-sized image of Madonna kissing Britney on their front page after a slew of complaints. The newspaper compared the "mistake" to the paper's printing of violent images from the war in Iraq several months ago. Of course, Madonna's message is always about more than just sex. The performance ended with the four women defiantly shouting the musical bridge from "Hollywood": "Music stations always play the same songs, we're bored with the concept of right and wrong!" It's difficult not to view the lyric—along with Madonna's sneering "Flip the station, change the channel"—as a timely indictment of both radio and MTV itself, who have virtually ignored Madonna's single and video. Still, the performance proves once and for all what the M in MTV really stands for.

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Guest SecretGarden

"The performance ended with the four women defiantly shouting the musical bridge from "Hollywood": "Music stations always play the same songs, we're bored with the concept of right and wrong!" It's difficult not to view the lyric—along with Madonna's sneering "Flip the station, change the channel"—as a timely indictment of both radio and MTV itself"

Loved the whole article but this bit definitely stood out as so true.

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I watched this performance 100's of times in 2003. I was a huge Christina fan but she was not the star of the show. I think I was blown away by the performance and subconsciously looning for M at a mere 12 years old and I didn't even know it!

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Guest bluejean

I loved it. One of her best performances. I also love this version of Hollywood and I really wish we had a proper version of this. I know we have the original remix but it doesn't include all the vocals. But still, a great predecessor to Confessions!

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God, I can so clearly remember sitting in the living room watching w/ some of my friends and family, waiting, anticipating. Of course w the net, we already knew of the cake and the girls (Brit, Xtina), but the way it unfolded was so epic and beyond what was expected. I remember the feeling as she rose from the cake, there was such respect and emotion from the crowd. My mom's friend chuckled when she was appearing and I said "Here comes the Queen".....she knew it was the truth though....everyone did, for anyone watching, there was no denying that you were witnessing the absolute pinnacle of pop royalty entering the stage. I remember the moment the kiss happened, it was like..."uh oh, this is gonna cause a shit storm..." Epic. Historical.

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It's iconic. And the audience is just as much part of the performance along with the performers on stage.

It's just the way how it all unfolds. From beginning to end. Just genius. Great directing too.

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2003 MTV Video Music Awards: Recap

By Sal Cinquemani ON August 29, 2003
awards_vma_03.jpg
Madonna rarely shares the stage with other stars, and for it to be Britney and Christina—who have been compared to and who cite Madonna as a primary influence—was nothing short of surreal. (Rumors abound that J. Lo was to have originally appeared in Christina's place, in which case Madonna would have been the best singer on the stage that night.) Add to that an appearance by Madonna's new Gap pal, Missy Elliott, who has been pegged as one of the greatest video artists since the Material Girl herself, and you've got a PR coup of diva proportions. It begs the question: Who thought this shit up? According to Fight the Good Fight Ministries, Satan did. A post on the nonprofit Christian organization's website chided MTV for "leading millions of impressionable youth down the greased pole to hell." The group claims that Satan is using a "legion of demonic beings" (Madonna, Britney, and Christina, no doubt) to "promote musical terrorism" (read: lesbianism). Of course, like terrorism itself, what would a Christian website be without a little propaganda and fear? The group exhorts: "God's word warns that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God but will be sentenced to the lake of fire." Quite honestly, I would much rather be in the lake of fire with Madonna and Christina than up in heaven with these nut-jobs.

It's been close to a decade since a public appearance by Madonna has caused such a firestorm of controversy. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution apologized to its readers for printing a thumbnail-sized image of Madonna kissing Britney on their front page after a slew of complaints. The newspaper compared the "mistake" to the paper's printing of violent images from the war in Iraq several months ago. Of course, Madonna's message is always about more than just sex. The performance ended with the four women defiantly shouting the musical bridge from "Hollywood": "Music stations always play the same songs, we're bored with the concept of right and wrong!" It's difficult not to view the lyric—along with Madonna's sneering "Flip the station, change the channel"—as a timely indictment of both radio and MTV itself, who have virtually ignored Madonna's single and video. Still, the performance proves once and for all what the M in MTV really stands for.

What kind of shade?

Before the superbowl this was simply known as "the performance" amongst my friends and I.

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Guest Rachelle of London

It was so iconic! I remember when it happened, EVERYONE was talking about it, I remember on my way to Summer school in Camden and stopping in Somerfields and the checkout girls were talking about Madonna kissing Britney!

First time I saw it I was in shock! I dont think I'd ever seen two women kiss before! I vaguely remember myself screaming "OHHHHMMYYYYGGGAWWWWDDDDD" hahahah then afterwards I had an obsession with kisses hahaha I was a weird child

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She basically killed their careers with the kiss of death. Britney eventually recovered a bit but her career as a dancer was annihilated by Madonna's venom :lol:

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OMG when this fucking happened. It was on the cover of every SINGLE newspaper and magazine. People were tripping over themselves to report it and weigh in. It was media mass hysteria that I hadn't seen in quite awhile. :wow: And when she struts down the steps of that wedding cake with that Hollywood remix pumping? Queen realness. Nobody else.

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She basically killed their careers with the kiss of death. Britney eventually recovered a bit but her career as a dancer was annihilated by Madonna's venom :lol:

I don't know if any of the people here know the narrative behind the performance but I have explained it here before. It's so amazing. Madonna is beyond smart. Her brain is so...adventurous and that's what I love about her.

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I don't know if any of the people here know the narrative behind the performance but I have explained it here before. It's so amazing. Madonna is beyond smart. Her brain is so...adventurous and that's what I love about her.

Post again!

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I know the narrative too. I worked with Madonna very closely on the performance. We tried out a lot of things till Gwyneth Paltrow came into the picture and gave us the idea of what ended up being used.

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I wish she would do the same with Gaga but instead of kissing her she could shit in her mouth. Though we are still debating wether Madonna poops and farts in the Ryan Gosling thread.

EDIT : now i have this image of Madonna sat butt naked over Gaga's face

Edited by popeline
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I wish she would do the same with Gaga but instead of kissing her she could shit in her mouth. Though we are still debating wether Madonna poops and farts in the Ryan Gosling thread.

Of course she does. She made a mention of having diarrhea once back in 93/94.

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I know the narrative too. I worked with Madonna very closely on the performance. We tried out a lot of things till Gwyneth Paltrow came into the picture and gave us the idea of what ended up being used.

...

...

Go on. Do tell.

tumblr_lqhykycIQh1r0dadho1_500.gif

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I wish she would do the same with Gaga but instead of kissing her she could shit in her mouth. Though we are still debating wether Madonna poops and farts in the Ryan Gosling thread.EDIT : now i have this image of Madonna sat butt naked over Gaga's face

Please don't.

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It's iconic. And the audience is just as much part of the performance along with the performers on stage.

It's just the way how it all unfolds. From beginning to end. Just genius. Great directing too.

Omg, do you have that gif of that girl (I think it was Mya?) doing that side step, weird hand clap dance?

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