YouTube Music Awards: Chaos with a Soundtrack

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Written by Chelsea Jenkins. Media by Miles Priester


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If you tuned in to the live stream of the first-ever YouTube Music Awards Sunday night, you were treated to an evening of experimental chaos. Hosted by the unlikely duo of actor/musician Jason Schwartzman and comedian/musician Reggie Watts and directed by Spike Jonze, who told Mashable that “the whole night [was] supposed to feel like a YouTube video – the raw messiness of making stuff,” the evening of music was rife with technical difficulties and what-the-heck moments.

In the spirit of Jonze’s artistic vision, the YTMAs were largely unscripted, which led to awkward transitions, silences, and dialogue in general between the hosts and special guests. Schwartzman and Watts (Schwattzman, if you will) performed antics that included running through the crowd that had gathered at New York City’s Pier 36, performing improvised songs, face painting, ladder climbing, and trying to interview Macklemore and Ryan Lewis whilst holding crying babies. Featuring only six awards categories and streamed live around the world, the show was unlike any other music awards show platform. Musical performances from a roster of artists that included Eminem, Arcade Fire, Avicii, Lindsey Stirling, Earl Sweatshirt & Tyler the Creator, and Lady Gaga (who premiered her new song “Dope”) were stylized as live music videos, at times using celebrity actors and what special effects were available for live performances.

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Relying entirely on viewer participation, the YouTube Music Award nominees were based on YouTube stats that included video views, likes, comments, and channel subscriptions. Sharing counts on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ of each nominee’s nomination video determined the winner in each category. Those who took home YouTube’s red play arrow trophy were Girls’ Generation (Video of the Year for “I Got a Boy”), DeStorm (Innovation of the Year for “See Me Standing”), Eminem (Artist of the Year), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (YouTube Breakthrough), and Lindsey Stirling & Pentatonix (Response of the Year for “Radioactive”). It was Cimorelli’s acceptance of the YouTube Phenomenon award for Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” that also won eye-roll of the night when Arcade Fire’s Win Butler pulled a Kanye to inform the crowd that “Harlem Shake” should have won the prize.

It is unknown if the YouTube Music Awards has a future of becoming a music industry staple, especially since the stats of the show have yet to be released. There’s no doubt that Spike Jonze created a show as hodgepodge as YouTube itself, but its effectiveness at attracting and engaging viewers remains to be seen in determining its sustainability.


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