Lady Gaga & Britney Spears @ VMAs 2011

Last night Justin Vernon watched MTV’s annual Video Music Awards and hated it as much as you did, so naturally indie’s hottest nu-mellow singer/songwriter had to get it off his chest and onto his blog…

there are great moments in awards shows. bruno mars sounded really good doing ’valerie’ for amy winehouse. i don’t think anyone is bummed that adele is killing everything. her voice was real and focused when i went thru and watched highlights from tonight. kanye and jay z are always murdering. beyonce is pregnant. yes this is awesome as shit, culturally speaking. but can i just ask, the reader, us, we … as non-rhetorically as possible: don’t we seem dumb? didn’t MTV lose the fight against themselves? Didn’t Rock’n'Roll STOP? Why are the lights so bright? isn’t our talent as artists enough? Why do we try SO hard? Does a moonman mean what it did back then? Should we feel pumped when we get one? Should our mom’s cry? I am not even thinking about it that hard. I will close my eyes in 90 seconds and have total peace… But, seriously. Why are we waving around so much? Why do we NEED this shit so bad? Why don’t we just have MUSIC? DO music? soul? I don’t know. I don’t mean to criticize. Anyone. Actually. Except for MTV. You might have had a very large opportunity to be stabilize your self as a global presence of culture and art about 15 years ago and you fucked the dog. Sorry. Im with my girls on this one. Its becoming increasingly clear as I think about it more and more, that the dollars, if they ARE apart of why you are doing something… they are apart of why you are doing something. that’s fucked to me. that’s the absence of spirit, glue, fabric of what makes us a person. it distracts us from what we could be doing: WORK. on EARTH. Better say this: Forget what I say. If you even read this, you’ll probably say to yourself, who is this ass saying shit? It doesn’t matter what i say. it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. But this one last thought: What would Bill Hicks say?


Chin up, Justin: on the bright side Kreayshawn’s 15 minutes are almost over. (Incidentally, last night’s show scored the biggest audience in MTV history.)

Comments (106)
  1. He knows about Kanye’s inflated ego, right? Someone has surely told him about this.

    • Methinks his ego is getting right up there.

      • two words on why both “artists” are a far cry from the those around the time of MTV’s inception…. AUTO TUNE (o.k. maybe its one word.)

        • Relax, read his interview in Spin before this chat about ego. Besides he’s in my good graces for dating a fellow Canadian!!

          • The difference (what apparently you’re are unaware of) is that that interviews are calculated…….”blog post”……god i hated writing that are spontaneous.

          • @iv2112L Nope. You are wrong. Kanye and Justin are both incredibly talented artists–in part because they *embrace* new ways of expressing themselves. For example: autotune.

            @rhondarara: I’d say calculated to some people means just a more articulate way of stating what they truly feel and mean. And I’d speculate that for Justin Vernon, that is the case.

  2. Needs to seriously look up the definition of “apart”. Because as crap as MTV is, he is coming off quite dim.

  3. Seriously? Biggest audience ever? ……shit.

  4. This reads like song lyrics. Like a super fragmented essay but I’m down, Justin. I can’t write for shit either. MTV scored its biggest audience because one entire edge of the country was locked inside of their houses waiting out dear Irene. I didn’t watch because you know, etc, but the highlights looked really bad. Except for Beyonce’s performance which was full of charm.

  5. One big room. Full of dumb bitches

  6. Of course he does, but surely you know he must not mind it having worked with Kanye on Watch the Throne and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fanstasy.

  7. I had a bit of difficulty following this, but it seemed to me that what Justin dislikes is MTV, and that they are solely about the money. Being only about the money to Mr. Vernon keeps one from doing actual work on earth–they do work, but there’s no soul to it: just an empty shell.

    I can’t disagree. Major props to you Justin.

    I probably read this wrong though.

    • “Its becoming increasingly clear as I think about it more and more, that the dollars, if they ARE apart of why you are doing something…that’s fucked”

      ignoring his misuse of ‘apart/a part’…who the fuck does he think he is? I agree with you that his beef with mtv in particular is that they are solely about the money (thanks for the revelation, Mr.Vernon), but here he seems to be decrying anything, or at least anything ‘artistic’, in which the ‘artist’ holds any hope that they might make some money from their work, as though he is any different. What was he doing on colbert? on letterman? jools holland? what’s with the commercials? giving the rights of your songs to ‘One tree hill”, “Greys anatomy”, “Chuck”, and “House”? (among others). I love your music, Justin, but hop off of the pedestal, would you?

      • There’s a pretty big difference between trying to get noticed and doing things for money. What he’s ‘decrying’ here is anything ‘artistic’ in which one of the ‘artist’s main intentions is making money not gaining recognition..

        • I disagree. Saying that if making money is a part of why you are doing something then it’s fucked is not the same as saying that it is a main intention of the artist, not even close. And i doubt his choice to give his music to a number of prime-time television shows was fueled by a desire for increased recognition–it was for the money. Increased recognition might have been a nice bonus, though it’s ironic as any increased recognition he would have received from these shows would consist of the very MTV crowd he seems to deplore so much.

          • Well no offense but you doubting his motives doesn’t mean you’re right… or that I’m right for that matter..

            ‘I don’t mean to criticize. Anyone. Actually. Except for MTV.’

            By this he means that the only people he is criticizing here are the execs at MTV whose only motive is making money. He never said anything about disliking people who like MTV or the ‘MTV crowd’ as you put it.

            Postscript: I’ve never really correlated House, Chuck, or Grey’s Anatomy with MTV.. the target audiences seem much different than that of MTV. I mean my dad watches those shows..

    • You didn’t read it wrong, read his interview in Spin magazine. I think he’s brilliant:)

    • This rant feels so 15 years ago. What next, a timely lashing out at Nike for sweatshop practices?

  8. Was he expecting something else? At least it was an MTV show sort kinda about music stuff. Sorta kinda.

  9. While I cannot disagree with the sentiments, that was (outside of something by Kanye himself) the least coherent blog post I’ve read. Perhaps Mr. Vernon was drunk, or just apoplectic with anarchistic rage.

  10. I really thought that title was going to be literal.

  11. MTV was never “about the music.” It’s an entertainment business channel owned by a massive corporation. The vast bulk of people who listen to and buy music aren’t “about the music” either. They aren’t looking for art. They want to be “entertained” for a moment or two. They don’t give a shit about global culture or beautiful lyrics. They just want to listen to the music that they hear all around them, stuff their friends like, and that’s really good enough, and that’s the way it’s always been, long before MTV and that stupid Buggles video.

    I used to get all worked up about this, too, Justin. Just do what you do, and enjoy making and performing music. You are very fortunate. Leave MTV and the VMAs to whomever digs them, and have a beer instead.

  12. The VMAs are not a music show. They’re a music-themed celebrity show. Nothing more, nothing less. If you do anything to become somewhat famous yourself, you’re in no position to complain about other people’s cheap celebrity worship.

    And really? You’re going to bring Bill Hicks in this and you expect him to take your side, Justin? What would he say about your music being used to sell beer for a multinational conglomerate?

  13. Damn, I really wanted to watch an episode of The Real World / Road Rules Challenge with this guy.

  14. I think it fundamentally gets down to two contradictory forces that rose in natural opposition to each other: the corporatization of entertainment and the hegemony of the internet. You have democratic forces against undemocratic ones, and that’s inevitably going to lead to conflit.

    When you all are talking about what you think of as a “Golden Age” of MTV somewhere in the early to mid 90s (I assume), this took place during a fundamentally different music world. The key moment that ended this was the signing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Gone were the locally-curated DJ playlists and the regional media outlets in their place were a hegemonic Viacom and corporately-centered Clear Channel. The power of the non-corporate tastemaker was severely diminished, and the huge media conglomerates grew arrogant in these boom years. This ushered in an area of $18.99 CDs and indistinguishable boy bands. Complacent with the unfathomable sales of Backstreet Boys records, MTV and the like turned to reality shows convinced they no longer needed to worry about the music front since they were so dominant.

    Then Napster steps in and allows people the freedom to choose what they want to listen to without going through a monopolistic middle-man first. This leads to more individualized music approaches culminating in what we have now with things like Pandora and Spotify that specifically cater to what you want to listen to. In an instant, people became listeners and not consumers.

    This did not sit well with the major labels and media companies. In response to this, they scrambled to go for the lowest common denominator approach and put forth increasingly mindless trash. Labels no longer significantly invested in new artists that had potential to grow if they didn’t make a blockbuster first record. As a consequence, the indiesphere becomes more niche-oriented, and the mainstream gets dumber by always seeking to appeal to the largest possible audience in a shrinking market.

    What does that all lead to? A world in which getting a Moonman doesn’t matter anymore. But that’s just me.

    • I think that something that gets missed in all the anti-corporate-music sentiment is that these people really aren’t doing very well. Music-wise.

      Celebrity-wise they are doing great, and this is what is selling, so that’s why that component gets amped up. It’s why Gaga dresses like a dude, it’s why Bieber brings a snake – any publicist will tell you that anything you can do to get mentioned above your contemporaries – do it.

      So it’s really just a whole bunch of people trying to get the article in the paper the next day. It really does have nothing to do with music. Music sells or doesn’t sell. To a certain extent, the publicity sells records. For the biggest names, this is true, but again: we can get music for free online. The record companies are not investing any less in their artists but their revenue is down. it will continue to decrease.

      The worse the celebrity culture gets the more I think it is a consequence of their failure at selling records. The point is Lady Gaga has to dress like a dude because her music is boring. The more boring your act is, the more exciting you have to make your character. The reason artists have to do this is because the record companies that represent them aren’t getting enough money through sales. And they think this will help. And sadly, it kind of will. But probably not for long?

    • This. Exactly.

    • This was a really well thought out post. I definitely agree with a great deal of what you said, if not all. It’s all about the corporations at the top trying to continue to perpetuate mass consumerism, with little regard to intelligent or unique approaches to music. I liked that you took a historical-factual approach to the issue. Good stuff.

  15. all he really needed to say was, “what would bill hicks say?”

    • Agreed. Because he would say what he has always said:

      “Here’s the deal folks if you do a commercial, you’re off the Artistic Roll Call forever. End of story. OK? You’re another corporate fucking shill, you’re another whore at the capitalist gang bang and if you do a commercial. there’s a price on your head. Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is like a turd falling in my drink.”

      Transcribed verbatim from Bill’s “Rants in E-Minor”

      For anybody who has not listened to or seen one of Bill’s stand-ups, please go out of your way this week to check it out. He has a few stand-ups streaming on Netflix and any good download site should at least have a couple of his stand-up albums. You don’t have to be a fan of comedy to appreciate Bill Hicks. He was a prophet and died too soon.

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  18. Any time someone uses the phrase “fucked the dog” in reference to MTV, I’m in full support

  19. Wastelander, you…are much smarter than me…

  20. “Chin up, Justin: on the bright side Kreayshawn’s 15 minutes are almost over.” This is the end of the article as a GIANT Bing advertisement for Kreayshawn takes up the entire right side of the screen. Hilarious.

  21. I see you gunnin for Yeezy’s epic, incoherent blog rant throne Mr Vernon.

  22. I must confess that I used to be excited about the VMA’s when I was a kid… but now that such a lame boring show. MTV should stick to Teen Mom and Jersey Shore all day and maybe it would not disapoint about being a music channel, at least in these shows they play some songs in the background.

  23. what an incoherent ramble, though from what I could make of his core problems with MTV and the VMAs…I guess he has a point? I must agree with what has been said before however, primarily that MTV is, and has always been, a business. Sure, the fluff they play today might be a bit more obvious, but that’s because it’s what makes money today, just as playing pearl jam music videos 20 years ago was what made money then. The principle is the same, even if the outcome is less desirable.
    And name dropping Bill Hicks at the very end of the rant, as though it is some sort of trump card that can be ambiguously left at the very end of a (very) short essay and still be taken seriously…huh?

  24. On the topic of Justin Vernon, raging against the MTV machine got old many years ago and as someone mentioned above, he’s basically getting nostalgic over a period in the network’s era (the early to mid ’90s) that can’t survive anymore but oh well, it is what it is. However, what I find kind of silly is that Vernon has his arms up in air about a known-dead medium most of us accepted as mindless when he himself is the modern day equivalent of forced-fed music. Let’s be honest: He’s the darling of Pitchfork (and countless other influential blogs) and I don’t think it’s ignorant to say that Pitchfork is this generation’s MTV. I mean, Pitchfork like MTV is beginning to splinter off into other non-music related endeavors (Videogames and online television shows) which in turn begins to makes Vernon’s part in their takeover of pop culture really no better than MTV shoving Lady Gaga down our eyeballs. Part of me thinks he hates MTV just because its MTV, but look around you, Justin… You have a Billboard chart-topping album and are selling out shows everywhere. For heaven’s sakes, my 14 year old cousin who was listening to My Chemical Romance a year ago now champions Bon Iver because it has the highest rated score of the year so far. I understand there’s a difference in quality between the music promoted by MTV and Pitchfork, but at the end of the day, both entities are stilling making a buck off trends.

    • I don’t see a problem with an artist making good music, releasing it on an independent label, getting good reviews, appealing to a wide audience, and being successful by filling concert halls. That would be called “good music.”

      • You’re completely missing my point in that it all boils down to what exactly is the definition of taste when it comes to “good” music. You’re saying Bon Iver plays “good” music (I personally think it’s a wussy pile of shit) mostly because a bunch of hipster blogs and indie music sites you read told you the album is great and have been doing so since Vernon’s debut, so therefore you buy the album because at this point everyone who isn’t MTV is on board, which equals the widespread “independent” success which in turn becomes selling out concert halls and by golly, what do you know? He’s being whored out by a conglomeration of influential media outlets (DEEMED BY YOU AS “GOOD”) for capital gains. Really, it’s no different than (insert your forgettable mainstream pop artist here)’s achieving success. Everyone’s on the same playing field these days. Just because it’s indie doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and just because it’s mainstream pop, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. The VMAs two years ago that included Lady Gaga’s quite memorable chandelier/blood performance and the Taylor Swift/Kanye moment (that helped both their careers) was pretty epic — and that was just a mere two years years ago. Last year had Kanye’s big return and Taylor Swift’s rebuke to the previous year’s controversy. So the VMAs had one really shitty year, which very well could have been the director or producer’s fault thanks to some poor performer booking decisions (They probably could have easily fixed this by letting Tyler, the Creator perform, maybe switch out Young the Giant with Foster the People since it appears people are more familiar with them, a Red Hot Chili Peppers return would’ve caused some buzz… I could go on.) Whatever the case, there’s people out there who seriously find the shit that was on enjoyable and if Vernon disagrees, well I’m sure he can feel vindicated when he headlines an award ceremony presented by Pitchfork after they decide to go after the VMAs and Grammys.

        • Completely agree. Pitchfork is to today’s youth, albeit in a very different cultural climate, as MTV was in 1991.

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          • I don’t. Today’s youth are much more cynical and media-fractured to be looped into one overarching aegis like that. Pop culture and info dissemination is a much different assembly now than in 1993.

  25. i love you, justin, but…um…didn’t i see you on a bushmills ad in the subway? :(

  26. I don’t bother watching MTV in anyway anymore, I’m sure he meant that the music is gone from the main MTV channel everyone used to watch and was replaced with endless bubble wrap, that people put on just to pass the time. Maybe the reason the award show had such a huge audience is the population of the world is growing so fast. Thats something else I’m sure justin is worried about :) Bring back the music MTV or do as The Dead Kennedys said and “GET OFF THE AIR”


  28. While I do enjoy much of Bon Iver’s music, I must say that this blog post shares a very similar trait with most of his lyrics: it doesn’t really make any damn sense.

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  30. Why did anyone even bother watching the VMAs anyway?

  31. Makes a great sense like..

  32. The Mtv awards made me feel like i was watching WWE wrestle mania!
    nothing but fake ass characters going through the motions.It was just sad.

  33. I’m not surprised by the lack of support at least for the basis of Vernon’s criticism. As the economy stays stagnant, consumers will be looking for more financial security and togetherness. MTV does a great job of herding people and offering hush money, but inevitably, the viewers are wasting their time and lives while opportunities disappear and the rich at MTV/Viacom/General Electric sell the herds of people to politicians to finance more wars. How MTV can promote understanding and togetherness through music while ignoring the wars should signal something dangerous to the viewers, but they’re too dumb. What true fans of independent music need to look out for is MTV’s next move to take over the indie market with shows like “Give me back my pants” soundtracked by Wavves, the MTV Iggy channel, and the way they’re trading hallmarks of the alt lifestyle for money. If a line in the sand isn’t drawn now, they’ll take it all, and even our favorite music will start to sound like the smug laughter of marketers at MTV.

  34. Says the guy who releases a Christmas album in June.

  35. “Didn’t Rock’n’Roll STOP?”
    Says the man who releases essentially yacht rock that is about as entertaining as Kenny G. I mean come on, this man releases the very lowest form of what I would consider “rock”. Not to say he is not talented, he just needs to shut the fuck up.

  36. From what I gather from this, its just sad that MTV stands for “music television”, but it doesn’t stand for anything anymore. I’m not gonna go on about the “wheres the music in mtv” point that everybody has already heard, because the VMA’s IS the closest thing to music on MTV, and it sucks.

    Television, money, this… this website you’re reading…. all just fueling our constant requirement for entertainment, feeding our emotional interest in consumer distractions. We as a species could be doing so much more.

  37. Better watch it Bon……you could be stepping on some future collaborator’s toes.

  38. Um, cool story bro.

    I love how he made sure to kiss the overly kissed asses of Kanye & Jay-Z.

    He’s a bitter little pussy.

    When Justin Vernon speaks, it also, doesn’t matter.

  39. Well MTV and Bon Iver have a lot in common… they both suck. I wouldn’t even put his new album in my top 30 of the year. Am I the only one who thinks it was boring as fuck? But whos to say I am better than him… here I am ranting also.

    • I read his rant and thought
      “Cool story bro, tell it again. Do you have time!?”

      I hate to sound like a hater, but i DO think I am better than him. I had the misfortune of having to sit through his set at Radio City Music hall and was bored to tears.

      Despite Bon Ivers’ VERY junior high school-age-rant (“isn’t our talent as artists enough?”)
      complete with unnecessarily CAPITALIZING a word in every other SENTENCE,
      he’s right, Bill Hicks is probably rolling in his grave.

      And we should DEFINITELY be concerned with and/or modeling our lives after that of a stand-up comedian. Oh wait, was that sarcasm?

  40. hmm…anyone remember those bud ice commercials with the penguin? “doobie doobie doo” THAT was musical genius….

  41. I probably ask myself, “What would Bill Hicks say?” 100 times a day.

  42. Reading these replies I can plainly see that most of you have completely missed the point.

    “Oh God he said apart instead of a part therefore his credibility is completely torn to shreds and whatever his point was its now null and void” – he did mention that he was not thinking about it too much and very easily could have made typos or used sloppy grammar – but before you stamp all over his use of English, why dont you look at some of the lyrics he penned from his first album.

    I think the problem is that the spectacle to creative ingenuity ratio is more increasingly leaning towards the spectacle – because thats what makes the money.

    I didnt watch these awards because the last time I did, I slipped into a vegetative state.

  43. Good grief. I’m trying to decide what makes me more sad:
    pulling an semi-coherent, semi-juvenile rant off an artist’s blog,
    slapping a shocker title on it and watching the hits roll in
    or the rabid turn of comments underneath it.
    feeling real TMZ up in here, yall.
    or maybe it just feels like, Stereogum.
    ‘Get well soon, everybody.’

  44. damn, that dude was HIGH

  45. hahah fucked the dog!! whats the biggest tragedy here is:what would Bill Hicks say? fuck i wish he was still here. everyone and anyone who doesnt know him just look him up on youtube and prepare for a comedyhardon

  46. i already thought bon iver was really lame and boring. good to know he’s extremely arrogant too. “kanye and jay z are always murdering”… dude SHUT UP!

    i’m confused about three things, bon iver:

    1. why would you take the time to repost my myspace entry from 6th grade after the 1998 VMAs?
    2. did you really think changing all the names/events to more timely names/events would fool me?
    3. my myspace account is still visible? shit!

  47. Juwanna Moon Mann, Bon Iver?

  48. A theory:
    Sounds like a high rant to me.

  49. Dear Good Winter,

    Thou doth protest too much.


    Has this dude been in the woods churning out music almost nobody has heard until his latest album? (See what I did there?) Way late to MTV hate party, Bon.

    As an aside, I find that Bon Iver’s music is much like James Blake’s. I get it, but I don’t get the hype. Some of the songs I like, but most of the songs are “meh” to “really?” More power to him (and JB) and his fans. Everybody needs some loving.

  50. He lost me with this “Jay and Kanye are murdering it” noise. He’s buying into this whole spectacle of pap that he then derides.

    Do **** off, Bon Iver.

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