This has long been a place for escape when life gets too boring. So after a spate of forgettable Video Music Awards shows and a ratings dive, MTV has planted the broadcast in Sin City.
Sunday night’s show is being beamed from the Palms hotel — home to the Playboy Club — and will feature the much-hyped comeback performance of tabloid queen Britney Spears, who hasn’t graced the MTV stage since she famously locked lips with Madonna back in 2003.
“The MTV awards have never been about the awards, it’s always been about the party and the music,” says Entertainment Weekly executive editor Lori Majewski. “What better place to party than Vegas?”
This year, MTV might as well rename the event to the Video Music Party instead of the Video Music Awards. There will be no host, the number of Moonman trophies doled out during the ceremony has been cut from 12 to eight, and the traditional awards-show format has been junked.
“The overall sort of feeling was, ’What can we do to blow this show up, because there are so many awards shows out there right now,’“’ says executive producer Jesse Ignjatovic. “Everyone felt like it was time to take some chances and really do things differently.”
Instead of a traditional audience — which in past years has included throngs of screaming fans in a pit close to the stage — this year’s event will feature only industry invitees sitting at tables with free-flowing liquor, a la the Golden Globes.
And while some of the evening’s performances will be beamed from the central stage, the main action is happening at four suites throughout the hotel — one hosted by Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, another by Kanye West, the third by the Foo Fighters and the last by Fall Out Boy, with cameras broadcasting the performances, parties and overall revelry from those suites throughout the evening. (50 Cent, Rihanna, Nelly Furtado, Lil Wayne and Lily Allen are among the show’s other performers.)
“Their suite is whatever they want to do,” Ignjatovic says. “It’s sort of that feeling that something can happen in there that’s not planned.”
All of those antics will be condensed into two hours instead of three. And if you miss the show at 9.p.m. ET, don’t expect to see repeats on continuous loop as in previous years. The show will not air in its original form again — it will be “remixed” with other elements to give people a reason to tune in.
“What I want is for the next day, for viewers or whoever to go, ’Wow,”’ Ignjatovic says.
It’s been a while since the VMAs had a YouTube moment — so long that YouTube wasn’t even around then. Although it has been defined by jaw-dropping, eye-popping shenanigans — the Britney/Madonna kiss, Eminem tussling with a puppet, Diana Ross fondling Lil Kim’s pastied breast, Prince’s buttocks-baring outfit — there has been a recent lack of spontaneity and excitement.
Majewski says the MTV Awards used to be “the ultimate anti-awards show ... (now) their awards show has become a regular experience.”
For cutting-edge MTV, such a fate would be death itself — thus the makeover. “I want to just get people excited about watching an awards show,” says Ignjatovic, “watching music on television.”