The YouTube Music Awards were really, really bad

By James Cook on November 4th, 2013

Remember the last time that YouTube hosted their own livestreaming music event? I’d advise you to go and watch it on YouTube, but you can’t – it was so bad that they have deleted all traces of it. Yet they seem to have learned nothing from the debacle: they repeated it last night.

The YouTube Music Awards were presented by cuddly afro rapper Reggie Watts and an indie actor who nobody knows called Jason Schwartzman. In said indie actor’s own words, “I’ve never hosted anything before!” So that’s nice.

The event was a collaboration between YouTube, Kia and VICE – basically, everything that was cool two years ago.

After mismanaging some minor celebrities who were awkwardly clustered on a stage for no specific reason, the awards ceremony kicked off with the first “live music video”. A live music video is like a normal music video but with under-rehearsed actors, awkward camera work, and a minuscule budget.

If viewers couldn’t tell from the indie pop, this was for a new track by Arcade Fire. An actress I hadn’t heard of dressed in work clothes danced awkwardly in a small room. It was like an office party, only with more erratic movements and less Eighties hits.

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The actress left the room and danced around with some children, miming the words of the pop song. It was like High School Musical but even more appalling.

The presenters awkwardly said some words about how good they thought that was, then Win Butler, the annoying frontman of Arcade Fire, who was dressed in annoying clothes and had an annoying grin on his face, decided to film them with his phone.

I’m not even kidding about this stuff.

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Now it was time for a musical history of music on YouTube performed by people who are musicians on YouTube. First up was Tay Zonday who became famous in 2007 for a song about chocolate rain and has done nothing interesting since then.

So he sang his 2007 song Chocolate Rain.

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Comedy rapper T-Pain came on stage to sing about being on a boat because, well, his biggest hit was collaborating on a light-hearted song about being on a boat. This time he removed the swears because YouTube is a family website, you guys.

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Then some children swarmed around the camera and smiled. This would have been heartwarming for a couple of seconds in Michael Jackson or Mariah Carey’s hands but it went on way too long and became very, very awkward.

Basically this for about 15 seconds.

Basically this for about 15 seconds.

There were problems with the streaming which resulted in the following moment of blessed relief.

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But I returned to find the presenters awkwardly clambering up a ladder where they were handed two babies in nappies. A woman tried to explain why these children were there but she didn’t have a microphone so nobody could hear why.

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The first award was hesitatingly announced by one of the presenters in a voice so tiny that nobody knew who won the award. It was Macklemore and his mute friend Ryan Lewis. To celebrate, they were given a YouTube logo made out of plastic. The babies began to cry. Macklemore said something about inspiration.

The babies were seriously crying and it got even more uncomfortable.

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Now it was time for another live music video. Lady Gaga sat crying at a piano and sang a song. Basically a normal awards show performance from her.

Lady Gaga crying at a piano and wearing a hat that says 'Dope' on it. She performed her 2013 song 'Dope'.

Lady Gaga crying at a piano and wearing a hat that says ‘Dope’ on it. She performed her 2013 song ‘Dope’

Luckily our spirits were lifted by an advert kind-of-thing from Kia where they introduced an award by making a pretty woman sit in a Kia car.

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To inject some “fun” and the sort of unprofessionalism you see in ropey 1970s children’s television shows, the winner’s name was hidden inside a cake. The presenters awkwardly destroyed some food and announced the winner.

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As the winner congratulated herself, an overdressed audience member in a suit did lots of smiling faces at the camera. He is going to come home and screenshot it anyway, so here it is: smiling audience member’s new profile photo.

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In a desperate bid to save the YouTube Music Awards from mind-numbing farce, they cut to a live music video of some rappers in a pink box filled with their fans fighting each other. Whoever thought that putting Tyler The Creator (Kanye West mixed with Jaden Smith) in a box with some rowdy fans and a camera is stupid because basically all his shows end in riots.

This one was no different as scuffles broke out and the camera jostled around. Since the song features lots of swear words, they kept getting removed and about a third of the performance was silence. A few “fuck”s and “bitch”s slipped through, though, probably on purpose.

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Thankfully, Tyler escaped and stood on a balcony area shouting at the fans outside the pink fighting box.

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The indie actor presenter was covered in a torture device and painted by some people who may or may not have been famous. Another award was awkwardly announced and a rapper thanked YouTube for the “paperweight”.

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The next live music video could have been really interesting if it wasn’t live. A violinist danced around dressed in a cheaply-made Halloween costume in front of a green screen. The screen showed a video feed of what may have been her deceased grandfather’s toy city. One of the camera angles was bad.

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A minute and a half of the indie actor playing a drum kit with all the skill of an exuberant 14-year-old was interrupted by a child covered in blood emerging from a box. She said something but she didn’t have a microphone so nobody heard it.

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The winner of the “YouTube Phenomenon” award was Taylor Swift. Obviously, she also possesses taste so was not there. Instead some random women came on stage to accept the award. Indie actor flirted with the prettiest one by trying to guess her date of birth for about a minute. Gripping viewing it was not.

Taylor Swift accepts her award.

Taylor Swift accepts her award

Win Butler, the annoying lead singer of Arcade Fire, came on stage dressed in a brown Ramones t-shirt and pretended to be Kanye West. He did the whole “Imma let you finish” thing that actual Kanye West did to Taylor Swift that one time.

Everyone laughed awkwardly and Win Butler walked off.

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Next up was a “live music interactive short film” starring DJ Avicii, who is basically a male model who once made two good songs, presumably by pressing “Go” on some sort of automatic music generator program.

What may or may not have been Lena Dunham performed some awkward dialogue at an actor. Then she went up and attacked Vanessa Hudgens. In case you didn’t know, High School Musical is definitely the high point of Vanessa Hudgens’s career.

Perhaps a child wrote the script.

Perhaps a child wrote the script

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Vanessa Hudgens manages to express my opinion of the YouTube Music awards.

Vanessa Hudgens manages to express my opinion of the YouTube Music awards

The live interactive short film music video comedy drama was briefly halted and a “choose your own adventure” element introduced. Instead of doing something cool like letting us tweet to decide what happened, the presenters asked for a show of hands from the dancers who were paid to be there.

The overwhelming decision was for “suicide” so the actor playing a depressed man pretended to kill himself. The paid dancers celebrated as Avicii pretended to play a song and fake blood sprayed around.

In a break from the gory violence, everyone’s favourite nice guy Michael Cera came on stage and did an awkward comedy routine where he pretended to be the voice of the presenters. The presenters stood on stage covered in fake blood.



And now, the big award: best music video. Instead of something recognisable like Gangnam Style or Lady Gaga winning, the award went to a South Korean girl band. Since YouTube realised that nobody in the Western world knows who they are, we were treated to a snippet from their music video overlaid with an advertisement.

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Don’t worry, it’s nearly over. Up next was another live music video from controversial-for-the-hell-of-it female rapper M.I.A. She performed a song that probably gave everyone watching an epileptic fit as she walked through a colourful flashing tunnel armed with a strobe light that she waved around.

Either they purposely made this pixellated or my internet did.

Either they purposely made this pixellated or my internet did.

Indie actor had collapsed on the floor, covered with fake blood, paint and coloured powder. On his chest was a plastic YouTube logo trophy and he announced that Eminem won the next award.

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Because Eminem was about to perform, he couldn’t accept the award. We were treated to a behind-the-scenes reel instead. It was basically all the worst parts so far just with “Behind the scenes” written on top.

It's those damn kids again.

It’s those damn kids again.

Eminem (who is white) performed in front of a white backdrop. When his friend (who is black) joined him, it became black.
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The audience loved it though, they were all filming this performance that was being filmed and shown live on the internet for them all to watch back later.

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After Eminem walked off stage, the presenters nervously waited for him like teenage groupies.

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Eminem appeared, grabbed his plastic YouTube trophy logo, stole a microphone and thanked YouTube, then walked off. With time left to fill before the livestream was over, the desperate presenters repeatedly told each other how good that was and then they interviewed a member of the crew who agreed with them on how good that was.

The crew member said “I think that’s it” and the first ever YouTube Music Awards was over. The camera panned around the vacuous warehouse space to reveal lots of people absent-mindedly milling around the sets of the live music videos.

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Twitter was quick to react to the YouTube Music Awards. Superstar journalists and even former YouTube laughing stock Rebecca Black slated what may have been the least enjoyable two hours of my life. Thanks YouTube.