Will The YouTube Music Awards Ever Go Viral?

For the first time ever, YouTube decided to host its own award show, where honors would be given purely based on how the YouTube users voted. Most award shows have some minor voting element, where the crowd can go online for one specific, sectioned off category, such as best upcoming artist. YouTube felt it could set itself apart and make every category a decision left to us and us alone– a pure democracy.

However, as the show began and events went underway, the disorganization of the event became all too apparent. The hosts, Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Walts, spoke of not having a script, so as to seem like they were experiencing the award show in the same way as the rest of us. Essentially, they wanted it to be more easy-going and YouTube-esque. However, with hit-or-miss jokes and frequent lack of focus, the hosts sounded more like that kid in class that didn’t rehearse for his speech enough, if at all; they basically winged it. Hopefully, as I believe these awards will become annual, they will look back and realize that there is a difference between being relatable and being unprepared.

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Furthermore, they made a variety of poor decisions. When Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix won Response of the Year for their version of “Radioactive," the hosts were unsure where to find Lindsey and spent a good deal of time running over to her because, for whatever reason, all the nominees were spread out in the crowd. During another portion, prior to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis winning YouTube Breakthrough for "Thrift Shop," Rashida Jones appeared and gave each host a baby. I am not sure who made this decision, but with a microphone in one hand and a baby in the other arm, and then Jason trying to reach for a letter on the ground, its easy to see that the babies were not exactly in the safest of care. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone makes a fuss about this, and rightly so. There’s a thin line between shocking an audience and alarming them.

Nevertheless, negatives aside, it was an enjoyable show. The awkwardness of the hosts was endearing at times, and I liked the idea that all of the nominations would be voted on by the viewers. For a live stream, there were only a few issues, which is better than many others I have seen in the past. After watching the show, I was also interested in looking up the videos that did not win, simply because they aren’t extremely lengthy. Videos good enough to win a nomination are probably worth watching, which I can’t say about every single movie up for nomination at the Academy Awards – that would simply take up too much time for me as a college student.

The best parts of the night, however, were the live performances, some of which were used to make live music videos. Arcade Fire began the show with a fun, interesting performance for a song off their newest album that dropped last week. Lady Gaga debuted a new song titled “Dope” off her album ARTPOP that drops a little over a week from now, displaying a large amount of emotion during a well-sung performance. MIA performed “Come Walk With Me” off her upcoming album, with a fantastic show of neon lights and hula-hoop dancers that truly must be seen to understand. Eminem presented “Rap God” from his upcoming album in a wonderful performance that shows he really can rap the most difficult sections of the song live. The performances of these big artists, other musicians, and some YouTubers made for an overall successful endeavor.

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Time can only tell how the YouTube Music Awards will develop. There were pros and cons, but something rather odd about the entire event was the utter lack of publicity. Even after learning of its existence, there was not much of an incentive to vote. Only about 10 million people saw the trailer announcing the awards, when most of the videos voted on had view counts several times that number; it does not completely represent what all YouTube viewers believe. Furthermore, YouTube got huge performers, but was it simply due to lucky timing? There is a trend within the biggest performers – they all either just released or are about to release albums. Each is willing to perform for any ounce of extra publicity they can get, as well as having the chance to say they were part of the first ever award ceremony. Does this mean that they will have to depend on artists that need publicity, and can only hope for the best?

The answer will eventually be no, as these concerns will fade over time. Next year, with more publicity and awareness, more people will be inclined to tune in and vote beforehand. The more awareness and voting that takes place, the less it matters whether an artist has new music coming out, as it eventually becomes an honor. In keeping a good line of performers, the viewer population will rise, which will entice musicians to continue signing up. Put simply, assuming that this year’s issues are tackled, the continuation of the YouTube Music Awards will be cyclically beneficial, and should grow to new heights each year.

Screenshots by Sameet Dhillon.

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Jonathan Reed