MTV giving the Video Vanguard to Pink is nonsense.

For Some Reason, MTV Is Giving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award to ... Pink?!

For Some Reason, MTV Is Giving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award to ... Pink?!

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 16 2017 7:33 AM

For Some Reason, MTV Is Giving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award to ... Pink?!

2016-Billboard-Music-Awards--Show
How, Sway?!

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Quick: Name your favorite music video by Pink. (Don’t say “Lady Marmalade.”)

Aisha Harris Aisha Harris

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.

Oh, you don’t really have one. That’s OK. Do you have a favorite moment from a Pink music video? Favorite outfit? (Again, “Lady Marmalade” doesn’t count.)

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Wait—you’re wondering, “Who is Pink, again?”

I sort of kid on that last one—if you’ve been alive in the last 15 years, you’ve inevitably heard at least one of the long-lasting pop star’s four No. 1 hits. She’s also a fixture of awards shows. And, as you may recall, she is one-fourth of the one-time supergroup that buttoned up their corsets for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack to cover “Lady Marmalade.”*

Still, it's absolutely baffling that Pink has been chosen to receive an award that until now was the only MTV Video Music Award that actually mattered: the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, which will be presented at this month’s VMAs.

The honor has been given to pop stars and the occasional groundbreaking music video director off and on for three decades, recognizing such culture-shaping stars as David Bowie, the Beastie Boys, George Michael, Janet Jackson, and Madonna. These choices have, for the most part, been unassailable. Consider the last five choices alone: Rihanna, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears. Whatever you think of artists such as these as musicians, it’s impossible to deny the influence of their videography, both on the culture at large and on the artists that have come after them.

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But to give the honor to Pink is to jump way over the shark—probably while aerial gliding hundreds of feet in the air on cables, as Pink does in the single most memorable aspect of her visual presentation. Notably, this element doesn’t come from her music videos, but rather from her impressive live performances. While the award has always been loosely defined by MTV, it’s telling that just a few years ago when Justin Timberlake rightfully took it home, it was described as recognizing “forerunners in the music video sphere." Now, in MTV’s announcement of this year’s winner, it’s touted as a prize that “honors an artist’s exceptional body of work,” a phrase that is shamelessly vague.

Perhaps there was a video director who looked to Pink’s “Get This Party Started” for inspiration on how to portray getting ready for a wild night at the club (singing into a blow-dryer: check)—but somehow I doubt it. Maybe there were some wide-eyed tweens who learned all of the choreography to “Most Girls” for their school talent show—send me a note if you were That Kid. The reasons for this decision, however, are more likely twofold: Pink’s got a new album to promote, and Lady Gaga was too busy to show up to the VMAs this year.

Pink has had an amazing career, to be sure, and had this been a straight-up VMA Lifetime Achievement Award (they’ve given those out to Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, and a couple of others), it wouldn’t be such a shock, given that MTV's standards in nearly every other category often drift into the realm of questionable, at best. But in this one category, MTV had previously maintained some actual credibility.

And it’s not as if there aren’t others who wouldn’t have been more deserving. Here are a few names that would have made better choices, from just a few minutes of searching our memories:

  • Jay-Z
  • Björk
  • Diddy
  • Director Spike Jonze
  • Director Michel Gondry
  • Director David Fincher
  • Usher
  • J. Lo
  • And, once again, Gaga

If these guys just weren’t available to appear on awards night, perhaps MTV should’ve considered doing what they’ve done in the past, which is not given out the Vanguard Award at all.

Correction, Aug. 28, 2017: This post originally mispelled the title Moulin Rouge.