The MMVAs have always been a spectacle. As the younger sibling of other awards shows—MTV’s, for example, or pretty much anything else—there’s a hokey, outlandish nature to this traffic-snarling block party that smacks of overcompensation, with its bursts of glitz and a campy VJ yammering the stuff of your typically over-ambitious party host. And that was when MuchMusic was an actual music channel.
In 2010, well into the heady era of MuchMusic as Canada’s worst ’round-the-clock, variety-style gong show, that wild-eyed exuberance has assumed another quality. Ever a firm testament to the staying power of Can-con (among other things), the same fanboy devotion that sees Avril Lavigne‘s perennial nomination for absolutely everything is propping the MMVAs up on its last wobbly leg. The result, likely not lost on Sunday’s bewildered passersby, is a last-ditch bid for relevance, as the former CHUM-City Building smiles desperately through a glossy, lifeless, Revlon-caked grin that says, “Our mom still thinks we’re cool.”
Like the Junos, only local. And more annoying.
Bedouin Soundclash, one of several early arrivals to the MMVA press area, said it all without saying a word. Introduced with a nod to “When the Night Feels My Song,” their 2005 chart-topper condemned to die slowly in a swirl of Zellers’ ads, the band looked utterly astounded, paraded before mics and lenses as yesterday’s Fresh Canadian Meat for the Grinder. Though possibly relieved to have skipped the more vapid, celebrity-humping questions—the cast of Twilight‘s pick in the World Cup, for example, or how Toronto’s red carpet compares with others (our guess: it’s… redder?)—their measure of awkwardness suggested they were asking the same question as many Torontonians: really, how much longer can Much keep this up?
That’s assuming there’s still life left in the beast. Competing tooth-and-nail with a thriving independent scene, Much’s pop culture juggernaut is ravenous in its decline, steamrolling through its roster of talent, consuming The Next Big Thing at a viral rate. Circuses like the MMVAs are less about honouring artists, it seems, and more about constantly renewing the case for the medium’s continued existence, much less relevance. It’s an existential crisis endemic to the entire pop assembly line, as the powerful economic engines driving the charts sputter and cough with each threat from a nascent medium—namely, the web. And while the machine teeters, its absorption, assimilation, and regurgitation of talent accelerates at a pace proportional to its needs, consequently draining substance from everything it thrusts in our faces.
It may be nothing unique to any one awards show, but the MMVAs, as Torontonians are keenly aware—in many cases, to their chagrin—are not just any gala. Its attendance gnarls Queen Street West, historically to the tune of six thousand or more shrieking, Bieber-feverish ‘tweens. Just three months after Earth Hour’s supposed kumbaya of eco-consciousness, the power consumption comes off as unseemly to say the least. The security needs are astronomical. It’d be different if we were talking about something like 2006’s AIDS Conference, but it’s a ridiculous cost to simply keep a Canadian institution breathing.
There’s nothing wrong with a good party, but this is a bit much.
Photos by Remi Carreiro/Torontoist.