Justin Bieber Crowned Emperor of Canada at the 2012 MMVAs
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Justin Bieber Crowned Emperor of Canada at the 2012 MMVAs

A nation sighs with relief knowing that Nickelback was not involved.

Looking back, it’s tough to identify exactly where and how the MuchMusic Video Awards show, now in its 22nd year, became such a banal exercise in cultural vapidness. Maybe it all changed with the departure of George Stroumboulopoulos, who last hosted the show in 2004. Maybe the Jonas Brothers fatally lowered the bar in 2009. Maybe it’s always been a joke.

Whatever the reason, you could tell from the marketing that this year was supposed to be different. Which, indeed, it was. This year, the MuchMusic Video Awards event wasn’t just a glitzy, glorified fashion show. It was a glitzy, glorified fashion show that clearly knows it will never be more than that, and is totally fine with it. In a nutshell, last night’s edition included an even younger Bieber, Katy Perry doing some naked butterfly thing, LMFAO‘s apparent style obsession with all things zebra, a lot of pastel, and The Sheepdogs’ hair. At one point, somehow, we actually saw a guitar kicking around.

It was spectacle for spectacles’ sake, and, for Toronto residents, it included a few surprises that may or may not have gone unnoticed. If, for some reason, you were watching the whole neon-gilded brouhaha at home on TV, you may have noticed a familiar face about 15 minutes into the broadcast. Assuming you didn’t miss it, you saw correctly—that was indeed our very own Rob Ford during the credits, shooing away a cloud of pink smoke erupting from a backyard barbeque.

It was unexpected, slightly obnoxious, and done specifically for the sake of grabbing as many eyes as possible. Which, when you get right down to it, is basically MuchMusic in 2012, anyway.

Our illustrious mayor’s star turn aside though, that sparse laundry-list of highlights was pretty much it. Unless you’re part of the horde that cares how Selena Gomez looked in that dress, or you shed a few tears when there were babies (and there were a lot, oddly), it was hard to find much of interest. Backstage, too: it was remarkable—only not—how many discussions revolved around what people were wearing, what styles were suggesting about coming summer fashion trends, and just how grown-up and fine and sophisticated the Biebs is getting in his old age. Um, sure?

Music? To be fair, LMFAO were a break from past hosts, injecting their trademark energy into what often feels like your mom’s favourite award show. Occasionally uncomfortable to watch and vaguely creepy, sure, but a break nonetheless. Otherwise, it was business as usual for the machinery of mass-cultural production, and to be honest, it was sort of depressing. But at least the kids had fun.

Besides, this was NXNE’s weekend, anyway. MuchMusic, we hope you were taking notes.