Havens: VMA performance reflects on music industry, not individuals

Miley Cyrus is my personal Voldemort, or She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Though Cyrus’ scandalous act at the Video Music Awards this past Sunday was about as disgusting as the floors of The Hawk, no one can seem to stop talking about it, and frankly, I’ve grown sick of hearing about it. Amidst the outrage she sparked over sexual exploitation, racism, and objectification, another underlying issue has been pushed aside. While Cyrus has been busy twerking and sticking out her tongue, other artists have been left in the shadows that her giant teddy bears have cast. The general public may be concerned with the damaging impact on society, yet no one has voiced a concern for the damaging impact on the music industry.

My music-loving dad (who went to Woodstock) always compares music from decades past to the music of today. He feels that in the past, artists that crossed a line did so with the purpose to create a united front and promote change – Woodstock being a prime example. In contrast with today, in which music crosses a line simply to be on the other side. To get noticed. To grab our attention.

While all music involves some aspect of live performance and entertainment, the trend of “shock entertainment” has shown continual growth and Cyrus is just the latest and most prominent example. No one cares to mention the medley of Timberlake songs, or the fact that Ryan Lewis, Macklemore and Mary Lambert won “Best Video With a Social Message,” for their song “Same Love.” Why have these achievements been overlooked?

It’s been over a decade since the inception of file-sharing corrupted the music industry – resulting in desperation for a comeback. Media is getting smarter while the music is left to suffer. There are people within the industry who, by choice, are sacrificing pure, raw talent for the medias attention. Today with our constant access to information via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more, there are countless ways in which we spread news. The issue lies in which news we choose to spread.

Some artists in the music industry still preserve and value the art of producing music and putting on modest performances for the sake of enjoyment – though their presence greatly lacked at the VMAs and they rarely receive praise through mainstream media outlets. After all, news has to be new. Not many care to spend their time reading subpar stories with little impact – although I personally find such underappreciated articles to be more interesting than the facts on Snapple caps.

For new and emerging artists, trying to catch a break in the industry is no new struggle. While artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie – to name a few – all prided themselves on their image, they still held their music at equal value. Today, breakthrough artists aim for this same acclaim, although their focus lies less on the music, and more on their looks and their actions. Lady Gaga, for example, played at Lollapalooza years ago as Stefani Germanotta. Not many know this because, well, why would anyone pay much attention to some brunette playing piano? It wasn’t until her quirky costumes and odd behavior grabbed our attention that we started to care. Katy Perry followed a similar path, with Cyrus now being the latest addition to the list as well.

Though I highly disagree with this method of stardom, I can’t help but argue that it works. Admitting this makes me as sad as watching any of the season finales of Grey’s Anatomy, but after several days of hearing about the shameful Cyrus, it’s clear that her stunt resulted in success. Though she barely sang and the sound quality sucked, her raunchy moves and lack of clothing landed her in the spotlight.

By the time the VMAs was over and the credits were rolling, I was left with my jaw ajar, feeling as disappointed as when I found out that The Bull was being remodeled. The phrase “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” may be credited to the 60s, yet the 2013 Video Music Awards reiterated its relevance – seeing as there was an abundance of sexual innuendos, a plethora of drug references and, well, not very much rock or roll. Which seems to be the problem – when did the music industry stop being about the music?

Lyndsey Havens is a journalism major from Chicago, Ill. Read more from .

  • Updated Sep. 2, 2013 at 6:50 pm
  • Edited by Will Webber
  • John Hester

    The music industry stopped being about music many years ago when big-money got involved. Corporations now own all the labels, media outlets and ticket sellers. Corporations are not people; they don’t have ears; and they don’t care about music. It’s all about money.

    There will always be “alternative” music available from somebody’s garage, but we need a thriving popular music business that is run by people who love music and not simply as a business.

    • Lyndsey H.

      Couldn’t agree with you more. The alternative/indie music scene has definitely shown some growth over the years but it still has a long way to go…

      Thanks for reading!