IHEARTRADIO MMVAS DEBUT IN NEW LATE-AUGUST FORMAT
The MuchMusic Video Awards are dead.
I know, bitter nostalgists of a certain age have been eager to bury the former nation’s music station flagship event for years, but in this case I mean it literally. Just as there’s no longer a MuchMusic (it’s just Much now), there’s no longer a MuchMusic Video Awards. Those initials are officially just letters now, signifying nothing specific but reminding us of the show’s history from behind the corporate branding – they’re the iHeartRadio MMVAs, and for the first time this year they took place in lateAugust rather than June.
So how vital is the award show in its latest round of repositioning?
We had a chance to check its pulse on Sunday, August 26, and it’s still there, faintly, in the way it reflects teen-friendly pop culture while still, surprisingly, pushing it forward. But it’s doing so in a format that’s feeling increasingly old-fashioned, and the lingering resemblance to its history isn’t positive.
Host Awkwafina called the event “the biggest street party in Canada” a few times throughout the show. But though performers like Bebe Rexha and Alessia Cara soundchecked to fans and confused onlookers alike at the stage in the parking lot of 299 Queen West, the actual show, despite being free, is now gated off, so unless you were watching it on TV (or Twitter, where it was broadcast in full for the first time), it was better heard than seen. That part makes sense, though – participation in fan culture is fully the domain of social media now, and lining up for hours for a wristband to stand near celebrities seems quaint.
That was driven home by a performance by reunited boy band 98 Degrees, which was juxtaposed with throwback footage from their last performance at the MMVAs in 1999. You could see them, in oversized suit jackets with no shirts, playing while hanging out of the studio – that old anarchic Much spirit coming through due to how literally close they were to their audience. For lack of a better term, it really felt “live.”
That performance was older than many of the fans in attendance on Sunday. Likely some of the performers, too – watching their successors like Seconds of Summer play the nowmuch-bigger, more-expensive-looking stage, you could feel that former anything-could-happen ethos evaporating. Truthfully it’s been gone for years, but watching the duller, carefully stage-managed event really drove it home. There were more performances than ever, and it worked for young performers like bülow, the Dutch teen pop singer (now based in Toronto) making her live TV debut. And Kris Wu, the Chinese pop singer/actor/ model who won his first North American award as the fan fave new artist. Toronto’s major-label upstarts The Beaches chipped in with the one rock performance, and it felt fun and fresh. Shawn Mendes, who’s exploding right now, opened and closed the show and won basically every other televised award.
The iHeartRadio MMVAs do still play an A&R role, but it doesn’t fill the hole left by Bell Media’s cancellation of the MuchFACT music video fund.
More reflections at nowtoronto. com/music.