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.

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