New York played host to the very first YouTube Music Awards on Sunday, as a clutch of global stars gathered to perform and accept awards voted for by the public. The votes were garnered in recognition of high levels of fan engagement on the popular video site. This includes the ‘liking,’ commenting on and sharing of videos over the past 12 months. The videos receiving the most fan engagement were whittled down into a short list, and awarded to those with the greatest level of public interaction, taking into account number of views and subscriptions.
Musician-cum-actor Jason Shwartzman and performance artist Reggie Watts shared hosting responsibilities at the event, which saw winners come from categories such as video of the year – video with the most fan engagement, YouTube phenomenon – videos that generated the most fan videos, and YouTube Breakthrough – artists with biggest growth in views and subscribers. The focus on video popularity and fan interaction was an attempt to set the ceremony apart from the numerous other awards shows, distinguishing itself as a truly public awarded accolade. It also led to a number of surprises come award time. Korean Pop girl group Girls’ Generation collected the best video of the year prize ahead of the more recognized acts up for nomination, like Lady Gaga, One Direction, Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus.
There was also a moment of déjà-vu for Taylor Swift after she picked up the YouTube Phenomenon award for single “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Those accepting on her behalf were interrupted by Arcade Fire singer Win Butler who, in mock-Kanye West style, insisted he would let the ‘pretend Taylors’ finish their speech before declaring the true phenomenon of the year to be Baaur’s Harlem Shake video.
Win was there with the rest of his Arcade Fire band mates as they drummed up further support for their number one album, Reflektor, with a performance of new release, “Afterlife.” Billed as a live music video and directed by none other than Spike Jonze, it saw the Montreal outfit provide the soundtrack for actress Greta Gerwig to dance around to in a makeshift forest before being joined a troupe of child dancers as well as the band themselves.
Jonze was credited with the show’s artistic director title and oversaw the evening’s other performances. MIA debuted a song from her new album, Matangi, with a neon lit choreographed performance of the dance-heavy “Come Walk with Me,” while there was a surprisingly mooted turn from Lady Gaga who eschewed props and costumes in favour of a piano and simple flannel shirt. A winner on the night, Eminem, was there to perform too, treating the audience to a take on his hit “Rap God” and shot in a crisp monochrome.
There was more rap to be found in the energetic performance from Tyler, The Creator and accomplice Earl Sweatshirt. The duo performed their collaboration “Sasquatch” to an enthusiastic crowd within a small room made out to look like a nightclub before walking out to the larger auditorium to rapturous applause.
The show aired exclusively on Internet sites as a kudocast and streamed live on Youtube with unscripted hosting and sense of spontaneity, which contributed to the feeling that this was unlike other award shows.
With the high calibre of artists on show at the inaugural show, the YouTube Music Awards is sure to grow in stature in future years. The user-led focus on prize giving is likely to prove popular with fans, which in turn will ensure that upcoming events will see artists from all countries and genres back on the stage, keen to experience this modern twist on an awards ceremony.
What other interesting ways can technology aid awards shows?