The man in black deserved the award

The VMAs are now over with, and while it hasn’t happened yet, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I begin receiving spam e-mails trying to sell me video tapes of Christina, Britney and Madonna at an after party. The real story is the robbery that took place.

I’m not sure how MTV justifies holding video music awards as it is hard to recall the last time they actually played a music video. Originally, the VMA’s Video of the Year award was awarded to videos that were groundbreaking or simply touching. It was the ground breaking “Rockit” by Herbie Hancock in 1984, the touching “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley in 1985 and the technologically advanced for it’s time “Money For Nothing” by the Dire Straights in 1985.

Other winners of MTV’s Video of the Year were awarded to “Losing My Religion” by REM, “Right Now” by Van Halen, “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, “Cryin” by Aerosmith, “Waterfalls” by TLC and “Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins.

All of these videos stand as landmark videos, and if and when there is a music video hall of fame, they should be among the first inductees.

As we get closer to the present, the Video of the Year award has become less rewarding for the Best Video, and more rewarding to whoever is most likely to benefit MTV in the future. The more recent winners haven’t aged well. Does anyone even remember Jamiroquai? He was the winner in 1997. Madonna’s 1998 win with “Ray of Light” and Lauryn Hill’s 1999 win with “Doo Wop (That Thing)” were deserved considering the competition, but hardly belong on Mount Olympus with the other legendary videos.

In 2000 the “Real Slim Shady” won. Memorable, perhaps. Groundbreaking, forwarding the art form of music videos, or touching? Not a chance. In 2001 it was that terrible cover of “Lady Marmalade” that won, solidifying my belief that the VMA’s have become leeches to whomever was the biggest flash in the pan at the time, proved again the following year when Eminem won with “Without Me.”

History lesson completed, this year’s winner was Missy Elliot with “Work It,” a slightly above average video. None of the other videos jumped out at you. None had any special effects that you knew were going to change everything and the only one that really drew you in was Justin Timberlake and that was because we all knew it was really about Britney Spears cheating on him … maybe with Madonna.

There was one video that did stand out. It wasn’t technologically advanced, in fact it was its primitive style that made it stand out. I, of course, am talking about Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt.” For those of you how haven’t seen the video, it is, like the song, a reflection on Cash’s long career, incorporating footage from his younger days with jet black hair, intercut with him today, in the twilight of his career and life, graying hair and aged face.

The average MTV viewer has no clue who he is and what he represents. Ironically, Justin Timberlake did, and said publicly that he thought Cash should have won Best Male Video. So, I’m not really surprised he didn’t win; he’s 71 years old, and that’s older than all the other nominees combined minus Missy Elliot. Not exactly MTV’s usual artist, so I do give them credit for nominating him. However, the first time I saw the video for “Hurt” I got goose bumps. It was so powerful how he turned a teen angst song into a song reflecting an entire life time, just with his voice, and then to reinforce it with the images in the video.

Yes, “Hurt” was nominated for seven awards, and it did win one, “Best Cinematography,” a fairly insignificant technical award that in no way honored cash or the song, but rather the man who held the camera. That’s better than nothing, but a musical legend like Cash deserves … nay … has earned more than that, especially against lightweights like Timberlake, Elliot, 50 Cent and Eminem. Cash was the man in black long before Will Smith was born. So, to whoever decided against awarding Johnny Cash video of the year, I hope you’re somewhere in a burning ring of fire.