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MTV's video awards show won't win any honors

Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe.

Could Thursday night's MTV Video Music Awards have been any more unfocused and perfunctory? No, even though the annual ceremony finally returned home to New York after a few years in Miami.

Everything -- the songs, the dances, the award presentations, host Jack Black's lame comedy, the audience's reactions -- got sucked into the chaotic production values and the dead air of Radio City Music Hall. Even Shakira couldn't charge up the night with her Bollywood-style costuming and her rabid hip shaking for ``Hips Don't Lie ."

And a big fat Why Are We Doing This? seemed to be hanging over the night, as moonman statues went to blase winners while joke after joke crashed and burned. The Raconteurs were the house band, playing us out of commercials, and at one point they played ``Internet Killed the Video Star" to the tune of ``Video Killed the Radio Star," as if to ask whether MTV videos even matter anymore. By the time the ringtone of the year award was announced -- the winner was Fort Minor for ``Where'd You Go" -- the sense of futility was loud and clear.

Even the return of Lil' Kim from prison was a bust, as the crowd seemed to heave a collective shrug. Pink cursorily accepted the prize for best pop video for ``Stupid Girls ," Chamillionaire whined about a canceled ``20/20" interview in thanks for his best rap video award for ``Ridin'," and Kelly Clarkson wasn't in the house to accept best female video for ``Because of You ."

Even the big spontaneous moment was a dud. When Panic! at the Disco came to the stage to accept their video of the year award, a man from the audience grabbed their microphone and started a rant, calling himself Sixx and referring viewers to his website. Black later said, ``Sixx is the new Soy Bomb," but Sixx was a lot less bizarre than the dude who crashed Bob Dylan's Grammy set back in 1998.

The stars and the acts just filed in and filed out, with the bits of backstage footage only confirming that impression, as we saw acts getting cattle-called to the stage. MTV promoted its webcast of ``live backstage uncensored" relentlessly throughout the night, but the samples we saw looked like dull fame-o-centric outtakes from, say, ``Britney and Kevin: Chaotic ."

Speaking of Spears and Federline , the couple weren't at the awards, but they presented via video with a gag about how their son was missing. The gag was missing humor, and the meanings of ``gag" suddenly became too clear. Other video snippets, including a few ``Jackass" stunts, were equally uninspired.

Meanwhile on stage, Al Gore came and went, with a quick global-warming spiel, and Sarah Silverman did a short goof on Paris Hilton's weight, as if that were somehow a new concept.

What didn't get lost in the night? The band OK Go flawlessly and madly performed their YouTube treadmill choreography for ``Here It Goes Again ." And the Raconteurs were great, even if their songs were short and generally cut off. They did a brief ``White Light/White Heat " with Lou Reed early , which almost compensated for Justin Timberlake 's lackluster show opener, ``SexyBack ."

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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