Janet Jackson single-handedly saves MTV VMA tribute to Michael Jackson

There’s no way MTV would have (or should have) presented the 2009 VMAs without a tribute to the late Michael Jackson, the man who perhaps more than any artist ever, raised the business of making music videos into a rare and delectable art form. But while I can’t be sure how it looked live from Radio City Music Hall, I found the opening three and a half minutes of last night’s celebration played somewhat tepidly from my living-room couch. The hyper-fast cuts of the MTV cameras and the presence of a giant video screen playing “Thriller,” “Bad,” and “Smooth Criminal” made it difficult to focus on the actual dancing taking place on the stage. Yeah, I realize that by playing MJ’s greatest hits in the background, we were able to see just how lovingly his choreography was being recreated right there on the VMA stage — and today’s yoots who may have been unfamiliar with Jackson’s oeuvre (gasp!) got a glimpse of his genius — but the overall effect left me wondering why MTV bothered with the live dancing at all. Seriously, why not just replay a highlight reel of Michael’s most iconic dances?

Thankfully, though, at the 4:15 mark, Janet Jackson came to the rescue, shattering through a safety glass screen to recreate that classic “Scream” dance-off with her big brother. The woman whose “first name ain’t baby” may not have been 100% in sync with the video screen behind her, but so what? She worked that stage harder than an underpaid assistant doin’ overtime, and as tributes go, this was as energetic as it was heartfelt. I predict “Scream” on repeat on my iPod as I head to work this morning.

What did you think of last night’s MJ memorial? Were you touched by Janet’s appearance? And did anyone else get a case of the eeries hearing the line “Oh my God can’t believe what I saw as I turned on the TV this evening” in the wake of Michael’s death?

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  • darclyte

    I thought Madonna gave a very good speech and I liked the dance tribute…but I wish there had been more “substance” beyond Madonna. Janet’s appearance was great, but she was only on stage for a little over a minute, was lip syncing, and then it was over. I did like how they edited her part out of the duo dance with Michael from the video so that she could be “paired” with him as she danced live. Yeah, she wasn’t fully in sync in a spot early on, but it was still a nice job. I just wish that there had been more to it. I mean, maybe have Madonna, Janet and Beyonce sing “I’ll Be There” together or something unique like that. Comparing what MTV did with all the time they had to plan vs what BET was able to throw together at the last minute, BET’s tribute seemed much better overall.

    • Ni

      Well put! I feel you on this, although it was tastefulm, I felt they would have “killed” it as some say

      • Anne

        I thought the whole show would be focused on MJ’s music. With all the performers singing his songs. We need more MJ!

      • Baby Toya

        The BET was way better to be honest but most of you are only saying the MTV one was better because of the simple fact that his own sister did it

    • Tyre

      @ darclyte: If you had ears, you would’ve realized she wasn’t lip syncing. @ Slezak: You were wrong about Ellen and you’re wrong about the dancing. It was fantastic. This was the tribute that BET should’ve have done with their awards show.

      • Kyla

        Ithink janet did great and mj would have loved it. she wasnt lip synching

    • Das

      Janet was not lip syncing. Listen to the original song.

      • Copelon

        It was lip-synched. Nowadays, a lot of artists pre-record a live performance to vocally give it a live feel. Then, when they perform it, the playback of the recorded vocals intends to make you “think” it’s live. I’ve done a lot of production studio work.

      • alex

        It was re-sung but totally lipsynched.

      • ME

        I agree it wasn’t lip-synced. I have the original on my ipod and I’ve listened to it many times. She was definitely singing live…you could tell by the way her voice sounded when she was dancing and singing at the same time.

      • Ryan

        She wasn’t lipsynching. Chill out. Instead of applauding a great performance, you look for ways to tear it down. Stop with the pissy comments and just respect it for what it was – a tasteful tribute.

      • mike

        Janet was obviously lip-synching either an alternate vocal take, or most likely a newly recorded vocal take. Just like she does on tour.

        Beyonce did a similar thing in her Single Ladies performance – she sang the intro, and then the rest of the song was mixed between real live vocals, and pre-recorded ‘live vocals.’

        Pink and Lady Gaga managed to pull off fully live performances, however.

        Janet hasn’t sung live except for ballads on tour in ages. I don’t mean that as a dig either, she’s an IMMENSE talent and I don’t expect her to considering her dancing and overall performance. i didn’t expect it and personally don’t knock her for it at all for this either. Michael himself didn’t sing any of his last your live and it’s already been stated the “This Is It” tour was to be mostly (I believe all but one) lipsynched as well.

      • Jonah

        Can anyone name a single televised performance where Janet sang live? I’ve seen quite a few since her “Control” days and she’s lipsynced every one of them.

    • ay harrison

      BET tribute was much better, MTV’s tribute sucked.

      • Sally in Chicago

        DIsagree about the MJ BET tribute. Totally f*u’ed

      • irie

        no! bet tribute was ok, but i believe janet put this one together and it was way better. i loved her peformance. JANET IS THE BEST!!

      • Terri

        Jamie Foxx in a “Beat It” jacket, taking a brilliant performers dance moves and making a mockery of them was not better than letting Michael’s music and own dancing speak for itself. The dancers on the floor were about bringing the moves off the screen… making them real and maybe accidentally showing us that no one can move quite the way Michael Jackson could. Janet was understated and didn’t make it all about her. I think it was great.

      • Davon

        NO it was not.BET was donee last minute.this one was done by family and was amazing

    • e

      Extremely eloquent. This was such a truncated tribute. I would’ve thought considering MJ’s contribution to MTV & the industry as a whole, there would have been more singing of his hits; or @ least testimonials re: how he influenced so many of the artists in attendance.
      That said, Janet tore the roof off!

    • manisha

      i agree with you.

    • Marie

      To darclyte:

      1) Janet wasn’t lip syncing. If she were, her voice would have sounded a lot better. It was too harsh.

      2) Madonna sing “I’ll be There”? LoL! That’ll be the day! She’d probably butcher the song with her inability to sing.

    • bebe

      she wasn’t in sync with the screen behind her because the rest of the dancers were dancing too. she had to perform with them! but it was sooooooooooo sad i felt like she was dancing WITH him! she did such a GREAT and AMAZING job!! i loved it!!!! rest in peace mike..we miss you and we love you!!!

    • angela

      Actually Janet didn’t lip sync, and it was a trubute to Micheal and his dancing, which was just as important as his singing, I think it was great, Janet did a great job pulling together a tribute to his work. that was the focus

  • Dr. Taylor

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT. JANET JACKSON WAS AWSOME LAST NIGHT, THIS VIDEO IS 14 YEARS OLD, AND SHE OUT DANCED ALL THE 20 YEAR OLDS. SHE IS THE FEMALE MICHAEL JACKSON. JANET HAD ME CRYING, CHEERING AND EVERYTHING WHEN SHE STEPPED ON THE STAGE. JANET IS THE “GREATEST FEMALE PERFORMER & ENTERTAINER OF ALL TIMES”. MADONNA SAID A NICE SPEECH ALSO, BUT MISS JACKSON BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN.

    • BJohnson

      Thank you for reminding these bloggers complaining. I know that took a lot of strength to get up and perform, he’s not even dead 2 months and she danced her heart out for the brother. I have nothing but love for Janet and her tribute. People can say it was short, but I bet for her it felt like forever and for a brief moment, she probably felt his presence by her as she danced for him.

    • MEM

      This tribute brought me to tears. Great job Janet and your team, particularly for the part where you are dancing with your brother. I wish that people could be a little less critical of this tribute. Criticism has it’s time and place. This is not the time nor the place.

  • Sina

    Loved it. Although I thought she was going to hurt herself jumping back up off her knees. We all knew she was coming out once Screamed played but I was still hyped that she came out.

  • TINA

    Janet was awsome, she did not need Madonna nor Beyonce cause they can not do techical dances like Janet and Michael, so im sorry but Janet did great those dancers that she had, yes to the person posted earlier she is the “FEMALE MICHAEL JACKSON” Janet is the “THE GREATEST FEMALE ENTERTAINER AND PERFORMER OF ALL TIMES”.

  • SY

    Love it. Love it. Love it. From Madonna to the dancers and to Janet Jackson, it’s fit for a king.

  • alix

    Madonna’s speech made me cringe. Parts of it sounded like something an eighth-grader would write for composition class.

    • mo betta work

      You’re an idiot. You are proof of her ‘under the microscope’ analogy in a very heart-felt and personal statement.

    • Steve

      R U nuts – she was great!

    • Lisa Simpson

      Yeah, I turned it off when I realized that it was all about her.

      • ay harrison

        It wasn’t about Janet, I can’t stand people that always have something negative to say about everything.

  • Emma

    I loved Madonna’s speech. Very heartfelt and sinceere. I wasn’t a fan of the Queen until last night.

    Janet was amazing…the tribute was too short…and Kanye is a dumbas$. How dare he acted so stupidly on Michael Jackson’s special night. You are a horrible man Kanye…your mom would have been really disappointed in you.

    • tika

      I too love Madonna’s tribute to Michael Jackson. Grateful that she shared a personal anecdote about this enigmatic, genius man.
      Thanks, Madonna!

  • mama.s

    I think you are completely wrong. What I saw in that opening number was a reminder of why Michael is so great. If any one of those numbers would have started the VMAs you would have been wowed, but to see dance number after dance number performed live, the younger ones in the crowd were truly able to realize why he will ALWAYS be the King of Pop.
    I loved the use of Scream as the ending number. Not only did it end the number with a great performance by Janet, but it reminds all of us that we all had a small part in Michael’s death when we helped to fuel the constant negative media attention on him.
    I thought the entire performance was wonderful.
    May he finally find peace.

  • Anne

    Madonna’s tribute was the best thing on the VMA’s last night. People needed to stick up for him long ago. Read it again MTVs website. They should have just showed clips of all MJ’s music videos on that giant screen as I never even noticed the dancers on stage. When Michael Jackson is on screen or on stage, no one else exists. Janet being there was a wonderful loving tribute for her brother and made the whole thing special.

  • Eric

    I agree that it was a perfect tribute. I don’t need to see other artists sing MJ’s songs. They can’t touch his artistry and that’s ok. I can turn on my ipod for the rest of my life. I liked that he was remembered for his great videos at a award show that highlights the best achievements in videos. That’s the way it should have been.

    • Zelda

      MJ was the greatest!!! I agree with you regarding turning on my ipod for the rest of my life. Janet was awesome! I dont have any other “favorite” artist out there. No one can match his legacy. Rest in peace Michael.

  • tammy

    I LOVED Madonna’s speech!!It made me wanna cry..I love Madonna anyway, I grew up with her and Michael Jackson’s music..I get it..And Janet, LOVED IT!!..I give her so much credit to be able to get out there and do that performance, I to just wish it would have been longer..LOVED IT, LOVED IT, LOVED IT!!!!..Well worth waiting for..

  • ARM

    MS.JACKSON AND MS. MADONNA DID A FANTASTIC JOB, MS. JACKSON DOES NOT NEED ANY HELP FROM ANYONE, SHE CAN DO IT ON HER OWN AS SHE PROVED LAST NIGHT, EVERYONE WAS IN THE RIGHT PLACE.

  • Aaron

    Janet’s dance was good, though I think Madonna’s speech was very poignant. Both did as their position allowed, and added something, but I give credit for Madonna not letting it just pass as a fluffy moment, when obviously the life and death of Jackson was so very complex.

  • Angie

    I GUESS YOU IDIOTA HAD NO IDEA, HIS DANCERS, THE PEOPLE INFLUENCED BY HIM, PEOPLE WHO ALSO LOVED HIM PAYING TRIBUTE THE BEST WAY THEY COULD. IT WAS AN AMAZING TRIBUTE BUT ALL I HEAR IS COMPLAINING, I GUESS EVERYBODY HEARD MADONNA SPEECH BUT IT WENT TROUGH THE AIR IN THEIR HEADS.

  • jmcx3

    I thought Madonna’s speech was more about Madonna than MJ. If I were the Jackson family, I would be upset at the way she she gave her speech. Showing the videos with the dancers in front were the best part of the entire award show. Obviously MTV has lost sight of what an award show should be. I turned it off after Kanye West made a fool of himself and was astonished to read today that they actually let him present and award later in the show. When does this stuff end?

    • pam

      @jmcx3:no, they didn’t: they threw his sorry a$$ out of the theater, to the curb, where trash like him belongs

    • bicks

      Oh you are just another Madonna hater, will spin anything just to make it negative. Madonna’s speech was good, she laid the foundation that she and Michael has things in common so that she understands him, with that, it made the whole speech more believable and sincere

      • MM

        I agree Bicks. She brought out their commonality and told a personal story about her friendship with MJ to show that she just wasn’t a mouthpiece for someone else’s words. She (and I) believed every word she said because it was sincere and from the heart.

    • Mo in VA

      Madonna used her commonalities to put Michael’s life in context, to humanize him. The theme was spot on: ‘You think you have issues? You have NO idea.’ I was glad to see someone finally state in front of Joe just what he did to Michael.

    • Robbyrob

      Why are you watching the MTV Awards in the first place? Madonna did a great job! If you didn’t LISTEN to the speech and note what Madonna was trying to really say, of course you would think it was all about her. Madonna should also get some kudos for keeping her Michael Jackson tribute in every show on her second leg of her European tour. Madonna was deeply affected by Michaels death as were we all. Madonna shared some great insights into their friendship.

      • Ray

        Jonah…Janet has sung live on some Awards Show…..Her first Grammy performance for What Have You Done For Me Lately till this day is the best live performance by any female and still stands the test of time. Nothing beats that live performance.

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