The human race is currently like an embryo, trying to work its way out of the embrace of an extraterrestrial abduction. It’s been six months since the world was taken over by a deadly virus, an invisible enemy that no one understood and therefore no one could combat. It had, nay still has, no cure. Our worst nightmares, ominously predicted by movies like Contagion, I am Legend and simulated by video games like Plague Inc. came to life with Covid-19 and life, as we had grown accustomed to, came to a standstill.
Yes, I have been watching too many alien movies.
But the world of entertainment was just as badly hit as any other business; movie releases were pushed back, concerts cancelled or postponed indefinitely, fashion weeks shelved for a distant and unstable future and all kinds of festivals, activities pulled to a grinding halt. While most things slipped into a virtual orbit, it was only recently, last week to be exact, that MTV decided to take a measured chance and create some hype around their annual Video Music Awards. The VMAs 2020 took place in New York City – still one of the Covid hotspots – and pulled off a pretty cool show that dominated social media airwaves.
How did they do it?
According to reports and reviews, the program was organized all around New York City, socially distanced and without an audience. “The VMAs were the last of the summer award shows, and the first to attempt some semblance of old days pizazz, rather than Zooming-from-your-living-room relatability,” the New York Timeswrote. No one wrote about the social irresponsibility or hazards of holding a show in Covid red zone: New York. Everyone appreciated the effort of bringing back some sense of life as we once knew it.
The red carpet unraveled without the usual fanfare and paparazzi noise. It featured several select celebrities, who mostly chose to make a political statement with their brief appearance; messages sent out revolved around the Black Lives Matter movement, Chadwick Boseman’s unfortunate death and of course, the coronavirus. The Weeknd cold-opened the show with his winning track, ‘Blinding Lights’. “It’s really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment, so, I’m just going to say, justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said, later in his award acceptance speech for Video of the Year. Lady Gaga, with her numerous wardrobe changes and unforgettable masks, owned the evening. Black Eyed Peas closed the show with ‘Vida Loca’ off their latest album and then decided to perform a bonus track – ‘I Gotta Feeling’ – the 2009 hit song, as an ode to better times. Black Eyed Peas frontman, Will.I.Am shouted out a few important causes before closing out the show. “Wanna send love to the first responders and the freedom fighters,” he said. “Wakanda forever. Black Lives Matter.”
Performances were either pre-recorded or streamed from live locations and the award distribution was done remotely. It all came together seamlessly, got the coverage, was declared a success.
Pakistan may not have the technology to enable a show like the VMAs but the entertainment industry needs to get its thinking cap on and figure out a way to gradually bring the brouhaha back. Now is as good a time as ever.
Fashion. Music. Awards.
Frieha Altaf, always ahead of the curve when it comes to ideas, went ahead with organizing Pakistan’s very first virtual fashion show. Titled Catwalk Cares, the show made a debut in June, saw its second outing in August and to some extent set the foundation for how all upcoming fashion shows may be planned. I would like to think that the two fashion councils – the Pakistan Fashion and Design Council (PFDC) and Fashion Pakistan (FP) – are working on a road map to how fashion weeks will continue in Pakistan. What’s the plan of action?
Until a solid plan is in place, designers should and are working their individual calendars, with seasonal campaigns and collections in the pipeline. I would hope that they will also work on solo showcases, no matter how intimate, to generate the kind of excitement one gets from being around avant garde ideas. Pretty clothes unfortunately no longer make too much sense in a disaster-zone; fashion has to now be environment friendly, sustainable, organic, economically empowering and artisanal. Now, more than ever, it has be make political sense for it to exist, let alone stand out.
Music feeds the soul and while musicians have been releasing new tracks online, one needs to see the concert culture back in action. Salt Arts recently put out a poll asking loyalists if they were ready to step out; it was reassuring to see the platform gearing up. And it seemed that the response was an overwhelming affirmative. Provided that the concert was held outdoors (it always is) and ensured some SOPs, people were craving a concert, a soulful connect and the sound of music.
Award shows, I’d say, have as much of an audience. Expectations that the Lux Style Awards, for example, will pull all facets of entertainment into some tangible order, are high. Nominations for the LSAs 2020 are about to be announced and while the organisers have announced that there won’t be a gala event this year, I hope they will reconsider and put up some kind of show. Artists need it. The country is no longer in lockdown and business has begun in a post-corona norm. The show needs to happen within this norm, but there needs to be a show to go on. Reclusive red carpets, pre-recorded performances, remote acceptance speeches and limited press to witness it all…it can be managed if put on priority.
And as we inch our way into 2021, hopefully leaving the disease, death and destruction that 2020 has served us behind, we must reboot and restart afresh, with new aims and objectives in mind. Life as we once knew it may never be the same again, but life must go on.
- This article was first published in Instep on Sunday, September 6, 2020