Kanye, Jay-Z, Nicki and Maroon 5: Grading the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show performances
By WESLEY CASE
Nov 30, 2011 | 11:22 AM
Tuesday night's "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" was what we've come to expect from the annual safe-for-CBS peep show: beautiful women, elaborate lingerie (Miranda Kerr wore a $2.5M bra), oogling celebrities and some live music in an attempt to distract us from wondering how the models got in that kind of shape.
Last year's "Fashion Show" focused on Top 40 (Katy Perry and Akon), while this year's event showcased hip-hop (Maroon 5 and its "Moves Like Jagger" being the exception). Kanye West, an artist who has dedicated an entire song to runway models, pulled double duty as a solo performer and as one-half of the Throne with Jay-Z. Young Money queen Nicki Minaj closed out the show.
For anyone who missed the spectacle, check out these videos, along with some quick commentary and grades.
Kanye West, "Stronger"
The night's first performance was also its best. We saw West do a similar version of his "Graduation" smash last month at 1st Mariner Arena -- it's much more brooding than the album version, like the perfect soundtrack for Dr. Frankenstein putting the final touches on his monster. The real fun comes when West flirts with the models, making the line "I need you right now" sound appropriate and inappropriate all at the same time. GRADE: B+
The "aww, that's cute" factor helps this performance a lot: lead singer Adam Levine dates V.S. Angel Anne Vyalitsyna, so he planted a kiss on her cheek while singing the hit-that-won't-go-away "Moves Like Jagger." It's a song that weighs less than a feather and, perhaps appropriately, it sounded crafted for a performance like this. Let me use this space to point out Maroon 5 really does have good songs (and plenty of bad ones), and their songwriting chops are nothing to laugh at. "Moves Like Jagger" isn't their crowning moment. Still, this was better than watching the girls walk to a track. GRADE: B-
Jay-Z and Kanye West, "N----- in Paris"
Before the Watch the Throne tour, "Paris" would have been a peculiar choice to perform on national TV. But now "Paris" is the tour's closing number each night (apparently they performed it eight times in a row at a recent stop; Baltimore got it three), and it's a monster when unleashed through a booming system. But the song's charm is dependent on the audience finishing Kanye's memorably sleazy lyrics, and that was missing at the V.S. show. Instead, it was West and Jay, rapping well, but without some of the energy supplied from audiences that know the song verbatim. Two quick, cool parts: Beyonce beaming with pride, mouthing the song's words and Jay and Kanye walking the runway simply because they could. GRADE: B
Nicki Minaj, "Super Bass"
If there was one performer I expected to win the crowd over easiest, it was Nicki Minaj. But it wasn't the case: Minaj hit every line and did her best to get the crowd out of their seats, but it looked like the audience was too tired by the end of the night. "Super Bass" is a buoyant hit that should have done well at the V.S. show, but it somehow fell flat. Perhaps it was the unnecessary fancy strings prelude to the classic hip-hop breakbeat? Or maybe it was the lack of songwriter Esther Dean, "Super Bass'" hook-singer? Either way, it was a performance more memorable for its color scheme than the song itself. GRADE: C+