Thoughts On The MTV VMA's & The Chester Bennington (and sorta Chris Cornell but not really) Tribute
This Sunday, the 33rd annual MTV Video Music Awards aired. Of all the music events that we thought might have a Chris Cornell or Soundgarden tribute, this one was the sure bet. MTV was [overly] kind to the Seattle scene as early as the late 80's, and continued to support Soundgarden into the early 90's, bestowing them with a "Buzzworthy" title for Outshined, and giving them airplay in spite of the band not exactly helping with their own promotion.
Soundgarden had always stayed away from tv show appearances, even with a #1 album and multiple hit singles. They always thought of it as intruding on someone else's show and didn't feel right showing up to promote a single. When it came to MTV though, they always seemed to have a symbiotic relationship. They appeared on late shows and in prime time, and usually seemed uncharacteristically at ease.
While the MTV of 2017 is a far cry from the play-Black-Hole-Sun-500-times-a-day MTV of 1994, it was pretty likely that there would be a pretty meaningful look back at the legacy of Chris Cornell and his bands' music - even if only a quick montage of music videos over the years.
Soundgarden took home the VMA for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video for Black Hole Sun in 1994
Even beyond the 90's, with Soundgarden [and arguably Chris Cornell] at their commercial peak, and with MTV still relevant as an authority for music, the network was still kind to Chris, airing the iconic Ed Sullivan Theater Audioslave concert on MTV2, and airing Soundgarden's 2010 return to Lollapalooza on MTV Live.
As Jared Leto started his speech, it was immediately clear that this was a tribute to Chester Bennington. It was genuine and came from a close friend. With the exception of the Linkin Park performance that was played being cut short almost immediately after starting (and the definitely not planned, but ill-timed promo for the new MTV show "Dare To Live" being the lead out), it was a decent enough tribute.
While Chris Cornell was mentioned, and Jared did specifically say that he was asked to speak about both Chris and Chester, the fact that it was such an afterthought had us [and many others] assuming that there would still be a Chris Cornell tribute later in the evening. Again, Chris was mentioned, but it seemed to be a mention to give some context to Chester's story. If Chester had passed in a plane crash, I wonder if Chris would have been mentioned at all.
As Soundgarden fans since forever, we're accustomed to the snubs by now. We've seen all the posters with the top billings going to newer bands, we've been to stores that carried everything Nirvana and nothing Soundgarden. It's part of what makes being a Soundgarden fan and finding fellow fans so great. In a way, we wouldn't have it any other way. Soundgarden became this huge band, despite never trying to be. They wrote dark, heavy music and made the mainstream come to them.
The problem is, right now, the snubs hurt.
This isn't a top songs of the 90's list on some click bait site that forgets to list Soundgarden. This is an institution that a lot of Soundgarden fans grew up with. An institution that both helped Soundgarden, and owes a great deal to Soundgarden. It wouldn't have taken much to just play 10 seconds of a few videos. It wouldn't have taken much to spend a separate minute talking about Chris. It wouldn't have taken much to just air a clip of Chris with Chester and Linkin Park, instead of the 5 seconds of the Linkin Park VMA performance.
MTV, we're not angry. Just disappointed.