For years, MTV defined cool. I spent one weekend, when EMF came out with their video for Unbelievable, with which I was mildly obsessed, in front of the channel, afraid to leave the room in case the video (or that for Faith No More’s “Epic“*) was played. It was one of the few channels my friends and I watched, and the release of a video was almost as important as the song for a few years. Not that a bad video would ruin a good songs marketability, but a good video could sell a terrible song. And did on many occasions.
MTV created another artistic outlet that tied in with music, an industry that has continued to churn out more and more artists and less and less longevity. The music video gave the artists and the record companies a completely new way to serve up their product and a new way for it to be enjoyed by the consumer. A brilliant idea, and an ingenuous one that I can appreciate even now that I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat crossing my fingers that EMF’s opening bars play next.
I understand why MTV felt the need to change. Why tune into MTV when you have youtube? MTV saw it’s monopoly on the music video slipping away and tried out something new. While I hate what the programming has begun, I understand why they considered it a good business decision. They did try to jazz it up a little without completely giving up music videos with the viewer commentary that ran along the bottom. A painful and short lived addition because it devolved into shout outs to friends (hey Cory and Amanda! love you guys!) and insightful lines like, I really like this video.
With the ability to watch any video from any time at the click of a finger, why would I spend a weekend in fear of missing the 3 minutes of glory that was the Unbelievable video? Generations before watched events like the Kennedy assassination and civil rights protests and defined those as monumental televised events. With MTV, my generation was able to add the release of the Thriller music video to our list of monumental televised events.
MTV stands for Music Television. Perhaps they should have started another channel (NOT MTV2) and run the Real World and it’s illegitimate step children there. There would have been viewer crossover, the music aspect of MTV could have evolved without having to share the stage with an unrelated act, and they could have remained true to the definition of their acronym.
As it is, there is no longer any music played on the Music Television channel, and so if there were a funeral for the channel, as there should have been years ago, I would be a pallbearer. I have no issue carrying the coffin that holds MTV. Maybe with my help, we can get it in the ground faster.
*Side note: I went back to view this video and I’m a little upset that I did because now I realize what terrible taste I had and the song and video that I thought RULED is actually quite terrible (lighting bolts and florescent MC Hammer pants!!!?). In my defense, the top three songs of 1990 were Wilson Phillips-Hold On, Roxette-It Must Have Been Love, and Sinead O’Connor-Nothing Compares 2U (she would have been a fan of our texting abbreviations post) … the pickings were slim.