Saturday, 25 September 2010

Plz Xplain - MTV... Music Television?

The 2010 MTV Video Music Awards are all but a lingering memory of Lady Gaga's domination (and bovine inspired clothing) but, as is the case each year, the question of MTV's relevance has once again been raised. It's become something of a tradition to bash MTV for moving away from music to its current trash-TV format and you know what... it's getting kind of old. This years host, the usually hilarious Chelsea Handler, got in a fun gibe pointing out the Jersey Shore cast to the music folk in the audience when she quipped, "don't applaud... they're the reason MTV doesn't play your videos." It was of course true, but at this point it seems highly redundant. My favourite host was Sarah Silverman, who scored points by telling the audience in 2007 that Britney Spears' kids were, "the two cutest mistakes ever... as cute as the bald vagina they came out of." Now that's funny... and also highly off topic.

What I want you to take from this piece is that MTV is never going back to what made it one of the most groundbreaking music sources the world has ever seen. After all, this is the channel that really launched the careers of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince. This is the channel that took music videos from Nirvana and Pearl Jam and helped form the rise of grunge. And, this is the channel that in the late 90s brought attention back to pop music (Britney Spears, N'Sync) and made rap the highest selling genre of music (Eminem, Jay-Z). Since its inception, MTV has been a true representation of what the youth of the past, present and future wants. As a music channel they represented the changes in what defined popular music. The superstars of the 80s were replaced by grunge, that was replaced by new punk and alternative and that was replaced by trash pop, R&B and rap. All of this was before the internet became the global phenomenon it is today. Why watch MTV when you can find the latest music online, download it for illegally for free and then watch the music video on YouTube when you want to.

To combat falling ratings, MTV only did what they had so successfully done in the past... they gave the people what they wanted. Reality TV. Yeah, it's true that it both sucks and blows (which I didn't think was possible), but shows like The Real World, The Osbournes, Jackass, Newlyweds, Laguna Beach and now Jersey Shore have kept the channel alive, while also decreasing the average intelligence of a generation. MTV even acknowledges that they have moved away from their original purpose, with their new rebranding removing the tagline "music television" from all logos. For all its failings, MTV does still try though. They're making a big deal out of music video debuts again, trumpeting the latest videos from Lady Gaga like they used to with Michael Jackson. Florence + The Machine's album, Lungs, which has so far struggled in the USA soared into the top 20 after her performance at this years VMAs. There's still some influence there.

Like I said, MTVs not going back to the way things were. Instead of people complaining about it, go and find new music yourself! It's really not that hard. Try The Hype Machine, it's pretty much MTV for the digital age and on it you'll find all the latest new hits that are making people go crazy.


  1. Another thought provoking piece. Personally, being a pre-digital kind of gal I really like the idea of 'video clip shows' like Countdown and Sounds (showing my age there but who cares). I think it's funny how MTV have replaced shit video clips (I'm thinking current pop/r&B simulated sex boringness) with more shit (rich young morons bitching about their friends/cheating on their boy/girlfriends etc or better still stupid boys devoid of any form of mental process other than how to break as many bones as possible while getting laughed at).

    Bring back good ol' fashioned music tv!!

    Stepping off my cardboard soapbox now :)

  2. I wish there was a like button on here, but there isn't, so I'll just say LIKE to what you wrote above! You'll have to tell me all about Sounds one day. Can't say I've heard of it. But I know I was into Rage, Video Hits (which I believe is also long gone now) and to a lesser extent Top of the Pops. MTV TRL used to annoy the hell out of me because they'd only show like a minute of each film clip.


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