Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV.
A pivotal song and video for the MTV generation. A generation that ironically didn't seem to last all that long. Sure, MTV as a channel still exists, along with it's various spin off channels, none of which are dedicated to MUSIC as far as I can tell. Although I have been off work for two days with flu I resisted the urge to watch some of the garbage now being touted as entertainment on MTV. But like everyone has an ass hole, I have an opinion none the less. A valid one too since I was around at the BEGINNING and believe we are now long past the END of music television.
MTV promised much and did so within the guidelines of good taste and censorship. We all knew the censorship would be tested and confronted, that's just music. However what I'm sure none of us expected was for it to turn full circle and become basically a porno channel full of adverts. Late night only viewings of videos like N*E*R*D's Lapdance became commonplace on day time airing, minus the nipples. Once this novelty expired on came the reality shows.
From it's early days I recall the following as being outstanding videos -
Money For Nothing by Dire Straits,
Got my Mind Set On You by George Harrsion,
Legs by ZZ Top,
California Girls by David Lee Roth,
Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer.
These are the videos that both introduced and made MTV great for me. But that's just my mix taken from early memories. Throughout it's short lived history it gave prominence to many genres and artists arguably the most popular being Madonna and Michael Jackson. Without a doubt there were artists that used the channel to it's fullest potential and for the greatest personal gain. I mean this in a creative and artistic sense. But I fear that list is short and soon stems off to the generic and mundane.
The 90s and 00s gave rise to the likes of Green Day (Basket Case), Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Under the Bridge), Britney Spears (Hit Me Baby One More Time), Nelly (Hott in Herre), Busta Rhymes (Gimme Some More), Missy Elliott (I Can't Stand The Rain), Puff Daddy (as he was known then), Beastie Boys (Sabotage) and more. Seemingly gone were the rock band sets and message driven videos, and instead came the BLING. I'm not having a go, I enjoyed the shit out of every video featuring MA$E and anything touched by the hands of Spike Jones and Hype Williams. But MTV was selling out or cashing in or whatever you want to label it as. From ground breaking, to pushing boundaries to being outrageous for the sake of it in a span of some thirty years. Seems a far too early a demise to me, with all that potential squandered.
There were a lot of successful ideas and programming on MTV. I thought MTV Unplugged was genius. Capturing that on stage presence and intimate feeling worked to great effect especially with the likes of Nirvana, Alice in Chains and even Jay Z.
Animation thrived at MTV early on and mixed music and comedy via the likes of Beavis and Butthead. This show was the voice of a generation for sure, followed by Daria and Aeon Flux. I can happily watch re-runs of Beavis and Butthead and still find it funny as hell. I miss those guys. Thank you for everything Mike Judge.
Videos went from the simple band set up, to exquisite visual originality, to million dollar cinematic scenes, to strip club folly and finally to Maybachs being destroyed by African Americans in France's capital city. To me it's the same cycle of having a spread of food prepared, beautifully served, the enjoyment of eating it, having to digest it, then finally shitting it out.
Recording artists don't need videos. There I said it. I'm not entirely sure they ever did, maybe that's being harsh. I'm sure they were able to give messages and capture viewers minds from time to time. To what extent though is what's disheartening. Now music videos seem to be about which label/PR company has the deepest pocket for the most rotations playing between episodes of 16 and Pregnant, Date my Mom and Sex...with Mom and Dad. Umm surely those shows could easily be avoided by, oh never mind. So what do the artists get from making a video? As a fan I enjoy the visualisations of songs, but are we seeing what the artist intended or merely buying into the record companies marketing? How do we know what's real from what's been scripted by corporations and dictated by sponsorship? Playlist after same format playlist followed by ringtone and where to buy sex cushions adverts. The answer it would seem lays with our friend the Internet.
Once again, the internet is not just for porn. Grow up people. And put some pants on.
There are a number of sites dedicated to music videos none more so than Youtube (except possibly Vimeo which I don't actually understand yet). I will watch videos on Youtube of my favourite bands and artists and have yet to be let down by some ploy or gimmick directing me to buy toothpaste or to quench my thirst with a Coke. (deliberate oxymoron advertising thrown in there) I believe there still to be some integrity left in music videos and these can be found away from mainstream television and on devoted sites. Then again, there is a ton of shit also posted on such sites as is the nature of the world wide web. If you feel like your soul needs cleansing and your faith reaffirmed I beg you to watch the latest video by Everlast "Long At All" directed by Estevan Oriol.
If that video fails to move you, you might be better off watching something by Nicki Minaj featuring Chris Brown or Drake or some other bull shit eye and ear bleeding drivel nonsense. The internet allows you to choose exactly what you want to see. No more having to record three hours of television in the hope that the video you want gets played. No more youthful yet mindless vassals posing as VJs (oh how I miss Daisy Fuentes). Ask yourself what you are enjoying? Be it the message content, subject matter or maybe even directorial expertise, what can you honestly say has captured your imagination and keeps you entertained? If I wanted to hear rock whilst seeing women gyrate against poles then I'd visit a strip club. Show me something different.
To finish off this post, I will give credit to some of the programming on MTV. I have enjoyed the likes of Meet the Barkers and Run's House, and unreservedly LOVE Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory (as does my son).
So I'm not saying ALL the reality stuff is garbage, but branding something as educational when it's nothing more than shock and drama TV is my issue. And seriously, re-brand MTV to RealityTV or something more suitable. It does not deserve to be affiliated with that which it once was.
Video killed the radio star you say? The resurrection is here and (digital/satellite) radio is very much alive and kicking. Watching MTV in hope of finding anything music related may end up something like eating a box of crackerjacks and there being no prize inside. Gutted. In reality it tasted like shit didn't it.
It was always about the music. Peace.