Remember when MTV Played Music?

Happy New Year to all my readers who are on a Gregorian Calendar.  Why we celebrate the Earth completing a rotation around the sun seems a bit beneath my scope, but I digress.

Think back to the last time you saw a bona fide music video on MTV.  How old were you? Who was president? What age had you celebrated on your most recent birthday?  It would seem that a once groundbreaking, amazing TV channel has now become a mass-market hash-slinger that produces slop for the intellectually deficient.  One look at the fact that MTV aired THREE different versions of a reality show called “Teen Mom” should be proof enough of the plebeian dullards to whom MTV now caters.

Further evidence of MTV’s love of marketability at the expense of quality is the fact that it named Miley Cyrus one of its best artists of 2013.  I wouldn’t even put Miley Cyrus in my list of top thousand performers of all-time.  But, she’s the flavor of the month and MTV sells ads.  Do the math.  Oh, and I’m sure Miley Cyrus would be famous even without daddy’s help.

MTV used to be the place where new artists were clamoring to showcase their talent.  MTV was to musicians what “The Tonight Show” was to stand-up comics.  (YouTube has since dethroned both of those, however.) MTV is how I was introduced to artists like The Smashing Pumpkins, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Metallica, and incalculable others.  MTV had shows like “Yo! MTV Raps” “Total Request Live”, “MTV Jamz” and, my personal favorite “Unplugged.”  I’ll never forget an episode of “Unplugged” featuring Alice in Chains performing where you could tell Layne Staley was so high on Heroin that he could barely sit up and yet he still managed to belt out every song perfectly.  “Unplugged” allowed a look at legendary artists like Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pearl Jam playing acoustic versions of their work.  I would not have taken it for granted at the time had I known that the whole music scene was going to end up right in the dumper.

Also, don’t forget the VJs who would “host” each block of music videos and give you interesting tidbits about the videos.  I can remember learning about the artistic technique “trompe l’oiel” or “tricking the eye” from Ananda Lewis when she introduced the video for the Metallica song “The Memory Remains” which was new at the time.  Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren presenting insider industry facts on MTV news were also staples of the channel.

MTV had experimental shows like “Beavis and Butthead” who really rewrote the rule book about what an “adult” cartoon should be and was interspersed with their commentary on various music videos of the time and a soupcon of pop culture skewering. MTV’s “Oddities”, “Daria” and “Aeon Flux” were also very intelligent, cerebral shows that catered to people who actually read books once in a while and turned to MTV as an alternative to the mainstream media.  Indeed, MTV has now become a shill and mascot for mainstream media which shows how far it has fallen.


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