MTV: What hast thou become?
This story was not written by me, but a fellow blogger, and I agree with him 110%!!
So I just checked the TV listings and the only times that MTV plays videos these days is from 5am to 7am. I guess I had assumed, mistakenly, that TRL or some variation thereof was still on the air. I find this interesting for a few reasons. Of course, there is the glaring fact that MTV stands for Music Television yet less than 10% of its programming is devoted to music. And I could of course point out the fact that many of the Television shows that MTV does air aren't even related to music at all -- shows such as "My Sweet 16" and "Made" come to mind. But I want to focus on something else here. I want to focus on the fact that MTV, for better or worse, has essentially become the cable TV version of US Magazine and TMZ.com. With that said, I've seen more episodes of Real World than should legally be allowed for a heterosexual male, and for the most part, I enjoy much of its programming. The mystique, however, is gone.
Without question, MTV has lost part of the allure that made it so great when people in or around my age group were growing up. I can thank MTV for introducing me to an array of diverse musical acts, from RUN DMC to Guns n Roses to Peter Gabriel to Michael Jackson and NWA. Unlike the current state of affairs, MTV used to be a way to explore new musical genres and be exposed to new artists. Shows such as Headbangers Ball and Yo! MTV Raps were instrumental in shaping the music that kids were exposed to, and subsequently became interested in. As a kid I remember flipping through channels and becoming enthralled with Def Leppard. I remember watching Will Smith rap at a time when it was actually cool to listen to Will Smith rapping. I remember where I was the first time I heard "Dre Day" on TV. From Offspring to Bone Thugs-n- Harmony, I can recall a plethora of bands that I would have otherwise been oblivious to had it not been for MTV. MTV, believe it or not, used to expose music to the masses.
But as time marched on, MTV began a slow and steady transformation. Though MTV had long been a place to watch original TV shows such as "The State", "True Life", and "Beavis and Butthead", those shows were always just the icing on the cake so to speak, a temporary reprieve from the music. Eventually, however, the shows MTV began airing started to become less original, more trashy, less focused, and more ridiculous. Shows such as "The State" (one of the funniest and most original sketch comedy shows of all time), for example, had something of substance to offer it's viewers. Now I turn on MTV and I see spoiled 15 year old bitches complaining to their parents about how they want a BMW convertible for their birthday. Hell, when I was 15, I was happy enough to watch Alicia Silverstone make out with a dude on the back of a motorcycle in an Aerosmith video. MTV used to be a place where you could either catch music or watch rising stars such as Adam Sandler and Jon Stewart before they became household names. Now, MTV is a place where you watch some douchebag named Spencer talk about nonsense to some lame ass girls who probably wouldn't have even made the cut for Singled Out, or even the classic "MTV Spring Break!" series.
MTV's disinterest in putting out quality shows was also reflected in the music they chose to promote. Somewhere along the way, MTV devolved from a station that promoted certifiable stars such as Michael Jackson and Guns n Roses to a station that promoted gimmicky and atrocious songs such as the "Macarena" and "Who let the dogs out". Because MTV primarily avoids music related programming these days, I can't help but wonder how this affects the musical interests of kids growing up. And the wild card in all of this is the Internet. Maybe kids are exposed to new music via other avenues these days and I'm just an old(er) man who is out of the loop. I suppose that kids today can just hop onto iTunes and browse an insanely large library of music that would have made the 12 year old me drool in envy. Perhaps, in the end, MTV's transformation was inevitable due to the fact that it's no longer the only game in town. Perhaps, the music video is obsolete.
Is MTV relevant anymore? Yes, but in an entirely different way. MTV can no longer 'make' an artist or band the way it used to be able to, but it does have the frightening ability to seemingly create stardom out of nothing for its reality show cast members. And in today's gossip hungry and voyeuristic society, apparently that's all you need to stay relevant. MTV doesn't play music anymore and it hasn't for quite sometime. I'm fine with it, but it's sort of interesting that a station that once had its hands on the pulse of American music has become a variation of SoapNet. And if every show on MTV was quality, then I'd be the last person complaining. But I just don't have any need to see a second season of "Tila Tequila" or 5 straight hours of "Life of Ryan". I don't think anybody does.