Music to return to MTV….in a way
Did video kill the radio star? Did the music video destroy mainstream music? Would Madonna, Brittany Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and other stars of the video era have been as successful (or successful at all) in the ’60s or ’70s? All are great questions and I will attempt to answer them, but first let me state an undeniable fact: while the mainstream music of the ’80s and ’90s came nowhere near that of previous decades- and was in fact pretty bad for the most part- it was considerably better than the shit that the top 40 station plays these days. During the 2000s, the music videos became less and less important and by the end of the decade some were even declaring them dead.
There were and are many fundamental problems with having a television network dedicated solely to music. Inevitably, the “hottest” performers became the biggest stars. While that has always been true in some fashion, particularly in pop music, in the ’60s and ’70s artists like Janis Joplin and Lynyrd Skynyrd could still become stars. There’s a reason why Bob Seger’s career faltered after the early ’80s. Not that the quality of his music worsened- indeed The Distance could be his masterpiece. It was the fact that the 40-ish bearded rocker could not compete with Michael Jackson and Prince (nothing personal- while I’m not a fan, both are at least talented in some respect). In short, the MTV market ensured that Jon Bon Jovi would become a household name while Joe Grushecky would become a minor footnote. True, Tom Petty and ZZ Top defied those odds, but only because of gimmicks: in ZZ Top’s case the beards, the cars, and the hot girls, in Petty’s the fact that he made some of the most creative and weird videos of the era (see “You Got Lucky”).
Yet one can’t deny that there wasn’t some good things that happened because of MTV. The video for Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” is a work of art no matter how you look at it and John Mellencamp’s “Rain on the Scarecrow” pointed out social ills by prefacing the video with interviews from actual farmers. They broadcast the Live Aid concert in its entirety and created shows specifically focusing on alternative rock, metal, and even hip-hop, all of which were underground movements at the time. And then there’s Unplugged which showcased many exceptional artists from all genres: Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, the aforementioned Mellencamp, Tony Bennett, Alanis Morissette, R.E.M., Alice in Chains. k.d. lang, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, and on and on. The great thing about the show was the intimate setting which allowed the performer to connect with the audience both in the studio and at home.
But MTV no longer shows Unplugged or music videos. Turn there now and you will see a reality show of some sort, most likely. Not a reality show like American Idol (which also sucks) either. Nope, Music Television now has nothing at all to do with music.
But that is about to change…sort of. And best of all? Not only will they be showing music videos again, but they will also be mocking the mainstream pop music heard on the videos.
According to the New York Post:
“Beavis and Butt-head” — the show that celebrated the slacker way of life and helped make MTV into a network that did more than just play music videos — is coming back.
The move to resurrect the hugely popular 1990s animated anti-heroes has been rumored for several days. But yesterday, sources at MTV confirmed that a new batch of “Beavis and Butt-head” episodes are in the works.
The new series would keep Beavis and Butt-head in their perpetual high-school state, but it would be updated so that the pals — who obsessively watch music videos on a battered TV set — could lob their snarky comments at more current targets like Lady Gaga…..The return of “Beavis and Butt-head” will be a backdoor means for MTV to return to showing music videos — something the network was founded upon but abandoned in the last decade to make room for popular reality shows like “Laguna Beach”, “The Hills”, and “Jersey Shore”.
Of course, there will still be problems with MTV. It is highly doubtful that they will show many independent artists even if they do start showing videos on a regular basis. However it is possible that they will play at least some good artists with the rise in popularity of independent music over the last decade or so. But regardless, having somebody to say “this sucks” when a Miley Cyrus or Lil Wayne video begins is a definite step in the right direction.