Music Television in serious need of music renaissance

The outdated moniker of the former cultural gem is perhaps a sign that it’s time for reinvention.

The outdated moniker of the former cultural gem is perhaps a sign that it’s time for reinvention.

Video may have killed the radio star, but MTV killed the music video. The very medium music videos were created for has given up and sent them packing. steve ciccarelli public eyeglass

Where can music videos be seen now? For some time, Top 40 videos went the way of the buffalo – to VH1. But now, even VH1 has given up on videos, barely playing any Nickelback and Rihanna clips during the old standby, the overnight.

Asking what happened to music videos brings up another question: What happened to MTV in general? Maybe it’s just my nostalgia creeping back up, but hasn’t MTV gotten out of hand? What happened to Dan Cortez, Bill Bellamy and Rock ‘N’ Jock games? They’ve been replaced with some girl whose eyes are always pointed toward the sky, a couple of morons who have taken over the tabloids and Ray J. That’s right, Ray J. How low can MTV go? Ray J. low, apparently.

A few years ago, World Wrestling Entertainment went into its vast tape library and started a new channel completely devoted to old shows. While WWE Classics is an on-demand only feature, why isn’t MTV devoting another channel to programming that people might actually miss? They got rid of videos in the ‘90s, resigning them to MTV2, MTV Hits and MTV X (which I miss dearly), but what about the great shows that came after?

Hear me out for a second, MTV Classic. Simple name, simple logo (the old MTV Moon Man with flag) and some of the best shows on TV – Daria, Beavis and Butthead, Rock ‘N’ Jock, MTV Sports, Remote Control, Aeon Flux, The State (which finally saw a DVD release earlier this year and effectively knocked out a week of my summer), old seasons of the Real World/Road Rules series – it’s genuinely stupid for MTV to not make this happen. Viewers in their 20s to 40s can go back to when MTV was relevant, and young people might realize MTV was once more than a channel that tied bad album releases into the soundtrack for this week’s The Hills.

Look at all the careers MTV launched. The cast list of Undressed alone reads like a who’s who of new Hollywood – Brandon Routh, Adam Brody, Christina Hendricks, Chad Michael Murray (is he still on the cover of teen rags everywhere?) and Jay Hernandez, among others.

Back to the music videos: Don’t you think videos would have taken an upswing after the advent of YouTube? Talking with a writer friend last night, we brought up the fact that music videos used to be an event. Now, there are almost too many videos, but none made by the actual artist. Search any band popular with teens, and you’ll find homemade music videos, movie clips pieced together and even clips from anime series all making new videos.

At this point, my friend came at me with something I hadn’t thought of:

“People are always searching for live videos on YouTube, so music videos don’t really get too many clicks.”

Exactly. I do the same thing. Thanks to the Flip Ultra, we now have a market flooded with HD camcorders for less than the cost of a Nintendo DS. What are these cameras being used for? Taping live music performances. I recently found a video of a show I was at that looked even better from a distant perspective.

Music videos reached their apex in the mid ‘90s. Michael and Janet Jackson’s “Scream” was such a cultural phenomenon that videos were treated as royalty. In fact, any random major label band would get a whole day of premiering on MTV2. Overkill, folks, is what ruins everything. Something gets semi-popular, and it’s ruined.

MTV though, has remained culturally relevant (to some extent). The Ruins is still awesome; though it may be a trashy addiction on par with Jerry Springer, but that’s really the only show that’s worth it’s salt on the channel anymore.

No videos is one thing, but bad TV is another. When MTV phased videos to other channels, it was okay, but the only things that kept them in the game are gone. Has any other cultural phenomenon on par with MTV strayed further away from its original concept? I can’t think of any, and that’s a strong case for why MTV needs to die.

MTV needs to die in the same way famous artists and musicians at the heart of this music video debate often do – for their music to be born again.

Steve Ciccarelli can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. Indie bands still have pretty good videos on the web. I think it’s a pretty good scenario: I hear or read about a new band (that MTV never would have played anyway if they are unsigned) whether at a show in a club or bar, on the web, late night talk show or maybe even a radio station ( in NYC plays some indie bands and posts the playlist on the website). I do a search, find the band on MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, hear some more songs, watch a few videos (live shows and traditional music videos), join the fan club, download the album, and (my favorite part) go see the band live when they play locally! And I’ll even buy the CD of the music I downloaded so I can get an autograph on it! It’s much better than the old paradigm of: hear song on radio, see video on MTV, go to the mall to buy the record (and make a tape for the car!), wait for stadium tour, wait a couple years for next album… (I produced a couple of the live ones here, but the MTV-style videos are my favorites.)

    So who needs MTV for music? I think shows like True Life and 16 and Pregnant are a good idea, to show the unglamorous consequences of life decisions.

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