Wednesday, February 17, 2010

MTV: What Happened?!

Apparently MTV has dropped the "music television" part of its logo, in an effort to rebrand itself yet again. Despite the success of Jersey Shore, they really seem to be staggering along blindly when it comes to connecting with the youth market, as previously written about in my Alexa Chung post. MTV and VH1 are mere shells of their former selves, desperately trying to stuff one more Tila Tequila Humps A Dog for Money reality TV show into their tired line-up.

It's sad because MTV, you used to be cool. Sort of! Showing music videos is cool (though the fact that they didn't want to show those of non-white artists in the 80's when they started, is, of course, not.) Beavis and Butthead, Daria, a focus on Prince when he was popular, and even the original Jackass made MTV worth watching. You may recall that even Daniel Johnston was discovered by MTV.

And the same for VH1! I spent much of high school watching their "Top 100 [whatever] Albums/Band/Etc" shows that relied too heavily on Dee Snider's opinion, but were still pretty interesting. And there was the truly brilliant Behind the Music, where I learned the Go-Gos used to be really punk rock and made a "sex tape" which featured them in long dresses, mumbling incoherently in a coke-addled haze and forcing their male roadies to do it with each other or something. I saw Patti Smith for the first time on one of those channels, performing "Horses" in the 70's, which of course blew my mind. And who can forget their first video ever, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles? That song is 80's pop gold.

Obviously, MTV has always been corporate. It's always been suspicious when a huge company decides to market themselves to the youth in a hip and cool fashion, but for a time, it made sense. They managed to straddle the line between the two worlds, and while I'm sure they always put out plenty of crap, there was plenty of good stuff too. They had a perspective.

If I were the CEO of MTV, I wouldn't lose all this stuff. They can still have Jersey Shore and True Life (admittedly, a pretty great show) but I think the success of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" video showed that people are still into music videos as a format. And even though the overall music scene isn't what it once was, it's still worth tapping into the market and trying to find stars and all that exploitative shit that MTV was once all about. How about a music and culture show that isn't so forced and weird like It's On seemed to be? What about hipsters? How about some more direct exploitation of them? I've lived in cities with interesting local music scenes, but MTV is just too interested in Bret Michaels humping a dog to get into that. And once you show Bret Micheals weave one too many times, you start to lose your cache, you know? And become a grotesque version of what you once were? Who runs these channels? What are they doing?!


Simone said...

What I don't understand is, what is the M gonna stand for now, if they are dropping "music" from their station name? Murder? Milk? Mommy? I mean, really, come on, MTV! There are pages and pages I could write about how great some of their programming used to be, and yes, The Jersey Shore is entertaining, but it the worst kind of gross way, but I think Amanda Marcotte wrote a really good piece about this over on that you should probably read instead, for I am not so eloquent or well-thought-out as her.

And, I never thought I would defend Alexa Chung (she wears the worst clothes! the worst!) but she actually does care about "independent" music. The Screaming Females performed on her show this summer, and apparently she went out of her way to convince her producer and whoever to have them on, after seeing them play. She did an interview with them too but the network cut it out. Anyway, for that reason I kinda have a soft spot for her. But I think her show was just canceled anyway, it was kinda super awkward.

kaitlin said...