A couple weeks ago, I finally broke down and bought a Kindle book reader from Amazon. Why now you ask? First, I may have been a something of a Luddite; resisting the Kindle because I was supposed to support the physical book. Or maybe not. Second, as I sit here in my living room and look at a bookcase full of actual books that I never touched, I found that I was spending more time reading on my laptop than picking up an actual book. Now my goal is to replace those books with electronic ones and start reading on the Kindle.
This opening paragraph relates to the title of this post in this way: the first book I finished on the Kindle was called I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks. The book is similar in format to the Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, as well as Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World of ESPN by the same authors. The MTV book gives an oral history of the channel from interviews with artists and people who created and worked at the channel from its early days through its music video heyday, which ended sometime around the early to mid-nineties, or around the time The Real World came on and basically changed the format of the channel.
But what’s the question that’s always asked, by those of us who grew up with MTV as a cultural touchstone?
Why doesn’t MTV play music videos anymore?
The book answers the question one way. The video below answers the question in its own way (semi-NSFW; bleeped out expletives abound).
Hilarious, but not without some truth to it. And I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to change back to the way we remember it.
Who can forget waiting for Yo! MTV Raps to come on with Dre and Ed Lover? How we camped in front of the set to see the premiere of Michael Jackson’s Thriller? When seeing a new music video by your favorite artist was a big event?
How Michael Jackson broke the glass ceiling that kept R&B and other black-oriented music videos from even airing on the channel? The VJs? Can you name the original five? Let’s see…there was J. J. Jackson, Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood and Mark Goodman (thanks to the book, I rememered him). I definitely remember “Downtown” Julie Brown (wubba wubba wubba!). And then after that era, not too much else. Fact is, once I got into my twenties, MTV started drifting away from my consciousness. And of course, there were other channels that came along to provide competition, even MTV’s sister channel VH-1. Not to mention BET, CMT, etc. Who needed MTV when you could watch videos on those channels?
There is a larger post that can be written about how the consumption of music has changed the importance of the music video. Yet they still appear, mostly on YouTube. And they can even be found occasionally on television, just not all day long and with the frequency they used to back in the day. MTV does still have a music video awards show, though; so there must be enough of them out there to choose the best of the best. Just don’t look for them in huge blocks of their network’s programming.