Sunday, July 15, 2007

I want my eMpTyVee

I’m beating a dead horse here, I’m sure, but what happened to “Music Television”? Part of me wonders why artists even bother to make videos for their singles anymore( unless it’s to sell on DVD compilations) when the chances of the clip seeing serious airplay rotation are about the same as seeing Rosie O’Donnell in a thong doing a believable love scene with George Clooney.

As a teenager, I thought that music videos were a brilliant concept. In early 1984, in my freshman year, there were after-school video shows, and on the USA Network there were shows like Friday Night Videos and the Saturday night Nightflight all-video show. These were in addition to the fledgling MTV, which was barely 3 years old at the time and still played vids all day & night. For a not-quite-15 year old music fanatic like me, this was simply the coolest shit, indeed.

There was even an MTV for “old” people over 30 starting in 1985 called VH-1, also playing videos 24/7.

Life was good. Then something went HORRIBLY wrong.

Sometime in 1987 or so, MTV’s focus shifted, and Music Television started to become Miscellaneous Television by abandoning the all-video format and doing “shows”. Granted, not all of it was bad. Liquid Television gave exposure to avant-garde animators like Peter Chung, and for better or worse the American public was gifted with Beavis & Butthead and Ren & Stimpy. Then the 90’s saw the MTV Unplugged phenomenon, which was pretty cool for awhile. But for every novel concept there was a plethora of complete and utter GOBSHITE. Such drivel and dreck as Remote Control, The Grind, Made, Jackass, Road Rules, Next, Date My Mom, My Super Sweet Sixteen, and the worst offender of all, The Real World, which spawned the genre of reality TV. Bastards...

Even once-clever ideas like Cribs or Pimp My Ride have become trite, jaded mockeries of their original selves. Cribs was a chance to look inside the homes of celebrities and see how they lived. Now they struggle to find people to showcase, so now you get to see the third-string quarterback for the Houston Texans show off the obligatory fridge full of Cristal champagne and stating that the bedroom is “where awl da' magic happens” before showing off a bloated garage full of SUV’s and sports cars and a giant-screen TV home theater.

Pimp My Ride has gone from a really novel customization of broken-down cars for needy young adults to seeing just how much ridiculous and goofy-assed shit you can bolt onto a 400 dollar hooptie just for the sake of doing it.

VH-1 is no better. They play more videos than MTV by far, but after the obligatory 3-4 ours of music in the early morning, their litany of lame-assed shows starts up. Only they have fewer to choose from and thus repeat them ad nauseum, flogging the entire stable of dead horses in marathons of Celebrity Fat Camp, Surreal Life, the train wreckages of the Flavor of Love shows, Hoboken’s Next Top Model, and the I Love the 70/80/90’s shows. The “I Love…” shows are cute nostalgia the first time; after 25 viewings, not so much.

In 1996 MTV tried to get back to its music roots by launching M2 (later called MTV2), intended to show videos again, with a more eclectic and alternative mix, and now it’s all rap and rap-related shows when not playing repeats of other MTV shows. VH-1 finally launched VH-1 Classic to pander to old farts who remember videos, playing clips from the 70’s and 80’s, new clips from older artists, and occasionally dusting off the old alternative vids left in the vault from MTV’s “120 Minutes”, circa 1987.

There’s other choices out there if you dig around a bit. Fuse TV is a pseudo-music channel catering to the 17-year old text-messaging Emo crowd, but they’re a pale shadow of what they could be. I don’t get Much Music on my provider, so I miss out on Canada’s answer to MTV. Instead, I now watch a lot of IMF, the International Music Feed, which plays vids and interviews 24/7 from all over the world and from a lot of different genres. In the space of a typical hour you can see bands from Ireland, Italy, Ukraine, Finland, England, Germany, Japan, and Brazil, all singing in their native languages. I’ve been exposed to some cool stuff that I’d never see elsewhere, even if I don’t always understand the lyrics. But, good music and good songs are good no matter what the language.

So, if you’re like me and you miss the good old days of real videos and not some rehashed gobbledygook bullshit, take heart. It’s still out there but you gotta dig deeper to find the nuggets of gold. Or, do what the real die-hards do: search out stuff on You Tube. Crap quality streaming of an old Smiths video beats watching Hulk Hogan raise his kids any day.

No comments: