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Did MTV Kill the Video Star?

 

I remember watching the first moment MTV launched: August 1st 1981, and I was a college freshman. I was a music performance major, and the idea of this new found “music video” media caused a major frenzy with all the music major students.

 

We all gathered at a local hangout to watch the launch. First video: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles.

 

Did it?

 

For many years after that, while I was a touring musician, much of our influence on what we played—and the set lists we chose—stemmed from what we watched on MTV.

 

And then it happened. MTV wandered off to some sort of “reality” show mash-up of remotely music-related fodder. They seemed to have lost touch with their roots. Somewhere, some group of executives sat around a boardroom table and decided that music videos were falling out of favor and didn’t have relevance anymore. The result: MTV was no longer the industry standard it had been for about three decades.

 

Granted, it’s important to change with the times. For example, car companies started changing their line to more gas-efficient cars—but they didn’t change to making lawnmowers just because both used internal combustion engines. MTV could have leveraged its cachet to become a streaming service before Spotify or Pandora took over the world, or even partnered with iTunes. Whatever— their lack of vision about what to do with music turned them from MTV to…well, TV.

 

After watching a few minutes of the MTV music awards this past weekend, I realized that MTV seems to have not only jumped the shark, but pole-vaulted past it. And it’s not just me: according to Entertainment Weekly, despite Miley Cyrus’ attempts to ‘up’ ratings with her “breast baring” stunt, the award show continues to lose its audience. Viewership is down 5% from 2014 and a whopping 18% down from 2013.

 

After a while it dawned on me that I just couldn’t watch this anymore. I was interested in music, not Miley Cyrus’s ”hey, look at me!!” costume changes. I had better things to do, like watch paint dry.

 

And to top it all—Kanye West was awarded the Video Vanguard Award (MTV’s version of the lifetime achievement honor). Really? Have they heard this guy sing? (Kanye vs. Mercury) I’m not sure what they were piping in through the ventilation ducts, or handing out in the MTV Awards goodie bags, but someone there apparently thought it a good idea to give an admittedly high Kanye the microphone so he could go on a 13 minute, 52 second speech about who knows what. It was the most disjointed speech I’ve ever witnessed—which is saying a lot, considering the incoherence of many political speeches—and to make matters worse, he “announced” his bid for the presidency in 2020. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he did not mean Presidency of the United States.

 

Will MTV recover from the 2015 awards show? During MTV’s heyday, you’d remember the videos for some songs as much, if not more, than the music itself (“Take on Me,” anyone?). The aural and visual stimulant served the music well. Maybe MTV should take music videos to the next level instead of retreating into formula TV…but no, that would take work and creativity, which were two elements conspicuously missing from the MTV awards show.

 

As for me, I now know to cross the MTV Music Awards off my list of music-related shows to watch each year. Thankfully, there’s always Vevo, YouTube, and plenty of other places to watch music videos. But the lesson is clear: if you want to see your target audience decrease year after year, work hard on becoming less and less relevant.

 

For those who made the wise decision not to give up a few hours of their lives they’d never get back, here’s a recap of the winners.

 

Video of the Year:

Beyoncé - "7/11"

Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud"

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood" -- WINNER

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"

Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"

 

Best Male Video:

Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud"

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk" -- WINNER

Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"

The Weeknd - "Earned It"

Nick Jonas - "Chains"

 

Best Female Video:

Beyoncé - "7/11"

Taylor Swift - "Blank Space" -- WINNER

Nicki Minaj - "Anaconda"

Sia - "Elastic Heart"

Ellie Goulding - "Love Me Like You Do"

 

Best Hip Hop Video:

Fetty Wap - "Trap Queen"

Nicki Minaj - "Anaconda" -- WINNER

Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"

Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth - "See You Again"

Big Sean ft. E-40 - "IDFWU"

 

Best Pop Video:

Beyoncé - "7/11"

Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud"

Taylor Swift - "Blank Space" -- WINNER

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"

Maroon 5 - "Sugar"

 

Best Rock Video:

Hozier - "Take Me To Church"

Fall Out Boy - "Uma Thurman" -- WINNER

Florence + the Machine - "Ship To Wreck"

Walk the Moon - "Shut Up and Dance"

Arctic Monkeys - "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?"

 
Artist to Watch:

Fetty Wap - "Trap Queen" -- WINNER

Vance Joy - "Riptide"

George Ezra - "Budapest"

James Bay - "Hold Back The River"

FKA Twigs - "Pendulum"

 

Best Collaboration:

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood" -- WINNER

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"

Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth - "See You Again"

Ariana Grande & The Weeknd - "Love Me Harder"

Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj - "Bang Bang"

 

Video With a Social Message:

Jennifer Hudson - "I Still Love You"

Colbie Caillat - "Try"

Big Sean ft. Kanye West and John Legend - "One Man Can Change the World" -- WINNER

Rihanna - "American Oxygen"

Wale - "The White Shoes"

Song of the Summer:

David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj, Afrojack & Bebe Rexha - "Hey Mama"

Demi Lovato - "Cool For The Summer"

Fetty Wap ft. Monty - "My Way"

Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink - "Worth It"

Five Seconds of Summer - "She's Kinda Hot" -- WINNER

Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. MØ - "Lean On"

OMI - "Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)"

Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky - "Good For You"

Silento - "Watch Me"

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood"

The Weeknd - "Can't Feel My Face"

 

PROFESSIONAL CATEGORIES

 

Best Art Direction:

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood" (Charles Infante)

Snoop Dogg - "So Many Pros" (Jason Fijal) -- WINNER

Jack White - "Would You Fight For My Love" (Jeff Peterson)

The Chemical Brothers - "Go" (Michel Gondry)

Skrillex & Diplo - "Where Are U Now" with Justin Bieber (Brewer)

 

Best Choreography:

Beyoncé - "7/11" (Beyoncé, Chris Grant, Additional choreography: Gabriel Valenciano)

OK Go - "I Won’t Let You Down" (OK Go, air:man and Mori Harano) -- WINNER

Chet Faker - "Gold" (Ryan Heffington)

Ed Sheeran - "Don’t" (Nappy Tabs)

Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Never Catch Me" (Keone and Mari Madrid)

 

Best Cinematography:

Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Never Catch Me" (Larkin Sieple) -- WINNER

Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud" (Daniel Pearl)

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood" (Christopher Probst)

FKA Twigs - "Two Weeks" (Justin Brown)

Alt-J - "Left Hand Free" (Mike Simpson)

 

Best Direction:

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood" (Joseph Kahn)

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk" (Bruno Mars and Cameron Duddy)

Kendrick Lamar - "Alright" (Colin Tilley & The Little Homies) -- WINNER

Hozier - "Take Me To Church" (Brendan Canty, Conal Thomson)

Childish Gambino - "Sober" (Hiro Murai)

 

Best Editing:

Beyoncé - "7/11" (Beyoncé, Ed Burke, Jonathan Wing) -- WINNER

Ed Sheeran - "Don’t" (Jacquelyn London)

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood" (Chancler Haynes at Cosmo Street)

A$AP Rocky - "L$D" (Dexter Navy)

Skrillex & Diplo - "Where Are U Now" with Justin Bieber (Brewer)

 

Best Visual Effects:

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood" (Ingenuity Studios)

FKA Twigs - "Two Weeks" (Gloria FX, Tomash Kuzmytskyi, and Max Chyzhevskyy)

Childish Gambino - "Telegraph Ave." (Gloria FX)

Skrillex & Diplo - "Where Are U Now" with Justin Bieber (Brewer) -- WINNER

Tyler, The Creator - "F****** Young/Death Camp" (Gloria FX)

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.

 

 

 

 

3 comments
Join the discussion...
Post Comment
oneflightup  |  September 13, 2015 at 9:48 am
Great article! I totally agree with you.

But I reckon, if you're into music, stay away from the TV...

 :)

Nick
http://www.oneflightup.com.au
Reply
Fred Fartboski  |  September 02, 2015 at 12:27 pm
Yes. So sad to watch MTV lose it's relevancy over the decades. But like most every other commercial network they decided to follow the "let's find out what kind of programming is bringing in the highest returns in ad revenue and go with that" model.
Reply
Mikeo  |  September 02, 2015 at 11:44 am
I’m not even sure MTV even plays music videos these days. I remember the days when they did though. Somewhere back in the late 80’s there was a writers strike, and this strike would unleash 25 years of  the reality shows format that the networks has slammed down the throats of TV viewers. I don’t know how many reality TV shows are on now, Honey Boo and the Paranormal, but there’s a lot. It’s to the point where I rarely watch TV. Not that I was a big TV watcher anyway. The MTV music award now has nothing to do with music, as much as it has to do with the bizarre and celebrity recognition.  The ruder, the less humble a celebrity is these days the more attention they draw to themselves. Good or bad attention it doesn’t matter, because if they are talking about you, tweeting about you, somehow you are still relevant. There’s plenty of other ways to hear great music, as mentioned.  The thing is if you did around a bit on Youtube, you will quickly find the music biz has never been better. Maybe not so much the business side, but that artistic side, proves there a ton of talent out there and something for just about any taste in music.    
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