Trend suggests decline in music video culture

Jeffrey Yerger

Oh Sting, where art thou? You wanted your MTV, but did it ever come?

MTV used to be a simple and humble station that played nothing but music.

Yes, you heard me right. Nowadays, MTV and VH1 have become pop-culture juggernauts that have forgotten their musical roots.

Where’s our generation’s “Thriller,” what happened to the VJs and more importantly, where have all the music videos gone?

MTV has been in a fast decline for the past decade. Ratings have been going down (especially for the VMA awards), the quality of its programming has been mediocre to say the least and music videos are nowhere to be found.

Needless to say, it has lost its charisma, unpredictability and influence that it has been known for since the beginning.

Back in the day, MTV was influential in introducing viewers to a wide range of acts; everything from Run-DMC to Guns N’ Roses was on rotation.

With shows like “Headbanger’s Ball” to “Yo! MTV Raps,” MTV – believe it or not – introduced new bands and genres to people and was quite innovative for its age.

But as time went on, MTV began a slow decline.

Sure, shows like “Beavis and Butthead” and “True Life” might have provided a temporary relief from the continuous showcase of music, but when you turn on a channel that’s titled “Music TV,” you expect to find just that: music!

Everyone remembers the famous “MTV Unplugged” sessions of Nirvana and Eric Clapton, but even after the success of those concerts, the series got devoured by the mother of all reality shows: “The Real World.”

Little did MTV know that with that first season of “The Real World,” they created a growing and expanding reality TV monster, and boy did it ever expand, spawning the likes of “Road Rules,” “Made,” “Laguna Beach” and everyone’s favorite brat-fest, “My Super Sweet 16.”

Who in their right minds would watch such a pathetic display?

Every once and a while I’ll turn on MTV, hoping that maybe I’ll catch a music video, but instead I find a spoiled 15 year old who is throwing a tantrum because her mom got her a BMW instead of a Mercedes for her birthday.

Heck, when I was 15, I was happy enough just dreaming about driving a Mercedes.

At least “Life of Ryan” poses two important questions: who is Ryan and why do we care?

And just when you thought MTV couldn’t stoop any lower, they introduce “Tila Tequila” and VH1’s “Flavor of Love” to the world, giving people all over America hope that maybe one day they too can date a MySpace fad and a sold-out rapper for at least a day.

Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free, right?

What happened to the music and the visual beauty that went along with it? Music videos used to be so unique and entertaining.

You knew you made it big when your video got played on MTV; that’s how prestigious it actually was.

An artist’s mindset when making a video for a song was that it had to coincide with and add something to the song; otherwise there would be no point in making a video. MTV offered an opportunity that bands never had before in which songs could be brought to life on the TV screen.

Some artists really took advantage of this new idea. Peter Gabriel pushed the limits with his music, and his award-winning videos for “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” affirmed his innovative ways. A-ha became famous for its ground-breaking video for its hit “Take On Me,” in which cartoons and the real world clash.

Later in 2001, Incubus produced a similar video for its song “Drive.”

“Take On Me” is a perfect example of how music videos cannot only add a whole new element to a song but be entertaining as well.

When MTV or VH1 actually decides to play music videos (which is usually in the wee hours of the morning), the quality of these videos is noticeably pathetic.

Most of the videos today aren’t clever, visually stimulating or even entertaining.

They’re basically just long commercials promoting a single or a band.

What hurts the most is that there are good music videos out there, but they never get any airtime.

Remember Eminem’s video for “Stan”? As much of a controversial figure as he was, you have to admit that that particular video was pretty powerful.

Even the Foo Fighters have made some clever and quite humorous videos in their day, including their most recent one for “Long Road to Ruin.”

Last year, U2 made a music video for their song “Window in the Skies,” which paid homage to all their musical influences as they spliced together various clips of performance by legends like Aretha Franklin, George Harrison, Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra and others to make it look like they’re actually singing the song. It’s a brilliant video, but did it get any play by MTV? Not one bit.

The future of music TV in general doesn’t look too bright. MTV Music Group Chief Van Toffler says that the future of the MTV network “is not going to be strictly reality-based,” and that they’re “looking at a bunch of scripted stuff from filmmakers.”

But what about the music? There are millions of talented artists out there in every genre that deserve to be heard, but there aren’t any opportunities on MTV or VH1 for these bands to promote themselves.

YouTube has become the answer for a lot of these bands, especially for OK Go and its goofy treadmill dancing video for “Here We Go Again,” which turned into a cult classic before it even hit TV.

Whatever happened to the “music” in “music TV”?

It’s a shame because MTV used to be the home of all things music.

Now it’s just a place where you watch a couple of blockheads get in a semi-intense battle using “yo momma” jokes.

Apparently there’s no better way to represent your ‘hood than to tell your enemy how old their mother is while being judged by Fez from “That ’70s Show.”

Now if you will excuse me, “The Hills” just came on … where’s the remote?