Can MTV Return to the Glory Days of Music Videos?
By Jett Wells Posted Nov 7th 2010 02:30PM
Mr. Hyde is what you see today, a network without an identity and invested more in teenage humor, publicity stunts and 'Jersey Shore.' If you grew up watching MTV in the '90s, you probably don't watch MTV today because music videos and 'TRL' ('Total Request Live,' yeah, the days of Carson Daly) have been replaced by pregnant teenagers and indie redheads from Texas.
Now MTV wants us to believe that's all changing, that they can move back to the glory days of music videos. Read on.
Vulture reported that MTV has taken on a new series where they'll finance music videos to turn them into epic dramas -- in other words, really expensive, cool-looking music videos with good directors. The series is called 'Supervideo,' and it officially started with a new video for LCD Soundsystem's 'Pow Wow,' featuring Oscar-nominee Anna Kendrick of 'Twilight' and 'Up in the Air' fame.
Can this series revitalize the cultural relevance of music videos once again, or is it just a pet project to please MTV's older fans? Simple answer: MTV gave birth to the music video, it killed the music video, and it still won't resurrect the music video -- at least not to what it once was.
The effort is led by publisher of Mean Magazine, Kashy Kahledi, an old music video geek, who feels premium value is returning to the art form after Lady Gaga and Kanye West's successes. "It says that there's a certain nostalgia, that there's a sort of excitement for the music video again," Kahledi said.
MTV nabbed 'Training Day' writer David Ayer to run the first 'supervideo,' and it certainly looked pretty, but for music videos to rise back to the influential medium they once were, it's going to take a whole lot more than fancy cameras and MTV money. The main idea that made music videos so powerful back in the '80s and '90s was that MTV was built around them; they had a whole network vying for different ways to promote them. Sometimes it was the music video that made the artist, but today the clips' roles are more similar to album covers -- decorative art to promote digital tracks on iTunes. Videos play second fiddle.
'Supervideo' isn't going to change MTV's relationship with music videos because MTV worked too hard to leave them in the past, and while a lot of people moved on, new viewers have tuned in for Snooki and 'The Burial Life' instead.
The irony is that even if MTV wanted to ditch reality TV and bring back the music video, it wouldn't matter because the state of the music industry has flipped upside down. When music videos were in their prime, Napster didn't exist and YouTube was years away. Music videos haven't lost all relevance, but they've adapted to today's viral environment where everything is on Vevo/YouTube, and people only buy music because they don't know how to use Google correctly. Times have changed, and today's music video doesn't fit into the end-all be-all role it once had, because our attention spans have been divided by four -- there's too much information on the internet coming at us from all ends for us to value it as much anymore.
Although the role of the music video has changed dramatically, that doesn't mean we don't love them when they're good. Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance' and Kanye West's 'Runaway' made music videos an artform once again, and their traffic on YouTube alone proves people still love them, but conversely, our behaviors have changed. MTV can't make money off music videos anymore because people only need a laptop, no more TV, to get what they want. People have the control. MTV can invest in high-quality music videos, and people will watch them, but this isn't by any means a return to the 1990s and they won't change the role of the video because our culture changed without them a long time ago.
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