Opinion: Happy 30th Birthday , MTV! (I Wish You Still Mattered!)

It’s been 30 years since the Buggles busted out “Video Killed The Radio Star,” announcing the birth of MTV.  For years (or at least into the early nineties) MTV was a great source for music programming.  It was a bastion of hip cultural significance.  Now, whenever I turn on MTV, it makes me depressed.  What does the M stand for these days?  It surely isn’t music.  You can really only find music on there during odd hours throughout the day.  Music has been replaced by horrible “Reality” TV.  “Jersey Shore,” “The Hills” and “Jackass” have dominated over the years.  But where is the music?  MTV had a place and it’s essentially removed itself from its own niche in a punishing quest to celebrate mediocrity.  (Maybe that’s what the M stands for!)  For the most part, radio doesn’t do its job anymore.  The corporations that run the majority of radio stations do not care about musical innovation. They don’t care about being edgy and bettering the culture.  They just care about spoon-feeding the public the same bland twenty songs.  This is why so many people have turned off the radio and turned on their ipods.  MTV has acted the same way.  It’s a missed opportunity.   They could be bettering the culture and educating the public by giving exposure to lesser-known, worthy bands.  Instead they are giving us shock-TV like the awkwardly controversial teen show, “Skins.”  For a brief period between 1996 and 2002, all hope wasn’t lost.  They created MTV2 and it was at first very much like the original MTV.  Free-form music with VJs announcing the songs and giving facts.  Suddenly and sadly, MTV2 suffered the same fate as its older brother and became the home for countless episodes of “Pimp My Ride.”  While I welcome the announced return of shows like “120 Minutes” and even “Beavis and Butt-Head,” I wonder if these new incarnations will be watered down shadows of the originals.  No one seems to care about the music anymore.  That’s a real shame.  MTV has become limp and useless. It has become one of the most insignificant channels on your cable box.  It has lost its essence and lost its focus.  It has lost everything that used to make it great.   Artists still make music videos.  Youtube helps friends pass music along to each other and helps songs spread like wildfire.  If your friend recommends something to you that you haven’t heard, you might decide to buy it.  After all, a great video is like an artfully done advertisement for a record.  But lately, even youtube is letting us down.  Really, it’s the record labels’ fault.  VEVO (the label-sanctioned and approved section of youtube) has become an unholy monster.  The main problem with VEVO is that often it limits where you can embed videos.  So many people share videos on Facebook and other social networking sites.  Now, under the tyranny of the VEVO behemoth, most videos redirect you to youtube where you are forced to sit through an ad before you watch your video.  It’s not very user-friendly.  Youtube may be the new technology and that may be why MTV ultimately gave up its position.  The truth is, MTV in its peak form, as a free-form, eclectic place to view music videos and learn about new music ruled!  Now it is a shell of its former self.  It needs to step back up to the plate. While I applaud its 30th birthday, I note it with a sense of sadness.  “Reality” killed the video star. 

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