08
Sep
08

I Don’t Want My MTV. The Tweens Can Have It.

Against my better judgment, I watched (well, half-watched) the 25th MTV Video Music Awards last night. The only reason I did so was because Russell Brand was hosting and I was curious about what kind of reaction he would receive in front of whoever actually cares about MTV these days (and I also think I had a perverse curiosity about what was passing for music now, especially since I’ve refrained from watching music television and listening to mainstream radio for the past few years). The show was a train wreck beyond my wildest nightmares beginning and ending with pop tart, Britney Spears (I can only thank whoever put the show together that she wasn’t actually performing that night). Russell Brand was rather brilliant, lambasting the current American administration (calling Bush a “retarded cowboy”) and the Republican teen pregnancy debacle, and mocking the Jonas Brothers and their promise rings, treading all over political correctness and hypocrisy with his characteristic charming blend of verbosity and extensive vocabulary. And of course, most either sat in shock or politely applauded without seemingly having a clue how to react or perhaps not even understanding what he was on about. Despite the fact Brand used to have his own ridiculous show on MTV in the UK and has hosted any number of stupid programs, he was still too intelligent and witty for the likes of this kind of awards show.
The kicker for me was when Jordin Sparks, some vapid pop idol who appears to be surrounded by an aura of holier-than-thou inauthenticity, defended promise rings by essentially calling Brand a slut. Yes, Russell Brand is a slut, but at the very least he’s completely honest about it. To attempt to preach virtue and abstinence at a show such as the VMAs where three awards can be won by a woman who is basically glorified trailer trash and whose genitals overshadowed her one single this past year (but who still kept thanking God for her awards) is absolutely ludicrous. Also, Sparks obviously didn’t know who she was up against – like Simon Amstell told Donny Tourette about taking on Bill Bailey on an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, “you won’t win.” Brand came back with a mocking apology to the newest incarnation of Hanson and to those who believe in promise rings (with one of my favourite lines, which to my memory went like this: “I don’t want to piss off teenagers, quite the opposite actually. Well, not quite the opposite, I don’t want to piss on teenagers. There’s been enough of that in the past.”)

Contrary to initial appearances, I would rather not rant extensively on how physically ill I felt watching the pieces of the VMAs I did while flicking back to the Canadian Walk of Fame show that was giving a star to one of my earlier obsessions, Michael J. Fox. Instead, I will choose to rant about the state of MTV and/or “music television” in general. What struck me even harder in the face than the fact I hated every artist performing at the VMAs was the fact these awards were supposed to be about videos. Because this was supposedly a special 25th anniversary VMAs, presenters kept paying lip service to the early days of MTV and the VMAs, reminding the audience of who won some of the first ones – names like David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Prince came up. And I would be in agreement that, like them or not, these artists deserved to win for attempting to create proper videos that were an art in their own right. You would think that at a 25th anniversary show of Video Music Awards that there would be some attempt to incorporate videos into the actual show. This attempt wasn’t made at all. Perhaps in their paranoia to stay painfully youthful and relevant, MTV opted to ignore the past entirely. (Who is MTV’s target audience anyway? Judging by the appearances by Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and the cast of High School Musical, I would guess twelve-year-olds.) Maybe it wasn’t in the budget to make creative performance pieces in tribute to older music videos. What all of this points to for me is the fact that most artists don’t make great music videos anymore. And that MTV is no longer music television – a duly noted observation for the past ten years.

Rather than broadcast a stream of music videos, MTV, and its Canadian counterparts MuchMusic and MuchMoreMusic, are now built on programming. MTV-made shows like Pimp My Ride, Punk’d, Jackass, and a plethora of other horrid reality/competition shows dominate music television with usually no link to music whatsoever aside from the music played in the background of these shows or the fact these shows may follow music stars around in their daily (usually inane) lives. Last night I turned on MuchMoreMusic (the Canadian VH1) and saw Party of Five. I know I’m too young to have really watched the old style of music television during its heyday in the 80s, but I’m old enough to remember still seeing actual music videos when I was teenager. I also like to think VJs used to know something about music rather than just have the ability to flap their lips. I still recall the days when MuchMusic used to run weekend-long video marathons with themes like the 80s. That would never happen again. And one of the big reasons why is you can get streams of older videos on both the specialty cable channel MuchRetro and even more easily on YouTube. If video killed the radio star, narrowcasting and YouTube killed the video channel.

I’m not naive enough to think all music videos in the past were spectacular and creative – in many cases, earlier music videos suffered from filmmakers wanting to try too much at once. And after all, MTV was/is primarily an advertising channel. A large chunk of 80s videos are hugely cheesy rather than high art, but even with some of the cheese, these videos were memorable. Even with their postcolonial, imperialistic missteps, Duran Duran videos can still spring to mind rather quickly when the songs are played. Music videos used to be iconic. They used to push the envelope. How many videos made in the last ten years can be said to be iconic? OK Go’s YouTube success story in the form of the treadmill video for Here It Goes Again. Maybe The White Stripes’ video for Seven Nation Army. Then there are those videos that only fans would seek out and see – I personally find the videos for IAMX’s President and Song of Imaginary Beings rather visually stunning, but you’ll only ever see them online. Like every other facet of society that’s being transformed by a digital/download society, music videos can now be manufactured by anyone with access to software and the Internet and everyone can customize their own music television via computer playlists. In this process, creativity and artist independence have likely increased, but now you have to know where to look to find these quality videos as the more mainstream media like MTV have effectively squeezed out their original purpose and homogenized the music video. MTV, which used to be characterized by its slogan “I Want My MTV,” connoting some sort of youthful, subcultural choice, is now the place where you will find the least amount of choice and individuality.

And so, for who knows how long, the MTV VMAs have not celebrated videos, but merely the music itself or the flavour-of-the-year artists in some sort of disgusting Top 40 popularity contest. The Video Music Awards should just be called Music Awards and MTV should drop the “music” from its name. In which case, you’d just be watching the TV Music Awards. And I think those are called the Grammys.

Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles

Seen the Future – Lloyd Cole

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6 Responses to “I Don’t Want My MTV. The Tweens Can Have It.”


  1. 1 Rol
    September 10, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I can’t stand Russell Brand… but I like what he stands FOR. I’ve got to give him that.

  2. 2 JC
    September 14, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    I’m with Rol….

    But that’s one great bit of writing (again) Sister Anglopunk

  3. 3 anglopunk
    September 15, 2008 at 1:17 am

    I’m a bit on the fence with Russell Brand – sometimes I love him and sometimes I hate him. In this case, I loved him. He beats any other host of an award show that I’ve ever seen. Well, Craig Ferguson often makes a great host, but he ends up with the People’s Choice Awards or something equally as stupid and boring.

  4. 4 JC
    September 19, 2008 at 8:32 am

    But isnt that because Craig Ferguson (who I first saw live on satge 23 years ago when he called himself Bing Hitler – you can imagine the vitriol that was in that persona) has gone all corporate and mainstream??

  5. 5 anglopunk
    September 21, 2008 at 4:52 am

    Getting a late night chat show has made him corporate, but at the same time, his show is one of the funniest and irreverent in America (probably why he doesn’t have very famous guests most of the time, and also probably why nobody laughed at the People’s Choice Awards that he hosted). He’s a welcome change from the likes of Letterman and Leno. And I prefer his rambling monologues to Conan O’Brien’s traditional set-up-punchline stuff (and Conan O’Brien is considered the “cool” late night host). Craig injects much needed British humour into American television.


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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

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It's not supposed to happen like that

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Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

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I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Douse himself with cheap perfume

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Bloc Party Silent Alarm

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Your funny name

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Augment a beautiful brunette

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When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

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Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

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They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

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And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

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Ideal love a new purchase

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Sell out, maintain the interest

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Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

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Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

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When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

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Say they'll let you know

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Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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