There is a sharp little video knocking around the Internet in which an “MTV executive” addresses why MTV doesn’t play videos anymore. In the vid, he mentions that the Internet, with its myriad of nesting spots, is essentially the new MTV. Parody video or not, that “executive” is 100% accurate. It is what we have for the new MTV. But, somehow, he is also 100% wrong. Mind fucking blown.
I realize that my job as a writer for an online media magazine is essentially to pimp “new” media to you in a “funky fresh voice,” but sometimes I feel like the last human in a world of robots. How long before they stick their jacks in me and make me suck up all their data? Wait, that came out wrong … what I’m trying to say is, what made MTV great is exactly what makes new media wrong.“Streamline” is the word of the modern era — make it faster, make it smaller, make it smarter. Nowadays, if you like a song, you plug it into the Internet, where Pandora computates some algorithm and spits out an infinite number of similar songs. You never have to crawl out of your niche again. The same goes for YouTube — you like that video? Then how ‘bout this copycat video? I could go years without varying from bands that sound virtually identical. Streamlining means I never have to process or dislike anything again — and if something boring does somehow sneak through, I can push a button and return to the safe confines of the familiar.
Back in the heyday of MTV, you didn’t have that option. You were essentially forced to watch everything they chose to play. And guess what? If they played some awful song, you either sat through it, or you played musical russian roulette by flipping over to VH1 (eww). Here’s the kicker: Frequently, you ended up loving some song you initially hated. Sure it took a dozen plays, but that one funky song ended up changing you as a person and broadening your cultural horizons. I’m a Jamiroquai man now; yup, I can admit it.
YouTube (and friends) misses that bizarre little anomaly that comes from being patient and not having a “skip” option. If MTV did impart a trend to new media, it is that they began compartmentalizing songs long before the Internet did. Pretty soon there was “Headbangers Ball” which differentiated from “Yo! MTV Raps” which differentiated from “120 Minutes.” No longer was there a miasma of styles and sounds and trends to build a unique teenage experience. “Hip Hop” on MTV was soon confined to its place as were “Metal” and “Alternative.” It all got so damn monotonous.
I don’t know if a pure MTV-style video channel could exist online even. I don’t think people now could handle not having a choice. Back in the day, MTV told us what to think and we thanked it for that. Nowadays, YouTube puts the power firmly in our hands … and yet, we’re still bored.