The other day as I was getting ready for school, I turned on the television to catch the last few minutes of MTV’s morning music video block, AMTV. I saw “Yonkers,” an interestingly sadistic video featuring the rapper Tyler, The Creator aggressively rhyming over a pulsing beat while eating a cockroach. It was different from the bright colors and dance routines of most videos.
After a few more videos, the next one to capture my attention was Lil Wayne’s “How to Love.” It was a far cry from his usual in-your-face wordplay and it was an attempt at major crossover appeal, but the video told the story of a little girl growing up in a cruel world. I was not only entertained but moved. AMTV’s content was exciting. I wanted to watch more artistic and positive music videos.
This hope was shattered when the opening credits for Jersey Shore started playing. I was instantly irritated, not with the show itself or its stereotypes of young people (always drunk, partying and sex-crazed), but the fact that this show exists on a network founded on showcasing music. Jersey Shore barely has anything to do with the expression of music. It only comes remotely close when the cast is going wild at a club blasting house beats.
Jersey Shore isn’t the only non-music-related program the network produces. Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant depict the trials and tribulations of high school girls toting babies and deadbeat boyfriends. MTV also has moved to scripted shows like the raunchy high school comedy The Hard Times of RJ Berger and the train wreck that was the U.S. version of Skins. During any of these shows, information on a song from the episode’s soundtrack will appear at the bottom of the screen. This is a cheap attempt at saying, “Hey, we’re still about the music.” For some people, this isn’t enough.
Breanna Rack ‘15 says, “MTV should focus on the musicians. It’s strange they have diverged to reality shows. I’m sure they make enough money now to have a channel dedicated to reality shows.” An RTV, or Reality Television, channel would be a better fit for all the non-music-related programs. MTV is in a new era of entertainment where people don’t mind being voyeurs. “I don’t care they don’t have music,” says Brittni Birkeland ’15. “I like reality television. I feel if they played music, people wouldn’t watch it as much.” If MTV stopped airing flagship shows like Jersey Shore and Teen Mom, viewership would decrease. According to Nielsen ratings for the week of Aug. 22, 8.5 million people tuned in to MTV to watch Jersey Shore. Are high ratings worth selling out on the channel’s original concept: music?
But viewers and the network aren’t completely lost on the concept of music on MTV. This is proven every year with the Video Music Awards, a ceremony where people vote on categories like Best New Artist and Best Video with a Message. In order to vote effectively, people would have to watch these videos during the short airtime they have on MTV, or possibly somewhere else.
Here enters Fuse TV, a network dedicated to music of a variety of decades and popular genres. It doesn’t just playing music videos on rotation like MTV did 30 years ago. Instead, they interview all kinds of artists from T.I. to NOFX and show performances from concerts like Bonnaroo and Vans Warped Tour. It’s modern and gives people what they want. Fuse is what MTV should be.
Alas, it is not and it would be difficult to turn back now. A drop in viewership wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest. For music lovers like me, MTV focusing on playing the variety of videos that we all love would be a dream come true.
MTV, for now, is a network whose foundation is made of the innovative and popular music of the last 30 years but is ultimately a house built of flimsy and of-the-moment reality shows.