Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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MTV Killed The Radio Star

They say video killed the radio star, but MTV, I am holding you personally responsible for the deplorable state of the music industry. I loved you. When no one else would, you let Madonna writhe around on stage in a wedding dress, clutching her crotch, painted on mole an exclamation point to her antics. I watched her pant LIKE A VIRGIN into the microphone she gripped with fingerless lace gloves and I was enthralled. You showed me what that woman-child Cindy Lauper looked like, porcelain skin, fiery rainbow hair and all. You brought me the always colorful Boy George and his deliciously bouncy songs. Because of you, I tried to perform gymnastics on the hood of a car like Tawny Kitaen. Unfortunately my acrobatics ended not in a make-out with the wailing lion-haired David Coverdale but a scraped knee and a dented hood. I did the snake dance along with Axl Rose to SWEET CHILD O MINE and WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE. I cried when CINDERELLA sang DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU GOT. I even swooned (this is worse than admitting I puked in the cupholders of my car) when the fellas from EXTREME crooned MORE THAN WORDS. You know the video, just a coupla sensitive ponytailed guys hangin' out in their studio whippin' up the obligatory rock ballad guaranteed to shoot straight to the top.

Point is, MTV, you brought the world of music into my living room in a way that radio never could. And I loved you like a toddler loves cotton candy. I loved Adam Curry and his perfectly highlighted and curled hair, I had a crush on Pauly Shore, was willing to overlook Downtown Julie Brown. I suffered through the SPRING BREAK reruns you aired nearly through Christmas. I watched Singled Out, the puerile game show that unfortunately gave birth to Jenny McCarthy's television career and still, like a fat lady to cake, I was drawn to you.

You helped blow the lid off the rap scene developing in The Bronx by inviting the greats (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Kurtis Blow, Sugar Hill Gang, Funky 4 Plus One More, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys) onto the network, going so far as to feature them on a show created specifically for rap music.

YO MTV RAPS! played a major role in bringing the sounds, the fashion, the slang, the politics and the controversy to the suburbs of America. Would the Beastie Boys have been able to take over the world without the (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) video?

Now rap music has done gone and lost it's mind.. Fo' shizzle. Video budgets in the millions, glorifying gangsta life, bling, 'grills' and crime. Videos featuring women as party accessories, no better tha the Kristal they're dumping down their rock hard breasts as they shake it like a polaroid picture.

Still, I'm okay with that aspect. Some gal wanna shake her booty for the masses, that's her bizness, yo. So despite the bloated lifestyle revered in rap, it is after all, still music.. That's the key though... MUSIC. The M, does stand for MUSIC. Doesn't it? Or is it M for money?

Recently, I turned to you.. just to check in, you know.. see what The Kids are up to, make sure I can still be considered reasonably cool. I waited patiently through your ten minute commercial break and was rewarded not with a music video but The Hills. The Hills, your new "reality" show based on a bunch of snotty teens with silver spoons firmly entrenched up their asses. Speaking of silver spoons, one episode of The Hills had me pining for the good ol' days when that adorable Ricky Schroeder epitomized a rich kid. He may have had a train in his living room, but he didn't come close to the train wreck that is MTV.

So, just when I thought I might have to shoot my television Elvis-style if I watched another episode of the abomination that is My Super Sweet Sixteen , Money Television brings me The Hills. This small screen horror features teens grappling with highly scripted situations. The abject humiliation of Daddy buying one of the teens, like omigod, a Mustang instead of a Mercedes, like gross! Or the tragedy of being offered a full-time job when the tanned, fake-breasted, bleached blonde little gal just wants to live off Daddy's dime and like, party. And stuff.

After The Hills I was lucky enough to catch Cheyenne... another "reality" show based on yet ANOTHER (yawn) generic, blonde pop star. As if Jessica and Ashlee aren't enough. After Cheyenne you aired The Hills: Behind The Scenes and I was privileged to catch those same wealthy teens giving me a tour of the enormous condo they call home. Like, this is my closet and these are my shoes.. I have, like, two hundred, I think. And here is the hot tub and, like, this is my bathroom which I think is, like, totally cool because it has three sinks and a plasma T.V. and a sauna which is, like, TOTALLY awesome for unwinding after a stressful day of pretending for the cameras!!

When I returned from rinsing out the sick I accidentally threw up in my mouth, MTV you aired five hours of The Real World. FIVE HOURS! The 'Real' World has morphed from a somewhat interesting concept that was, let's admit it, never reality, (a giant rent-free apartment in the coolest cities in the world) into a platform for obscenely good looking young adults to drink, fuck, ultimately try for acting careers and eventually end up on The Surreal Life before checking into rehab, getting knocked up and moving back to their small town in Nebraska.

I went to bed disappointed but not broken. I got up early (well, 10am) in hopes of catching some legitimate music videos. Guess what? You're airing Ashlee Simpson (who, surprise, surprise, has her own "reality" show on your network) and a bunch of bands who all sound the same and are probably managed by a subsidiary of Viacom. Or Ashlee's dad. I powered through the Simpson disaster only to be rewarded with a Fall Out Boy video. This is the band whose guitarist just happened to co-host The MTV Movie Awards from the red carpet. I know this because I've been able to catch most of the show in bits and pieces as you've aired it roughly 800 times this week alone. I get it, Jessica Alba is the new 'It Girl' because you say so. She's probably got a reality television show in the works and is hammering out the final bit of her recording contract with Joe Simpson.

MTV, America's children are marionettes and you are lurking in the satellites above pulling their strings or more accurately, yanking their chain. The marionettes have become so tangled in your strings they will never know the joys of discovering the hundreds of genius musicians that span the decades. That is of course, unless Ashlee covers a Replacements tune or Puffy samples Marah.

The moral of this tale... MTV, I think we should see other people. You've changed. You aren't who you used to be and just watching you for ten minutes makes me feel like more of a tool than your silly 'VJays'. The celebrity ass-licking, telling me what's hot and what's not, shoving everything BUT good music down my throat... I don't need you, I've got In Touch and US Weekly and Star and People and Entertainment Tonight and The Insider and The NY Post and and and for that. I just wanted some good music. If you get your act together, maybe, just maybe we can start dating again.. But we'll have to take it slow. I just don't trust you anymore.

Reader Comments (34)

Yeah, MTV!

When's the last time you cut a royalty check to those two suited-and-sunglassed Men in Black in front of the gas pumps in the "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" vid?? Huh??

Nobody cuts these guys a break... Hell, Will Smith won't even return their calls!!
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWry Bri
The only thing MTV is good for anymore is a RW/RR challenge, and even those are getting weak. Makes me bummed that I missed the beginning of MTV. Do you think they'll rebound?
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
Hey Monica! I just got your comment - not sure when you posted it. Weird, I was sent a link to your site (the story about serge) a few months ago. I'd have to say KIP is my all time favorite. Not gonna lie, a little jealous of you :) Glad to know he's found someone that makes him happy!
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLolsshea
Monica! i almost peed my pants when i saw you commented on my blog...i've been reading yours forever. you made my day...and yeah, mtv is going down the crapper. so WHY do i still watch it?
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterspendqueen
thank you thank you THANK YOU for this post. I HATE THE HILLS. and i absolutely hate what MTV has become.
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte
Word! I started watching MTV 2 but guess what? They're eating up the music with reality tv as well. If I wanted reality I'd turn off the TV and fight with my boyfriend some more. My question though is does MTV suck or are we just getting too old?
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
no, we aren't too old...mtv sucks! it's all about bbc america...oops did i say that out loud?
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterspendqueen
I adore BBC America!!! People look at me like, huh? when I mention watching it.

I remember when MTV started. I remember the video for "Somebody's Watching You" scaring my best friend - we were 8, I think - and not being allowed to watch the video for "I Want Your Sex". But Dad, it's about monogomy! You shouldn't even know what that is, he shot back.

"...or Puffy samples Marah"

OMG, I love it! What song would he use? Anyone got an idea?
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
Puffy should sample Catfisherman.
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRaj
MY HERO, I love that show! Unfortunately I only get to watch it when it comes on PBS, BBC America is one of those high paying channels, for those who have Tivo! LOL Just kidding EDW, gotta give ya a hard time! :)
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Yes... MTV is becoming the death of real music. And especially hip-hop. Thankfully, there's still college radio.

Nice piece.
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlex
Monica, I feel your pain!
Honestly though, even in the late 80's you could hear the death march of the music industry. It isn't just MTV, it's the whole machine. Podcasting and the PodSafe music network is bringing back some of that old skool vibe.

Almost 42 now and still have my hair. And love it.


June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Curry
Yeah. What you said. Cheyenne is the straw that broke the camel's back. MTV, you're a lost soul.
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRee
There ain't enough cool, indie-rocking, shoe-ass gazin', people left to save this (block-rockin' video music's) rotting carcass.

The Surge's opinion may differ, and god bless him for his singular belief in music's power (WHICH I SHARE, BUT I"M OLDER SCHOOL, TOO), but "sooner or later," I don't think anybody's going to be comin' back.

Too many: video games, DVD's, You Tube's, blogs, cover bands playing the forget-me-not's, and paintball slingin', imternet "I'll fuck you in cyber-space" kids slidin' down the skateboard slope

Damned shame.

The kids ain't alright!


June 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjoe mod con's
Wow...Adam Curry. Wow.

June 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdu_dragons
If Martha Quinn posts on here I will never wash my mouse again.

I want Adam Curry's mane circa 1989, then I would officially be cool.
June 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterereiberg
I'm old enough to remember the start of MTV. It instantly made music more accessible & intimate. (My first video....Pretenders 'Brass in Pocket'...still a great song)
In this era before the internet, the only way you could see your favorite artist up close & personal was live in concert. Otherwise, you had to settle for dissecting the album sleeve (yes, I said album), while sitting in your room listening.

I'm still hoping that satellite radio and the internet will save music. Fuck some old, white guy sitting in his office deciding what music kids will listen to. Go out & find the music for yourself.
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterchrissy
Oh, and how surreal is it to have Adam Curry posting here...
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterchrissy
I cannot believe Adam Curry just posted here! I had the biggest crush on him!
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTammy
:( I grew up in a town with NO MTV, so I don't know who Adam Curry, besides googling him and finding his HUGE hair! LOL
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
VH1 Classic, that is the hot shit. MTV aint been cool in a decade at least, it's lamer than indoor recess. But the classic, now the classic gives you what you want, what you need. They have awful 80's videos, classic rock live clips and best of all THE ALTERNATIVE, its an underground show. Replacements video, Bauhaus shit, Jesus and Mary Chain standing around looking cooler than cool.
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterksg
I agree with everythng Monica syas here. a quick glance at MTV's schedule reveals that today they’re showing vidoes from 4am til 9am. Thats 5 hours, leaving 19 hours, meaning that in the time that MTV signs off on its last video at 9am till it kicks up again at 4am the next morning, you could drive from NYC to DC roundtrip almost 2.5 times. Maybe I'm crazy, but that seems like a long time between music for a station called "Music Television."

Ive screamed for years that MTV has single-handedly killed music the way ESPN has killed real basketball. It's turned into a machine for selling sex and cashing in like a motherfucker. Like everything else, I reckon. But what drives me insane is that they shove talentless hack idiots like, oh, ASHLEE SIMPSON down our throats when they don’t have to – the powers that be are so terrified that if they churn out anything that isn’t just brainless-big titted soft pop or suburban by-the-numbers “punk” or ooooohhhh-so scary “gangstah” crap, the viewers will revolt and not sprint to Sam Goody to buy every morsel MTV has deigned to let spill off the table into their hungry mouths. If there’s one thing MTV has taught us, it’s that it doesn’t matter WHAT you’re shoving down people’s throats, they will fucking buy it simply because…it’s what you’re shoving down their throats. John Q Public and Little Suzy Creamcheese just take what they’re given by MTV/radio, shrug their shoulders and go “okay, well this is what music is now, I guess I’ll take it.” They don’t know enuff or aren’t lucky enuff to have someone else say “hey, you know, you don’t HAFTA buy Ashlee Simpson, there’s other choices out there, you just gotta go get them.” Just the way it is.

But, like I said, these idiots don’t HAVE to send out the same shit – have they forgetten that years ago people soaked up albums by the Beatles, Dylan etc and begged for more? Nowadays, they wouldn’t even make it on MTV. Not sexy enough, too complicated, not, you know…stupid. I can’t believe there’s not ONE GUY at the top of MTV who originally got into “the business” cause he loved music that can’t stand up and say “oh come on, this is ridiculous –if we give the people REAL music, GREAT music, they’ll eat it up like cake! We’ll change culture, move people, and yes, STILL make a zilllion fuicking dollars!! Camon!” But, of course that is naïve. And sad. Like the rest of the powers that be in this country, completely driven by unnecessary greed (as in its not like they hafta go fucking broke to play great music). I feel lucky I grew up when I did and that I encountered people way smarter than myself that turned me onto great shit when I was young, stuff I would still throw myself into a bus for to this day. 20 years form now are these people gonna be spinning their favorite Marilyn Manson/Good Charlotte/Ashlee Simpson cuts? I doubt it. But I’ve worn out and replaced “Tim” and “Leave Home” so many times it’s embarrassing, and I will again and again as I still search for music that doesn’t fucking blow.

Anyways, I guess it’s pointless since I’m not gonna get up at 4am to watch these fucking videos anyway. Ugh.
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterXmastime
and yes, you can accuse me of being a crochety old man crying that things arent the way they are, i guess thats fair. generation before me did it im sure. but the ridiculous decline of popular music (shit people actually buy) over the years is startling. gonna make my kids listen to Disco Duck and nuthin else
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterXmastime
I liked your comment, Xmastime.
I don't own very much music. I don't like the new stuff, really, and I haven't begun my search for what I actually like. I don't know what I want. It seems like everyone knows exactly what their music personality is and I feel bland not having a big chunky list.
And MTV does not help me figure out what is available. I want a TV station that plays nothing but music videos, from every genre and time period, randomly, all of the time.
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdesiree
yeah, MTV certainly isn't helping matters. like i said, I just got lucky and had an older, more 'savvy' friend who found great stuff. The Ramones, Husker Du yadda yadda. otherwise I'd still be listening to Duran Duran and waiting for Falco's follow-up.
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterXmastime
aaahhh Adam curry. I use to be ga-ga over you, and ricky rachtman, that rockin rebel. Yes those were the days!!
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
...and before you, XMASTIME, my friend, and before was the same. It was passed down. I may not give a shit about "We're An American Band" now, but when I was on that school bus and some cooler kid was playing it; It seemed important! So did STICKY FINGERS when me and my young, bike-riding pals peddled up into the woods with our KOOL Menthols, and were nurtured by our older brother's, and their pals, about Keith Richard and exotic older women.

It was a great rite of passage.

Fuck this new reality!
June 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjoe mod con's
i actually think popular music has been heading in a much better direction lately... the boy bands and jessica/britney types are less cool. bands that actually play their music are getting some recognition- the OC has introduced kids to a lot of previously unknown bands. they might not be the bands you/i like, and they're still watered down... but they're better than totally manufactured pop stars like Ashlee. and myspace and the internet are giving bands a chance to make it w/o MTV and record labels... so it's not all bad in my opinion...
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterp
I live with three teenagers who don't watch MTV, but spend hours and hours listening, watching and downloading off the internet. They are into bands I've never heard of, get their stuff on-line, or buy their cds when they go see them at shows when they pass through town. There is a very cool, vibrant teenage music scene out there, totally independent of MTV and large record companies.

Last Saturday my 14 year old (and her Dad) went to see a pop band that had a tap dancer instead of a drummer. They rocked the house and all generations were enthralled.

So I don't worry about the music dying or sellling out. There has always been that element, we've never been a part of it, and have always had great music to live by. I am so thankful for musicians who do what they have to do to get their music out - like Marah.

June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
Word, jls and everybody else. Good post, good comments.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRay
Music now is the same as it has always been. 99% of it is unbearably awful; .99% of it ranges from mediocre to excellent; and .01% is transcendent, classic, timeless, stuff for the ages. The key is to focus on the .01% and igonore the 99% that sucks ass.

Saying that, MTV was never that cool to begin with. They ignored black artists until Michael Jackson sold a trillion records. They ignored the fertile american underground of the 1908s until they started broadcasting 120 minutes late on Sunday nights, and even then most of the bands played were from the IRS roster. Honestly, I enjoy it more now. The Hills and Laguna bEach are great. Nothing like watching spoiled teenagers hypervantilating about their mini-dramas to while away an afternoon.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSean
Here, here Sean!! I totally agree. MTV ignored hip hop for nearly it's first decade of existence. Yes, I did love Culture Club, Wham, Duran Duran and all the other stuff they played, but let's not pretend that MTV had it's hand on the pulse of great music back in the day.

Personally, I'm still an MTV addict. I wish they would play more music, but the shows are pretty damn addicting. I'm counting down the minutes to the new episode of the Hills tonight. LC Rocks!!!
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
amazing music has ALWAYS been out there for those who go looking for it, but it seems to me that this is a nadir for popular music that is actually sold and bought by the gazillions, that is available for mass consumption via radio/tv etc. Obviously the internet is gonna change a lot of things. But that would be a case of media changing, not the actual music. Anyways, I've screamed bout this for years, will prolly scream forever as people did before me about the music I love. Rite of passage. And what the fuck happened with Wes & Johanna on the RR/RW Challenge?!??!!?!?!
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterXmastime
Wow, nice blog thing you got there.

Unfortunatly im to young to remember the beginning of mtv (born in 1991) but i hate the reality shows theyre airing nowadays...
August 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarten

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