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2020-11-27 08:18:31 (UTC)

Prompt 104: I Want My MTV

104. MTV captivated the world when it launched with a collection of music videos in 1981. What do you think will be the next big thing in music? Do you think this development will be positive or negative and why?

A bit of history: the first music video I had ever seen was "Billie Jean," by Michael Jackson. It was actually showing on HBO. I was a little kid at the time, and I really didn't understand what it was. There was a song playing, that I usually would hear on the radio, and then there was some guy dancing around and the sidewalk tiles lit up when he stepped on them.

Later that year, MJ released "Thriller," which to me was solid gold. Even then, I had a predilection towards monsters and zombies and even Vincent Price's work (I'd seen him in Scooby Doo cartoons, after all...) and the mystique elevated any song that I learned or heard had a video to go along with it.

In 1985, our family moved, and we "got cable." MTV was there, and it was magnetic. My sister and I watched the same videos over and over again so many times, MTV was on the television so often, that I still remember "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel and "Don't Come Around Here No More" by Tom Petty. I also seem to recall Rick Springfield on a jungle gym in a sepia-stained video. Maybe "Jessie's Girl?"

Fast forward to the early '90s, and I had my VJ crushes. "Downtown" Julie Brown, and Kennedy. Brown was kind of like the mainstream pop music VJ of the time, while Kennedy was my guide into "MTV's 120 Minutes," an "indie" rock show that introduced me to bands such as Pixies, The Posies, Blur, and Catherine Wheel. I never heard these bands on the radio, and I never saw women like her in regular life, so I watched that show whenever I could.

MTV also unveiled their first "lifestyle" episodic series: "The Real World," in the early '90s. I didn't see the first season all the way through. I don't think I understood it at the time. What in the world was a "reality show?" What's so entertaining about that? How can people watch this boring stuff about people just walking around their apartment all day?

Of course, this was the advent of socialization on MTV. I later learned that there was less money to be made in playing videos all day than there was delivering lifestyle programming interspersed with advertisements, encouraging people to buy stuff. The things they would buy would help the viewer emulate the -lifestyle- they saw on the "reality show." It all makes a lot more sense - at least, from a business standpoint - now that I'm older. In fact, I think it was a simple business decision to shift MTV from simply playing music to promoting the music-fueled, consumerist lifestyle.

After Kennedy was gone from 120 Minutes and Alternative Nation, I stopped watching MTV. I think by then it was 80% lifestyle programming, anyway. Oh... And I had a fiance' at the time.


What's next for music entertainment? Well, pop music has always been at the forefront of technology (because it costs money, and you need to fill stadiums to make that money back). I think the -aggressive- integration of mood-altering technology will be the next big thing for pop music. The performers of this kind of thing are already hired to be incredibly-persuasive advertisers, and what better customer is there than a happy customer?

I have a casual, layman's understanding of sonic therapy and light therapy/colour theory, and I'm surprised these aren't more prevalent in music today. I think it would be an easy case to make for scientifically-founded "feel-good music." Sure, it might be seen as subliminal advertising (which also has some scientific foundation) and links to Edward Bernays... But then, all advertising does.

If it ever began to cause public outcry and distress about "brainwashing," then the next phase of programming could begin in earnest. After all, these pop musicians weren't urging their listeners to smash stuff, to "go out and kill." They just want people to -be happy- and -enjoy life-. There's this clothing line and accessory set and body wash that can help you enjoy life and be happy -more-.

Thankfully, however... This won't work for metal, thrash, punk, etc. were it applied judiciously, then these bands would eventually see their audience dwindle through being arrested, grievously injured, or killed. Probably best yet... There would be a movement of "real" musicians. These folks - anywhere from acoustic singer-songwriters to symphony orchestras - would proudly espouse the fact that they do no use subsonic manipulation to alter their audience's mood... Just the conventional power of high-quality, complex and/or heartfelt music that's never needed to rely on such methods to win over an audience.

However, if someone really does want to achieve commercial success as a musician, it would necessarily require they jump the shark and sign up with a majore record label that has refined its feel-good algorithms to an acoustic formula. Working with major labels meant you went this obvious "music as sales tool" route, giving true, explicit meaning to the phrase, "selling out."

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