MTV minus ‘Music Television’

Music largely vanished from the channel years ago, but it took MTV until now to officially drop its “Music Television” tagline from its name and logo. In this post, I look at life in the post-MTV era. Is there any room for “Music Television” in 2010 and beyond? Let’s analyze the current situation and find out.

An honest change

The beginning of this new decade also serves as a moment of truth for the art of the music video and music television itself. If you’ve read the last half-dozen or so updates I’ve written for The 120 Minutes Archive, you know by now, lamenting MTV is nothing new. This time, however, it’s different. It’s no longer speculation. MTV itself has made it clear: “Music Television” is gone.

It comes as no surprise. Even at the beginning of the last decade, in 2000, it was easy to see that MTV as the hub for music videos was already on the way out. That was the year 120 Minutes was scrapped from the main channel’s schedule, to be moved to MTV2 in 2001. The rise of high-speed Internet obsoleted MTV even further and ushered out the era of music videos on TV.

Through it all, however, MTV kept its identifying mark, the big block “M” logo with “Music Television” printed under it. Despite what was actually being shown on the channel, it was still known as Music Television. The channel’s name kept its status in limbo for many years, but now, that prolonged state of denial (and tradition for tradition’s sake) is finally over.

Yes, MTV finally admitted it on February 8, 2010, when “Music Television” was literally dropped from the logo. The entire bottom section of the logo has been hacked off, as you can see, along with the tail end of the “V” that once branched off. However, one characteristic remains: The adaptability of the logo. MTV’s logo has never been static, but this time, stars of the channel’s shows will appear within the logo, as opposed to the ever-changing patterns of the ’80s and ’90s.

Music after MTV

Music still plays some kind of role in many aspects of MTV, of course, and there are still plenty of people working somewhere within MTV who truly care about music, but it’s clear that music is no longer the focus of their television channel. The morning program AMTV still exists today, but it doesn’t hold the same relevance or cultural impact as MTV’s music video programs of years past.

It’s clearly a different channel than it used to be (anyone could tell you that, even MTV itself), so I welcome the change. It’s just honest. There are some people out there who have been inexplicably waiting and wishing for MTV to return to its former glory and go back to playing music videos all day. Maybe now they’ll start to understand that it’s never gonna happen. The channel itself has moved on, and more importantly, the entire culture has moved on.

The other music channels have followed MTV’s lead. MTV2 is no longer “where the music’s at” by any means, VH1 still does the Top 20 Video Countdown out of habit but that’s about it, and Fuse is a mess. Meanwhile, mtvU is playing music on auto-pilot, but even that’s problematic. Even though mtvU plays music videos all day, it’s no longer interesting or compelling enough to watch.

We have so many other choices for music that sitting at length watching videos on TV seems silly, especially when they’re uninspired and interrupted by long commercial breaks all too often.

Due to all this, the music video as an art form has been diminished as well. There are still some great works of art that are emerging from the genre (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck, for example), but such examples are now few and far between, growing ever further apart as time progresses. What will be left of music videos in 2020, in another decade’s time? I’m honestly not sure where the art form goes from here. The future of the genre is anybody’s guess.

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