Idol Chatter

MTV celebrated its 25th anniversary last week, but I couldn’t figure out what they were celebrating. I find myself singing the Dire Straits’ classic lyric, “I want my MTV,” because my MTV–or, at least, good MTV–hasn’t been seen in a long, long time.

Mark Knopfler called the early MTV stars “yo-yo’s,” said “they aint workin’” and that they were earning “money for nothin.’” What he thought was bad then has become downright disgusting since. “My” MTV was mostly mainstream music with hints of alternative and headbanging stuff, played between the greetings of original Veejays Martha Quinn, Mark Hunter, Nina Blackwood, downtown Julie Brown, and the late J.J. Jackson.

At that time, MTV was truly an on-screen version of radio. Its jingles were unique, the sign-ons were original (who can’t remember the Apollo spacecraft, among other frequent images?) and the music at least felt like music. Some videos were hard to understand, like confusing dreams. Others made the song more real. But today, MTV is some kind of variety of gangsta wrap, teen reality shows, and the closest you can come to teen porn on TV without breaking FCC rules. So for me the 25th anniversary was more of a requiem tribute than a celebration.

The only thing I like about the current trend is the emerging popularity of Christian bands (especially those who aren’t called “Christian” bands) on Christian stations, local individual stations, and even MTV’s sister-network, VH-1. “The Zone” is one example, now playing faith-based videos in over 200 local television markets. Medium-market cities are being exposed to what the Bible Belt has had for a long time: lots of faith-based entertainment on several stations. Perhaps someday the big cities will have the same. Strong young balladeers and aspiring musicians with faith-driven lyrics are finding a home outside of MTV’s bias–and I’m glad for it.

I’m not provoked to say “good riddance, MTV,” but I’ll certainly say “R.I.P.” to a fading cultural phenomenon, while clicking past it for more positive–and spiritual– music and videos.

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