Contrary to popular belief, MTV and MTV2 do play music videos. Sandwiched between 56 different types of teen-targeted reality shows is AMTV, a varying block of music videos airing anytime between 2AM and 8AM EST. AMTV is MTV the way MTV used to be and the way it should be, straight up "music television". None of that "16 and Pregnant" crap.
Lately, AMTV has been part of my TV rotation during breakfast. Depending on my mood, I'll flip from SportsCenter to AMTV to the morning local news and then, of course, back to SportsCenter. Since I've become a semi-frequent viewer of AMTV, I've seen some of the worst videos and songs I've ever seen. I'm not a fan of much new rock (especially the wannabe punk-influenced or emo-influenced unimaginative garbage); definitely not a fan of the pseudo R&B, auto-tune dance ballad stuff; and the art of lyricism has all but disappeared from mainstream hip-hop. I'm not sure if this makes me old and out of touch, but it is what it is.
The other day, however, a funny thing happened. I saw the following videos in a row:
Street Sweeper Social Club - 100 Little Curses
Jadakiss - Who's Real
K'Naan - T.I.A.
What surprises me is that all three of these videos and songs have social messages. Street Sweeper Social Club is frequently openly critical of America and especially the capitalist philosophy. Although the weakest of the group, Jadakiss is definitely sending a social message when the decries against "fake" people. And K'Naan is a Somalia rapper with a globalist view who has expressed sympathy towards the plight of Somali pirates.
According to their songs, all three of these of groups are fed up with the current social-economic situation (in order of frustration: SSSC, K'Naan, and Jadakiss). The same situation and economic conditions that helped MTV (Viacom) grow to the mega-billion dollar machine it is now. Of course, I really doubt MTV agrees with the opinions and views expressed in all its videos, but it is going to be difficult for them to shut down an opposition they are now feeding. When videos were all about flash and bling and big cars, it was easy for MTV to attach programming on cribs, pimping rides, and the good life. But what about when times change?
Of course I expect MTV to exploit the down economy. Socially conscious videos have been around since Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five came out with "The Message". But as more people grow aware of what is going on around them, more artists are going to make music expressing these thoughts. Slowly the music will be more educated and the viewers will want to see videos that make sense and represent their reality, not the corporate-driven image of fake success. It is the old mantra that art represents life. To quote veteran socially conscious rapper Paris "labels never made the culture - you got it twisted".
Cultural programming is easy when the culture is fat, dumb, and sedated. But what happens when they wake up?
(Images found on www.turnoffyourtv.com.)