MTV's Year in Rock '94, Revisited

Categories: MTV

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Have you heard enough about '94 yet?
We have only a month left in 2014, and if this year will be remembered for one thing, it's how much time we spent marking the 20th anniversary of 1994. For those of you who've turned on your browser's nostalgia-blocker, you've missed piece after piece about Nas's Illmatic turning 20 and Kurt Cobain's suicide.

It's interesting that 1994 was such a touchstone year for people to reference and reminisce about. To make some sense of this, we revisited MTV's Year in Rock '94 special to find out, from the people of 1994 themselves, what made it such a major year.

We begin our journey with hosts Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren, the way it should be. But before we jump into anything music-related, it's time for a look back at "media run amok." For as much flak as MTV gets today for "not playing videos," we're starting a "Year in Rock" special with barely anything musical. Still, if there was a year for media overload in terms of sensationalist journalism, it was 1994. In the same 12-month span we had Michael Jackson marrying Lisa Marie Presley, Lorena Bobbitt being acquitted of cutting off her husband's penis, Tonya Harding's attack on Nancy Kerrigan and subsequent sex tape, and the O.J. Simpson car chase. Folks, this was all THE SAME YEAR.

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How ObamaCare Created A Nation of Zombie Sluts: An In-Depth Talk With Kennedy

Categories: MTV, MTV At 30, Q&A
When Lisa Kennedy Montgomery was 18 years old, her parents gave her an ultimatum: She could either stay home and pay rent, or they would pay her to move out. So Montgomery did the respectable thing and left her home in Oregon, moved to Los Angeles, interned at KROQ (L.A.'s famed alt-rock radio station), became known strictly as Kennedy, and, a year later, landed a spot as a VJ on MTV. For five rambunctious years in the '90s, Kennedy was a Gen-X darling, hosting Alternative Nation and providing the network with countless ballsy and salacious on-air moments (like when she gave the mic a blow job while standing next to then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani). However, most of the wildest antics occurred off the air, and they're very humorously detailed in her memoir, The Kennedy Chronicles. Wednesday night she will be at the Bryant Park Reading Room, dishing it out with Rob Tannenbaum (I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution). We had the pleasure of sitting down with the now-Fox Business correspondent and morning radio host to talk about her new book. And we didn't even go into the whole Michael Jordan/dice incident, but rather more pressing topics such as, among other things, her opinion on alternative music today, her semi-affair with Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik (which inspired one of the band's hits), and what it was like having the coolest job on television. More »

Three Rappers Who Should Be The Center Square For MTV2's Hollywood Squares Reboot (And One Who Definitely Should Not)

Bring back the home versions of game shows!
Next month MTV2 will debut Hip-Hop Squares, a rap-centric takeoff on the "tic-tac-toe with trivia and celebrities" game show Hollywood Squares. (The non-genre-specific version of the show aired its last episode in 2004.) The show will be hosted by Hot 97's Peter Rosenberg, and MTV has announced a few of the participants already—Nick Cannon, Fat Joe, Biz Markie, and Machine Gun Kelly—but has yet to make public who will be in the center square, which serves as the linchpin of the board and, more importantly, the comedic linchpin of the show. Sure, the reboot is allegedly going to be "more party than game show," and dude-centric-programming perennial Bam Margera is somehow involved. But the tradition of the center square, as established by the ever-acerbic Paul Lynde, is still hallowed, and given its strategic importance in the game it will probably have to be staffed by someone loaded with riffs. (Unless MTV2 goes all crazy on us and turns the "square" into, I don't know, a trapezoid. Hey, it could happen!) Three suggestions for that hallowed spot—and one plea to not use someone who's probably in negotiations with MTV as we speak—below.

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MTV Accessorizes Itself With Music On I Just Want My Pants Back

via MTV
On the L train! So wacky!
I Just Want My Pants Back protagonist Jason Strider—a receptionist and aspiring music journalist who appears to live alone in a one-bedroom apartment despite claiming to have just $100 to his name—doesn't remember what sex tastes like because it's been six whole weeks since his last encounter. "This little dry spell could easily turn into the drought of the decade," he says through a smoky exhale in the bathroom stall of a Brooklyn bar, where he and his impossibly caustic friend Tina drink "to freedom" and only ever say the opposite of what they actually mean. With this new series, MTV has finally made the full transition from producing music programming to producing music blog programming, paying homage to the concept of music with a show about people who claim to listen to it.

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School On Top: Lessons From This Year's Video Music Awards

Nicki Minaj: The VMAs' Bravest.

It's been about 15 hours since the Video Music Awards blew by in a cloud of bleeped-out curses and plastic chains, which is just enough time to let the night's bigger-picture themes sink in. After the jump, a few thoughts on What It All Means For Us.

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Radio Hits One: Raising The Bar For "YouTube Platinum"

Justin Bieber and Ludacris: Congratulations. A lot of people watched your video.
On August 28, MTV will throw the 2011 installment of its Video Music Awards, honoring achievements in the art form that used to make up the majority of its programming. While it's all too tempting to note the irony that the channel has been marginilizing videos in favor of longer-form programming for nearly two decades now, the fact is that the music video as a pop culture force is in good health these days, with or (more often) without MTV's support.

The internet, broadly, has helped revive excitement around the music video, but credit can be specifically given to YouTube. The music video probably reached its nadir of interest and influence around 2005, just before the site exploded into popular consciousness and made streaming video more accessible both to watch and to upload. Not only do major-label stars finally have a place for their big-budget videos to be disseminated in a mass way resembling that of MTV's heyday; new artists have an unprecedented universal portal for their own low-budget clips, a development that's launched a constellation of stars from Justin Bieber to Kreayshawn and Pomplamoose.

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The Five "Best" Retired Categories At The Video Music Awards

Categories: MTV, MTV At 30, VMAs

MTV turns 30 today. To celebrate, we're running a bunch of pieces on the channel, its legacy, and its future.

Would you look at all that postmodernism?
For a multimillion-dollar event orchestrated with the dictatorial hand of all awards shows, there's always been a certain thrilling seat-of-the-pants quality to the Video Music Awards at its best. Maybe it's just the amount of big (and often liquored up) egos in one room, and the potential that one of them might do or say something dumb or funny or unexpected. But even with producers attempting to control every micro-second of the broadcast, viewers at least get the sense that anything might happen, even if 99 percent of the time nothing outlandish (or even very entertaining) usually takes place.

Most of the WTF watercooler moments from past VMAs seem plenty corny in retrospect. (Fiona Apple's mildly profane acceptance speech in 1997, for instance.) Occasionally, though, things get away from the producers to such a degree that clips from the shows can produce a feeling of avert-your-eyes queasiness years later. (Pretty much the entirety of the apocalyptically awful 2007 installment.)

But there's also another kind of awkwardness, the sort that comes with watching a show forced to reinvent itself from year to year; the whole thing can fall flat on its face for reasons that have nothing to do with drugged-out performers or presenters who go off-message. Like every company that attempts to stay on top of the fickle tastes of teenagers and act as both taste-maker and taste-agglomerator, MTV is in a constant race to keep up with the pubescent Joneses. And so, you rarely get more than two VMAs in a row that look or feel much alike.

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I Want My 18-34 Demographic: MTV's Research-Heavy (And Kinda Unhip) Approach To Melding Radio And TV

MTV turns 30 today. To celebrate, we're running a bunch of pieces on the channel, its legacy, and its future.

via Tacky and Kitsch
Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the above address, and you could have your own Dial Sticker.

The first 59 minutes of MTV—12:01 a.m. to 1 a.m., exactly 30 years ago today—totally sucked. Not because the upstart cable network opened with the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" (which still rules), or because of the clip for Pat Benetar's "You Better Run" that came a few minutes later (ditto). Not because of the affably bland ex-WPLJ DJ Mark Goodman, or how the ads for Mountain Dew, Trapper Keepers, or Dolby sound didn't hit their targets, either. That first hour—which you can watch right here—sucked because nothing made any sense. "All the V.J. segments were out of sequence," founder Bob Pittman later remembered. "They would say, 'That was,' and it wasn't, and 'Coming up is,' and it wasn't coming up. The polarization on the wires was also switched, so if you were listening in stereo, it was fine, but if you were in mono, it was canceling the sound out."

Pittman and the rest of the first MTV staff could be excused for screwing up their first hour of TV (only a handful of cable subscribers in northern New Jersey were watching anyway—even the founders had to head to a Fort Lee sports bar to tune in). These were mostly radio people, after all, trying to find a way to make some money in the fledgling realm of cable television. They picked a good time: the music industry was seeking any strategy to reenergize itself in the midst of a multi-year slump after disco flamed out. Like so many startups that aimed to merge existing ways of doing things, MTV was a kludge in its earliest years, but at the same time it was also a quiet miracle of technological convergence. Venture capitalists and tech geeks take note: MTV was the 1980s' most killer music app.

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Matt Pinfield And 120 Minutes Return To TV; Will The Audience Follow?

Categories: MTV, MTV At 30

MTV turns 30 on Monday. To celebrate, we're running a bunch of pieces on the channel, its legacy, and its future.

Back when he was a music-obsessed teenager growing up on Long Island, and long before he started the influential music website Stereogum, Scott Lapatine never missed an episode of 120 Minutes. He also had a tendency to procrastinate. This often led to many late Sunday nights in his parent's basement where he would have to multi-task. "I would run from one room with a computer in it and my textbook in my lap to the other room to catch what they were playing on 120 Minutes, and have my mind blown by the latest Porno For Pyros video that they aired," he says with a chuckle.

Along with college radio, fanzines and publications like Spin, MTV's music-video show 120 Minutes was one of the main ways non-mainstream acts found fans in the pre-Internet era. If you get enough music fans of a certain age in a room together, you're likely to hear tales of how this program blew young minds, especially if any of them tuned in the night the program debuted Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." (This particular writer will cop to pretty much having his young heart rewired upon catching the 120 premiere of Radiohead's video for "Fake Plastic Trees.")

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Beavis And Butt-Head Return To A Racier, More Snookified MTV

MTV turns 30 on Monday. To celebrate, we're running a bunch of pieces on the channel, its legacy, and its future.

You may have heard by now that Beavis and Butt-Head are returning to MTV—a real comeback after years of cruel teasing rumors, none of them particularly believable. Mike Judge announced the show's comeback at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, and MTV released the above clip of new footage in tandem with the announcement.

In a lot of ways, that clip seems like it could have come straight from Beavis and Butt-Head's '90s heyday: bloody mayhem, charming stupidity, Cornholio. But it also came with one crucial difference. When it came time for the duo's much-beloved mocking of music videos, B&B started ripping into... Snooki and Jersey Shore.

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