Total Request Dead
A little over a week ago we witnessed a death in the pop culture universe.
TRL had aired its final show on MTV, counting down its last top 10 list of videos. Every VJ from the past decade returned to the Times Square studios, even Granddaddy himself Carson Daly, reminiscing over memorable performances and iconic videos from days gone by (1999, how we miss thee).
Having not regularly watched the show since...oh...let's say sometime in 2001, I still felt a slight pang from the loss. Although my memories of TRL may not have been as intense as your average 13-year-old girl, I will still cherish my personal experiences with the show (having lived just north of Manhattan)...Being on-camera to request Blink-182's "Adam's Song" during spring break...Taking my 12-year-old cousin to see Backstreet Boys promote Black and Blue...Coming in 2nd Place in a Halloween costume contest for my zombie version of Carson Daly (with a Total Request Dead microphone in hand)...maneuvering through the mob of screaming 'NSYNC fans with my mother after catching a matinee of Saturday Night Fever on Broadway (that alone was embarrassing enough).
The fact that the show's finale barely registered with the masses should be an indication of how much has changed within the music industry - and consumerism. Many have argued that the Music Video is dead, and the end of TRL may as well be the final nail in that coffin. Indeed, music videos aren't what they used to be. Gone are the days of the million-dollar production ("Larger Than Life" anyone?), and with that epidemic of sagging budgets came a compromise in creativity. After all, how good does a video need to look? Does it really need to tell a story? Why bother with an actual concept? The kids are just going to watch it on YouTube anyway in between bootleg downloads of the new Beyonce.
SOAPBOX ALERT: The wrong (read: lazy) way to produce a music video with no budget is to just point the camera at an artist against different backdrops and incorporate imagery that has nothing to do with the message of the song whatsoever. However, when you have no money for fancy locations and special effects, it's time to get the creative juices flowing. And here's an example of how it's done right:
TRL, from what I remember during recent years, seemed to have lost itself, straying away from its original premise. Viewers would be lucky to catch at least 30 seconds of their favorite video during the countdown; the rest of the show was usually overbloated with celeb interviews, shameless plugs and John Norris's increasingly disturbing hair color of choice. The requests took a backseat to the parade of celebretards who came in and took pictures with fans and each other (Though I must say, the TRL Yearbook looks like a fine piece of coffee table literature). And before you say, "Oh Hiks, get over it, you were no longer their demographic," let me just say I that appreciate the hard work that goes in to every production. Showing less than a minute of footage from a vid does a disservice to the men and women who worked long hours on set and in post. Let the whole damn thing play. Don't cut away to a talking head with breaking news about Miley Cyrus's Sweet Sixteen plans. I want to see the rest of Chris Brown's fancy footwork, dammit. I want to see the part where Britney gives us that "Come hither" look. I want to see how the whole thing ends.
I assume the businesses and vendors in Times Square will miss the hordes of customers that camped out in front of those studio windows every weekday afternoon. And the Virgin Megastore closing down across the street didn't help either (damn you, iTunes!). I also assume that the cab driver community of New York City was relieved to hear that it no longer had to worry about potentially running over poster-waving David Archuleta fans in the middle of the day.
And where will our favorite VJs go? Will there be a mass migration over to MTV2? Will Quduus and Damian have to redo their headshots in order to pursue other journalistic ventures? Will there be an influx of GenY correspondents on CNN and MSNBC? It's so tragic to see such photogenic lost souls shoved out into such a cutthroat world. May the most charismatic Teleprompter reader win.
But we will carry on. Eventually there will be something else to fill the void, something else to capture the zeitgeist...
While we wait, I shall leave you with a look back, a reminder of the pure, unadulterated fun that was TRL during its heyday (JT, you had us at "Tearin' Up"):
Very sad. I was on the street one day in the audience. I didn't watch the finale - and haven't watched TRL in God knows how many years - but at least I can say I was a minor part of pop culture history. ;)