TV OD: AMTV Rips It Up and Starts Again
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 29, 2009
After all my lamentations on the death of the music video over the last few years, it’s almost unthinkable for me to writing about something that appears to be taking steps to reverse this trend. When MTV trotted out “FnMTV” about a year ago–Pete Wentz’s attempt to bring the vid back to national prominence–I was somewhat skeptical from the getgo, and it quickly proved my worst fears right, as Wentz seemed more interested in hob knobbing with the celebrity guests than actually playing the videos in their entirety, and as fascinating as it was to see Nas commenting on She & Him videos, it was just a recipe for inevitable disaster. This hullabaloo wasn’t what the music video medium needed to re-introduce itself to a new generation of MTV watchers–what it really needed was just a regular, consistent block of time where MTV played new, quality videos in their entirety.
And so, hallelujah for AMTV. Currently airing on weekday mornings from either 3:00-6:00, 6:00-9:00, or occasionally throughout both blocks, AMTV is pretty much everything I could have hoped for in MTV attempting to reintroduce their one-time signature programming construct to their regular lineup. How exactly is that, you ask? Well…
- It Plays (Mostly) Full, Uninterrupted Videos. Even when FnMTV used to have reruns of its content throughout the week during early-morning programming, they never seemed to show more than two minutes of a video at a time–which got infuriating, especially because they would often repeat those two-minute sections multiple times in the same hour-long block. But on the episodes I’ve watched/taped of AMTV thusfar, only one or two videos an episode have been cut short, the rest played in their glorious entirety. And perhaps more importantly, they’re not distracted from by any on-screen gimmickry–honestly, I never much cared that 70% of viewers liked Beyonce’s outfit in “Single Ladies,” or that SashaFierce1234 thought it was her hottest joint eva.
- It Premieres Videos. Hey, I don’t mind a little bit of fanfare when the big guns are coming out with some new hot ones. Green Day hasn’t had a video out in over three years, and they’ve been one of the biggest acts on the channel for the last decade-and-a-half. It’s only appropriate that a new clip should be advertised for throughout the week, with making-of footage spliced throughout, all leading up to a solid premiere event. I don’t need an MC telling me what a big deal the premiere is, or a lot of screaming fans behind them to confirm it. Let the channel and its content speak for themselves.
- It Shows Good (Or Unexpected, At Least) Videos. I still can’t believe some of the artists and videos that have been getting played on this program. Glasvegas’s “Geraldine.” Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch.” Friendly Fires’ “Skeleton Boy.” Bat for Lashes’ “Daniel.” Underground bands that barely even get played on the most modern of FM rock stations, and their weirdo vids? It used to be that I would have to troll the MTV2 schedule on late weeknights in the hopes of catching the once-a-week, hour-long 120 Minutes successor Subteranean if I wanted to have any chance to see videos like this on any major network–now they’re getting played along with Jesse McCartney and Kelly Clarkson on MTV? Say what you jaded fuxx may, I still think that’s some pretty cool shit.
- It Shows Old Videos. Hey, the kids have to learn about Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing” somewhere, right? Back when I first started watching music videos, the only way I had to really learn about the history of the medium was to sniff out the older videos that MTV mixed in with their regular rotation, since traditionally only the most important videos continued to get played at all past their expiration date. To see AMTV reach into the vaults to give classics like Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang,” or even more recent clips like Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly”…well, it may not be digging particularly deep, but least it shows that the channel is willing to acknowledge that the music video does in fact have a past, and one worth remembering–something the channel has simply not done at all in close to a decade.
- It Has Cool Little Inter-Video ID Clips. MTV used to seem to be having fun with its video programming, and they would have seemingly pointless but surprisingly well thought out inter-video clips to act as station and program IDs. The ones for AMTV–showing clips of tired, frustrating looking people in the morning hours while poorly dated pop songs of the past (“Ice Ice Baby,” “Hangin’ Tough,” “What’s Up?”) blare in the background–probably weren’t exactly labor-intensive, but they’re marginally cute, and have that kind of fun spirit that the old IDs used to. I’ll stop to watch ’em in between vids just to see if there’s one I haven’t seen yet. It’s the little things, you know.
Yes, I’m aware that showing unglamorized music videos at hours where only the damned are actually awake doesn’t exactly mark a paradigm shift. But it’s more of a step in the right direction than the reurns of From Gs to Gents and The Girls of Hedsor Hall that would be in their place, certainly.