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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Did TRL Represent a Musical Highpoint?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I know, if I were to ask this question five years ago everyone would look at me funny. Heck, I’m sure a few of you are looking at me funny right now, thinking how on earth could a show that was so undeniably geared toward pop music and major labels represent the highpoint of anything artistic? Well, after watching various year by year “Best of TRL” countdowns this past Saturday, something MTV Hits was running in honor of the cancellation of the long running music video countdown show, it actually became surprisingly obvious. Although TRL may have had very little to do with it, in every genre of music things were better during the heyday of the show than they are now.

At first I tuned in to the MTV Hits countdowns for what I would loosely consider shits n giggles, but as each song passed and I knew the lyrics to more and more of them I started paying attention to every aspect of the songs. Musically the pop music, and select rock music, TRL played was much more lush just five to ten years ago than it is now. If you listen to what qualified as the pinnacle of pop a handful of years ago you’d hear an infectious horn laden Ricky Martin song, or, as horrible as the lyrics might have been (seriously, WTF is an “automo bill?”), a harmonious Destiny’s Child song. When it came to rock music even an act like Limp Bizkit, a band that critics have loved to hate over the years, brought something unique to the table. You can’t deny you always knew when a song was a Limp Bizkit song, whether you liked them or not, and nobody else was doing what they were doing. Ironically, even though they were a band people accused of having nothing to say, they said a heck of a lot more on “My Generation,” albeit in curse filled tirades, than the majority of rockers say today.

Another interesting note about the music of “old school” TRL is that, as my buddy DJ Halo pointed out, you could play most of those songs today and people would still dance, or at least react, to them. You can’t say that about the majority of the songs on radio playlists today. This leads to a very interesting question; what went wrong? Point blank, the music isn’t as good as it was ten, or even five, years ago; why is this? The answer, and I know I may sound like a broken record when I say this, is the record labels.

The music industry watched TRL and thought it was really all about image, completely forgetting the basis for why kids liked the music, which was that it had some actual musicality, and in the case of the rock music, emotion, in it! Sure, some of the lyrical content was crap, but boy bands and girl groups were melodic, Eminem had something to say, and rock bands like Korn, P.O.D., and the aforementioned Limp Bizkit were all unique voices that created something that hadn’t been heard before. The industry took note of their image, but forgot to note their musical ability. The result off all this is that record labels now have little concern over whether or not there is any quality in the music they put out; all that matters to them is making a quick buck. This is why we have acts that use the vocorder and computer programs like Auto-Tune consistently pushed on us right now.

So as the industry continues to complain about downloading and point fingers at whatever the latest technology is that allows people to share music as the reason for their lack of sales, the one place they should be pointing their collective finger is at themselves; for pushing artists who sign terrible contracts and shelving veterans who they know make better music but have signed contracts that entitle them to a bigger piece of their own sales; for continuing to blame fans for not wanting to pay for music while at the same time offering less and less anyone would want to pay for, for blaming technology for a lack of sales while signing artists that can’t carry a tune without it, and for ignoring the example TRL set for what makes music sell.

It’s ironic that TRL, a show that dealt so much with image, could end up teaching us so much about music. Some may think it’s a sign of how bad things really are right now. Personally, I think of it more as not knowing what we have when we actually have it.
posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:38 AM  
  • At 11:39 AM, Blogger Lee said…

    Well said, sir.

  • At 2:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Are you out to prove something?...
    Do you want to be known as the best blogger in the world? lol Cuz everything I've reading from you has been mad interesting....

    But anyway...
    I think TRL was just a part of the culture at the time. In the future...people will sing the songs they hear now...even if they are not terrific. At every point in time there were songs that did not have a lasting effect...But I'm pretty sure a song like T.I.'s "Live Your Life" or T-Pain's "Cant Believe It" will be remembered.


  • At 7:50 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Thanks for the props! I'm glad you're diggin the blogs.

  • At 9:20 AM, Blogger Clyde said…

    "I’m sure a few of you are looking at me funny right now"

    Not to spoil the love fest but it's like you're observing me through my monitor!

  • At 9:32 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Actually, I am. I turned on Blogger's "see through space and time" application.

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