The Day the Music Died: Bye Bye Bye to TRL?

Get ready to cut your life into pieces: TRL is no more. I found this out last week and I was wholly unprepared for the news. Carson Daly, Vanessa Minillio, Damien Fahey, Suchin Pak, Sway... they're gone? Yes, my friends, the streets of Times Square will once again be empty of the smiling pre-pubescent faces of the thirteen year old girls who once lined the sidewalks every afternoon hoping to catch a glimpse of the drummer from the All-American Rejects and to get their scream heard through the glass of the studio window that loomed eight stories above them. If you're like me, and you undoubtedly are, you are beginning to ask yourself the terrible, haunting question: Where will I be able to watch 20 seconds of a music video interspersed with teen shout outs/freak outs?

In doing research for this post, I discovered that MTV is planning a new music-centered show called FNMTV, so you can rest easy knowing that there will always be a place, however small and insignificant, for music on MTV. The new show will feature some jack-ass called "Wentz" and will contain more feedback from viewers-who-aren't-like-you. Although, as Gideon Yago put it, MTV has largely stripped itself of the "music" and has spent the better part of our lifetime becoming a "youth lifestyle channel."

I can honestly say that I never voted for a single video on TRL. I cannot remember the last time I watched the show, a replay, or even saw a commercial for it. Carson Daly is always a great obscure reference but since I left middle school that's about the only interaction I've had with the show. However, in the same way that American Bandstand catalogued the music that was relevant for decades of kids across America, so too has TRL defined our generation. TRL was never about the music - it was about us. We voted for videos that we wanted to see. We interrupted videos by popping up in a little pip screen at the bottom of the video screaming "TRL!!!!" Stars came on the show to see us. The illusion that MTV presented to us was that we were in control of the youth culture. Even when we knew that we were being marketed to with manufactured boy bands like 98 degrees or "teen angst" music like Limp Bizkit, TRL allowed us to feel like we were responsible for the rise and fall of artists in the pop music industry. Now we've got YouTube. We don't need Carson Daly to tell us what the top song of the week is... we know that it's "Shine On Me" by Chris Dane Owens.

The real message I want to convey is that I'm actually mourning the loss of TRL. I feel like I'm longing for a childhood culture for which I was always on the sidelines. Why couldn't I enjoy seeing Limp Bizkit's cover of "Faith" in the top spot on a Tuesday afternoon? What was so wrong with "Freak on a Leash?" The whole bullet thing was actually kind of sweet! I'm sure that there are plenty of people for whom 80s nostalgia is somewhat of an assumed ex post facto identity and I guess that's partially what I'm doing now. But I'm also mourning the loss of a cultural anchor. Can I really hate this new FNMTV and decry its perpetuation of soul-less mass-marketed music? I guess, but I feel no real antipathy towards it. I'll probably just ignore it. The passing of TRL is mirroring the passage of my youth and I cringe at the thought of turning into a bitter James Murphy-like figure who cannot help but lament the usurpation of his cool by "the kids." From now on I'm out of touch with the real youth of America. The cultural vernacular that we knew - the acronyms and band names that were relevant to us, whether we liked them or not - are losing currency and new memes are being forged in the fires of adolescence to we which we will never be privy. Should it be any surprise to us that we're our own worst enemy?

So go out and buy BuzzCuts and look back with fondness on the days when Papa Roach used to blow our minds. Farewell, TRL. We'll miss you.


Andy said...

First, kudos on all the papa roach references.

This post definitely dredged up a lot of great memories of getting obsessed with awful songs in middle school. Although I still maintain that Freak on a Leash, with its accompanying video, is a work of art. However, I'm hesitant to call TRL a proper reflection of our generation's taste. How much of our musical taste was filtered through the lens of marketing and availability via MTV and the other major media systems? Just the same as you, I never actually participated in this supposed tween zeitgeist, but it seems to me that things like youtube, hypemachine, and lastfm are a much better reflection of the common music listener. I welcome this new voice of the people, that mtv can subsequently find a way to make money off of.

Also, Pete Wentz? Really?


Coaltrain said...

I'm pretty sure John Norris is the first person I'd lay off in almost any situation. Like if we were stranded at sea, John Norris would definitely be the first person I ate.

al;ec said...

in reverse chrono-blogological order:

--john norris would be stringy. do not want to eat.
--i agree with andy, you can't get rid of fucking john norris, the man is an institution!
--i totally watched the shit out of TRL and i don't think i ever knew, or indeed know now, why.
--got the life was always my favorite korn song. i have a soft spot for them in my heart because even me in 7th grade realized the rest of the music on that show was trash and that korn was the best thing they had going (which is defensible i think!) and so i credit korn with starting me on the long, exceedingly treacherous path towards decent music.
--one time i met jesse camp's ex girlfriend. he quit TRL to focus on his band and heroin habit. one ended up better than the other.
--wasn't carson daly sort of the original ryan seacrest?
--daly out


I don't know anyone who feels that way about the 80s.

Newman said...

I think the most bizarre portion of my own experience with TRL was how universally watched, and universally not-mentioned it was. Everyone I knew went home to watch it after school. No one came in the next day discussing how they couldn't believe that N*SYNC was #1 again! We were all entranced and our brians all melted, like Jim Carey did to people in Batman and Robin.

Anonymous said...

How did Gideon Yago get to be in an episode of This American Life? Not fair. I bet Vowell was prob. pissed as all get out.

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