The Influence of MTV
THE HISTORY OF MUSIC VIDEOS
Although music videos looked like a new pop culture mini-art form when MTV appeared in 1981, the idea of adding a visual component to a musical offering was not new, of course. It had been around since the earliest days of sound movies. In 1920s film clips of Al Jolson and Rudy Vallee, there are hints of things to come. Then there were the 1930s big band "soundies", featuring Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, and others playing their hits while the camera men created angle shots, fade in/fade out sequences, rearranged horn sections, superimposed images, overhead shots of the drummer, and many similar ingenious tricks.
The best example of the early use of these film devices is The King of Jazz (1930) with Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby, and their friends, including the famous composer pianist George Gershwin performing his popular "Rhapsody in Blue". Another historic moment was Lena Horne's extended treatment of the title song in a 1943 all-black film Stormy Weather. By this time there were musical short subjects, ten minutes or so, before the feature films in all the movie theaters of America.
In the 1950s, video jukeboxes could be found in the better restaurants and drug store soda fountains of the land. A video jukebox was just that – a circular loop of film in a coin operated music machine. Many of the early rock and roll stars appeared there in action.
In the 1960s, music videos sometimes came in movie form, such as the Beatles' Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, and Yellow Submarine, and sometimes appeared as part of a television show, on programs like The Monkees, The Partridge Family, and on variety shows.
In 1977, with the creation of VHS and Beta, the music industry began to market videotapes of pop concerts, so fans could enjoy the music of their favorite artists in the comfort of their own homes.
THE ADVENT OF MTV
On August 1, 1981, the music industry changed as millions of young people gathered around their TVs to hear and see the band the Buggles predict the future with the first-ever video on MTV, "Video Killed the Radio Star". MTV (Music Television) was the first place that music videos could be watched, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year long. (These days, with the advent of reality TV shows like The Jersey Shore, it no longer lives up to its original concept of "all music, all the time".) The music cable outlet broadcast all over America, Canada, Western Europe and Scandinavia, and selected big cities in South America, Africa, Australia, and the Orient. At the beginning of MTV, videos were seen as a new art form, a new way for fans to experience the music, but it didn't take long for the recording industry to realize the potential of videos as promotional tools for tours, albums, and even artists themselves, creating a whole new field of global art-vs.-commerce considerations.
Very simply, pop videos are a form of continuous sales promotion, and they grow out of the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of the language of advertising. Born in this visual language of the advertising industry, pop videos follow their own aesthetic principles, which may or may not penetrate or derive from the music. The British journalist Don Watson said, "Never has the world of pop culture been so close to the world of advertising, the world of lifestyle sales" (quoted in Wicke 1987, 162).
Many major stars' careers began on MTV, including those of Michael Jackson, Madonna, the Beastie Boys, Duran Duran, and George Michael in the '80s; Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, and TLC in the '90s; and, more recently, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.
During the 1980s, there were several different styles of pop videos, some with a social message, like "Beds Are Burning" by the Australian band, Midnight Oil. Some were mini dramas, like George Michael's "Father Figure". Some were wonderfully surrealistic and politically loaded, like Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey". Regardless of any other motives that may have prompted the writing of the song in the first place, a video really only had one goal: to sell as many albums (later CDs, and later, downloads) as possible.
In his book Rock Music: Culture, Aesthetics, and Sociology, Professor Peter Wicke devoted several pages to a scholarly analysis of one of early videos, a prototype as it were, Russel Mulcahy's 1985 production of Duran Duran's "Wild Boys":
The video of this song shows a surrealistic and apocalyptic world full of confusing symbolism. Nightmarish, dark, unconnected images rush by frantically in no particular order, bathed in bluish light or in the flickering glow of flames. The images change every few seconds, often merely leaving behind the fleeting trace of an impression, only to freeze again into painfully captivating detailed scenes.
The camera perspective continually moves between all the imaginable angles, making any spacial orientation, any relation of up and down, right and left, practically impossible. The scenery is dominated by battle, attack, aggression, and stylized force. The members of Duran Duran are included in these ghostly events, but at the same time stand outside them – they appear on video on a screen that is continually brought into the action.
The collection of symbols is devoid of any logic: men knock tables over, bathed in flickering shadows, tongues of flame blaze from their mouths. A figure enveloped in a floating cape approaches dangerously slowly. A robot like man/machine head turns, spewing flames, to a video screen which shows Duran Duran playing "Wild Boys;" half naked savages, dressed in leather shorts, with painted upper bodies and punk hair styles perform archaic dances. On the screen a time bomb begins to tick. Flames leap up, and laboratory equipment becomes visible.
A lift platform sinks into a metal structure. Bodies whirl through the air like bullets. A windmill appears with Duran Duran's lead singer tied to one of the sails, rotating through the air. Another of the group, locked in a cage, is working hard at the most modern computers, while a third is undergoing a form of brain washing using photographs of himself.
The savages and their barbaric dance games dominate the scene again. Out of nowhere appears a mediaeval flying machine with a man in it. One of the savages tries to catch it with a lasso, but it races straight into the windmill, releasing the lead singer from his rotation torture. He then immediately finds himself in shimmering green water, threatened by a monster (Wicke 1987, 163-164)
Wicke continues on with several more paragraphs of descriptive details, then makes his point: what appears to be random and senseless is really very specific.
But for all this, the images are by no means meaningless. Looked at more closely, each scene is a carefully constructed quotation from the repertoire of action sequences from adventure and science fiction films, and thus refers to the viewer's previous media experiences, since he has probably seen the relevant scenes in hundreds of different versions in the cinema or on television. The viewer therefore has the visual stereotypes to hand. What is at work here is the aesthetic law of advertising (Wicke 1987, 165).
Advertising is based on juxtaposing two image packages so that the viewer subliminally attaches the characteristic virtues of one with the other. The huge Clydesdale horses are powerful, virile, even beautiful – so I'll drink Budweiser and be the same. The voluptuous beauty in the slinky dress slides into her Lexus with a smile – I'll bet driving a Lexus has the same sexy excitement that she could certainly provide. The nuances are much deeper, broader, and more layered with various levels of meaning, of course. Many of them are nonverbal and not even available for conscious consideration.
The pop video uses advertising principles, but the product to be sold, the record, is nearly absent from the scenario. It's so subtle that the video producer merely prints the relevant information before and after, and lets the viewer enjoy the playful nonsense of the indiscriminate and meaningless barrage of audio and visual sensations – all of which resonate, however, and make the viewer feel alive, knowledgeable, and "with it". It's the ultimate soft sales pitch, and it has special appeal for early adolescents who want desperately to feel alive, knowledgeable, and "with it".
Because of the nature of pop videos, musicians, singers, and even the songs are nearly interchangeable – like toothpaste, or shampoo, or beer, or headache remedies. The producers of the pop videos, like the producers of the advertisements, have become multi-talented magicians who can indeed sell anything to anyone on a really good day.
MTV provided the opportunity for the creation of a truly worldwide superstar for the first time. Technology was now in place to bring the sound and look of a performer, not just to the local movie theaters as the Beatles and Elvis Presley had done in earlier decades, but to every television, every home, in the civilized world. All that was needed was an artist who was a master at both the music and the new visual world of videos. That person was Michael Jackson.
Originally a member of the Jackson Five, Michael, the youngest of the five brothers, began his career as a solo artist with the release of the album Got to Be There (1972). Three other solo albums soon followed: Ben (1972), Music and Me (1973), and Forever Michael (1975).
After the Jackson Five left Motown in 1975, they signed with Epic Records, and continued to record and tour as the Jacksons. Michael remained a member of the group and became their lead songwriter, with hits such as "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" (1979).
In 1978, Michael appeared as the Scarecrow in The Wiz, a Motown version of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. Although the film did not do well at the box office, it gave Michael the opportunity to meet producer Quincy Jones, who would produce Michael's next solo album, Off the Wall (1979). It was this album that helped transition Michael's career away from his membership in the Jacksons and more into a solo performer in his own right. The album reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts and it has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, propelled by many strong singles, including "Rock with You" and "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough".
Then, in 1981, along came MTV. Trained in Berry Gordy’s Motown Machine from the age of 11, Jackson was the perfect artist for that moment in music history. He could sing passionately, dance like James Brown, interact effectively with the camera, and look attractive to the audience while doing it. He didn’t drink, smoke, swear, or take drugs (that anyone was aware of), which fit in nicely with the conservative Reagan era of the early 1980s. He spoke politely, and seemed to show kindness to others at every turn. He was authentically “black enough” in his musical style to attract a large following in that community, while attracting a huge new white audience as well. Women liked him and so did most men. The old remembered him from his Motown Days, and the young just wanted to “dance like Michael”.
The ultimate cross-over artist then ascended to the throne of pop king with the release of Thriller, one of the first albums to successfully use music videos as part of the promotional package. Although the first single, "The Girl is Mine", a duet between Jackson and Paul McCartney, failed to make waves on the pop charts, the second single, "Billie Jean", changed all of that with the release of the album's first video. With a fantastic bass line and catchy chorus, the song became an instant hit.
However, despite the radio success of the song, MTV initially thought that the video for "Billie Jean" was not for them, since it wasn't "rock" music. MTV only relented and began playing the video after CBS Records' chief Walter Yetnikoff threatened to pull all of their other videos. Directed by Steve Barron (who would also direct a-ha's groundbreaking video for "Take on Me"), "Billie Jean" became the first video by a black artist to receive heavy rotation on MTV. It would also be the video that propelled MTV from "that music video cable channel" into a mainstream media outlet.
The success of the third single off of the album, "Beat It", which featured guitarist Eddie Van Halen, sent sales of Thriller through the roof, at one point selling a million copies every 4 days. The album topped the charts in both 1983 and 1984 and it has sold an estimated 65 million copies to date, easily the best-selling album of all time.
The last video for the album – the one for the song "Thriller" – reached previously unimaginable heights when it was released in December 1983. Directed by John Landis (who, at the time, was best known for directing the films National Lampoon's Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and a segment in the Twilight Zone movie), and with a budget of $500,000, the video was the first "world premiere" on MTV. The almost 14-minute video featured zombies and other creatures created by Academy Award winning special effects makeup artist Rick Baker, and it is widely considered the most influential music video of all time.
Although "Thriller" and its accompanying video will always be considered his "crowning achievement", Jackson had many other successful videos, too, including "Bad", "Black or White", "Man in the Mirror", and "Scream" (with his sister, Janet Jackson).
When he was dubbed the “King of Pop” in 1989, few could argue. The most awarded artist in pop music history, Jackson dominated an entire decade of American pop. The fame was not without drawbacks, though. Tabloid reporters hounded him, following his every move, eventually forcing him into near seclusion on his private, custom-built, fantasyland estate, “Neverland”, named for the place where Peter Pan never had to grow up.
Like James Brown before him, Jackson used his stardom to support various social causes, including efforts to fight world hunger (as co-writer of USA for Africa's "We Are the World" single, on which he also sang), drunk driving ("Beat It" was used in a prevention campaign sponsored by the Ad Council and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration), HIV/AIDS research (which came to his attention after he befriended Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted HIV after a blood transfusion), the United Negro College Fund (all profits from the single "Man in the Mirror" were donated to the charity), and as part of his Heal the World Foundation, which brought underprivileged children to the theme park at Neverland, as well as working with other children-focused charities to fight disease, hunger, and war.
Jackson’s career was not without controversy, however. His short-lived marriage to Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie, created a firestorm of controversy in 1994, some of it certainly caused by the inter-racial nature of the marriage. A black man marrying the white daughter of "the King of Rock and Roll" was a bit hard for some to accept, even decades after the end of segregation.
And Jackson’s fondness for children was endearing to some of his fans, but troubling to many others. Having been thrust into the spotlight as the lead singer of the Jackson Five at the tender age of six years old (before they signed with Motown), Jackson never experienced a traditional childhood himself. As a grown man, Jackson sought to find his lost childhood experience by inviting children, many of them poor or handicapped, to his Neverland ranch, a wonderland complete with trains, rides, Ferris wheels, and a large petting zoo. Allegations of sexual abuse of children surfaced in 1993 and continued for the rest of his career, but he was never convicted.
Other strange behaviors were rumored, as well, including that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and that he bleached his skin and repeatedly had plastic surgeries in an attempt to look "whiter". There was also an incident where he dangled his baby son from a high balcony while fans looked on, horrified, from below.
Jackson died in 2009 at the age of 50, under questionable circumstances. Conrad Murray, a doctor hired by Jackson to treat a variety of conditions including stress and insomnia, medicated him with a lethal dose of anti-anxiety medications and anesthetics in order to “help him sleep”. Michael never woke up. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sent to jail.
Despite the oddities and allegations in his personal life, Michael Jackson remains the single greatest entertainer of the 1980s. Jackson is the only artist to have a song in the Billboard Hot 100 list in five different decades, and sales of all his recordings combined top 400 million copies. He perfected the art of pop video performance, and dance videos like "Beat It", "Billie Jean", and "Black or White" still stand as the standard against which all other pop dance videos are judged. The “King of Pop”? Undoubtedly.
Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis in 1958 to African-American parents, both of whom were musicians. Prince took to music at an early age, and by his late teens he had taught himself, or been instructed by others, how to play nearly a dozen different instruments, including the electric guitar, an instrument that he quickly mastered. Young Prince grew up listening to jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and rock styles of every kind, including the music of psychedelic blues guitar master Jimi Hendrix. The great James Brown, creator of funk, was a particular favorite, as was the equally flamboyant Sly, of Sly and the Family Stone fame. Even funkier late '70s bands like George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic further shaped young Prince into the funky master he was soon to become. Mid-1970s punk, with its “do whatever the __ you want to do” attitude; disco, with its never ending danceable beat; British “glam” rock, with its wild fashions; and rap, with its gritty, aggressive vocal delivery all influenced Prince as composer/performer and rock revolutionary. The early '80s brought electronically created rhythms to pop music. Funky dance grooves were created for the first time by personal computers and drum machines. Bands like England’s New Order and Germany’s Kraftwerk were generating exciting electronic dance music for the post-disco club scene. Prince combined these electronic dance beats with authentic rock and roll guitar technique, perfect funky time, and a rap attitude, all propelled by strong hook-laden original compositions. Michael Jackson may have been the “King of Pop” and all-time leader of record sales in the '80s, but unlike Michael—who relied on talented industry professionals to gather his musicians, write out his music, design his videos, and handle the actual music production—Prince did all of these things himself, and in doing so created music that forever changed the sound and the subject matter of American pop music.
Sexual activity has been a part of rock since its inception. The term “rock and roll” was used as street slang for sex before it ever meant music, just as the term “jazz” had meant sex, forty years earlier, on the city streets of New Orleans. Prince’s musical preoccupation with sex, and his willingness to discuss it openly in his music, was revolutionary for his time and changed the subject matter of rock forever. Fats Domino found his “thrill” on Blueberry Hill in the mid '50s, and some fans thought that this “thrill” might have meant sex. The Beatles sang, “Why don’t we do it in the road?” in 1968, and although we knew that “doing it” was about sex, we never thought the song itself was at all obscene in its language. The Rolling Stones sang, “Let’s Spend the Night together” in 1967, and we again understood the intended implication of sexual activity, but no details of the sexual act itself were evident. Prince, however, sang not only of the vague concept of sex in songs like the metaphor-laden "Little Red Corvette", but of actually doing it himself, or watching others in the act, and he described the sexual activity, often in brutally graphic terms. In 1980, Prince released the album Dirty Minds, which clearly established that sex would be the driving force behind the artist, and much of rock and roll from this point forward. “Darling Nikki” discussed masturbation, as did “Jack You Off”. “Sister” was a song about incest, and “Head” was about oral sex. Even though these songs saw very limited airplay, the public outcry was loud and immediate, which of course skyrocketed the albums that contained the tracks to the tops of the charts, in the same way that public outcry and censorship has successfully promoted every other “objectionable” rock recording throughout history. Chuck Berry’s lyrics made kids dance happily in the '50s, Bob Dylan’s lyrics made them think deeply in the '60s, but Prince’s lyrics stimulated them in a far more dangerous manner. Prince followed up 1980’s Dirty Mind with Controversy in 1981, then 1999 in 1982, and the double album Purple Rain in 1984. Songs from these albums became some of the biggest-selling and most highly awarded songs of the decade, including “Little Red Corvette”, “Controversy”, “When Doves Cry”, “Kiss”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, and dozens of others. The list of Prince’s hits goes on and on, with 40 songs in the Top 100 throughout the '80s and '90s alone.
A Prince and the Revolution concert of this era featured Prince’s trademark purple color scheme, odd-shaped guitars, high-heeled shoes, and extravagant outfits. Purple Rain was made into a semi-autobiographical film of the same name that starred Prince in his acting debut. All the members of his band were featured in the film, as were others who had become part of the Prince “family” -- artists, many from Minneapolis, who shared the look, feel, attitude, and “sexual vibe” that Prince was quickly popularizing. Largely as a result of Prince’s sexually explicit music, the Parents Music Resource Center was formed in 1985 as a way of “protecting” youth from music that discussed sex, violence, suicide, incest, and other “disturbing” subjects. It was decided that one generic warning label would be placed on any recording deemed “dangerous” to young listeners. Those warning labels, which many continue to believe are a waste of time and money, still exist on recordings to this day.
Prince in the 1980s became the “immoral alternative” to the squeaky-clean Michael Jackson, who ignored sexual content almost entirely, with the exception of an occasional fleeting crotch grab (his own) in one of his exciting, PG-rated dance videos. Prince’s videos, on the other hand, combined erotically charged scenes of the artist himself dancing with, groping, lying on top of, or lusting after various beautiful women. These steamy scenes were interspersed most often with groove-heavy band action shots from his live show. If Michael Jackson was MTV’s equivalent to a family-friendly Disney movie, then Prince was closer to porn. What made Prince so “dangerous” to parents and youth of the mid-'80s was that the music itself—the quality of the infectious funky beat, the irresistible hooks in the melodies—was just too good for even the most innocent teenager to ignore. This music lured young people to its decadent content like candy offered by a dangerous funky stranger. Sexuality in its most sweaty and raw form was now in rock to stay.
Prince’s recording and touring successes continued into the 1990s with sold-out stadium dates and chart-topping record releases. In this era, Prince began playing and composing with and for many other artists, sometimes appearing on the recordings using a different name. A dispute with his own record company, Warner Bros., prompted Prince to change his stage and recording name to an unpronounceable symbol (later copyrighted as "Love Symbol #2"), causing him to usually be referred to as "the Artist Formally Known as Prince”. He and his band, The New Power Generation, continued recording and touring to massive crowds into the new millennium.
Many scholars, disc jockeys, and music company executives thought that Prince was what the future of pop music would look and sound like in the new millennia: the perfect combination of rap attitude, rock energy, danceable grooves, guitar power, artistic sophistication, and profane fury, all in one spectacular artist. What nobody took into account at the time, however, was that only Prince was capable of actually pulling off this type of complex stylistic fusion. Prince had long suffered with back pain from a stage injury and foot pain from the high heals he wore to make his 5’ 2” body seem taller on stage. He died of an accidental opioid overdose in 2016 at his sprawling Paisley Park complex just south of Minneapolis, just a few months before he was to perform at the opening of the new Minnesota Vikings football stadium. Fans still line up to place flowers along the fence of his vast purple-colored compound. Genius artist? Most certainly.
One of the biggest international rock bands who benefitted from exposure on MTV is U2. Formed in Dublin in 1976, the group is made up of Bono (born Paul Hewson), who is lead vocalist and occasional guitarist; the Edge (born David Evans) who plays lead guitar and keyboards and does backing vocals; Adam Clayton on bass guitar; and Larry Mullen, Jr., on drums and percussion.
The group has always been a bit controversial, as they have taken many political stances during their time as rock stars. They railed against British policies that affected the relationship between Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom and primarily Protestant) and the Republic of Ireland (which is an independent country and primarily Roman Catholic). One of the songs that they wrote in protest of the policies is "Sunday Bloody Sunday", which details the shock after British forces opened fire and killed fourteen people at a peaceful protest march in 1972 in Northern Ireland. The group also takes stands on behalf of human rights, whether that means fighting poverty and HIV/AIDS, championing debt relief for third-world countries, decrying racism, or advocating for peace.
Their first album, Boy, was released in 1980. The best-known song from it, "I Will Follow", was their first single to receive US airplay. Their second album, October, is ostensibly "spiritual", without any strong singles to its name. Their third album, War, is considered to be their first "political" album, where they were definitively trying to make statements. Singles included on this album are the previously mentioned "Sunday Bloody Sunday", and "New Year's Day", which starts off as a love song, but turns into a song about supporting the Polish Solidarity movement. The album also protests nuclear proliferation ("Seconds") and touches on the topics of homelessness and prostitution (both "Surrender" and "Red Light") and immigration ("The Refugee").
The Unforgettable Fire is a "softer" album than War, with string arrangements, and lyrics that are more subtle. For instance, "A Sort of Homecoming" is about the bombing of Hiroshima, although the city is never mentioned by name. "Bad" and "Wire" are about heroin addiction, although, again, it's never mentioned specifically by name. "Pride (In the Name of Love)" is about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Their fifth album, The Joshua Tree, featured the band's only number one US singles, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" about seeking a higher calling, and "With or Without You", seemingly about a troubled relationship.
The film Rattle and Hum is essentially a documentary of The Joshua Tree's American tour. The film includes segments where the group plays with bluesman B.B. King at the historic Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, and sings with a gospel choir in Harlem in New York City. Concert footage is also incorporated into the film, including live covers of the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" and Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". A double album of the soundtrack to the film, with a few minor changes to the song list, was also released.
Their seventh studio album, Achtung Baby, was a dramatic shift from their previous albums, with music that was heavily influenced by industrial dance music and alternative rock and that seemed to worry less about protesting injustice. The album had six singles, two of which – "One" and "Mysterious Ways" – charted in the top ten in the United States.
The tour for the album, Zoo TV, was the first U2 tour that could be considered "over the top", with Bono sporting his wrap-around sunglasses, and huge screens and speakers designed to overwhelm audiences. About four-fifths of the way through the tour, the album Zooropa was released. This album continued the industrial feel of Achtung Baby, but moved closer to "trance" music, designed to keep club goers in a stupor.
The album, Pop, continued the dance club feel with the song "Discotheque", but also featured slower songs, like "Staring at the Sun". The accompanying tour, PopMart, was even more over the top than the Zoo TV tour. This time, there were gigantic set pieces on stage, including a single golden arch (meant to decry consumerism in a nod to McDonald's), a giant lemon, and a huge olive on a 100-foot tall toothpick. Instead of coming off as a criticism of consumerism, the whole show seemed to be cheering it loudly, causing many critics and fans to be disenchanted with the group.
In the wake of the PopMart tour, the band decided to get back to basics, which they did on their album, All That You Can't Leave Behind. Gone were the overproduced, overwhelming sensory overloads. Instead, there was a return to simpler songs with definite "hooks", though still with a touch of electronic music, as found on "Elevation". The album contains the optimistic "Beautiful Day", and the somewhat heartbreaking "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of". The tour for the album, the Elevation Tour, was scaled back from the excesses of the previous two tours and was designed to be more intimate (if that's possible in an arena), with a large, heart-shaped catwalk that jutted out into the middle of the audience area that band members could walk out on.
The band's eleventh studio album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, sold well internationally, but contained only one hit single, "Vertigo". The accompanying tour was designed to be similar to the Elevation Tour, this time with an ellipse instead of a heart extended from the stage.
Additional albums, No Line on the Horizon (2009), Songs of Innocence (2014), and Songs of Experience (2017) sold well worldwide, but didn't produce any hits like the earlier albums had. Songs of Innocence is notable, however, in that it was produced by Apple, Inc., and was available for free download through iTunes on the day it was announced and digitally released. The event provoked more criticism than praise, though, as the album was automatically added to iTunes accounts, prompting potentially costly download fees, and irritating people who didn't want the album in the first place.
All told, though, U2 will go down as one of the biggest acts in rock history. They've sold over 170 million albums worldwide, and they are the only group to have had number one albums in every decade from the 1980s through the 2010s. Rolling Stone ranked the group as the twenty-second best group of all time, and eight of their songs are on the magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list, with the song "One" listed highest, at number thirty-six. They have won twenty-two Grammy awards, as well as numerous other awards worldwide, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
YO! MTV RAPS
With the exception of Michael Jackson and a few other artists, MTV played very few videos by black artists in its earliest days, and very little rap at all. This changed dramatically in 1988 with the unveiling of an all-rap show on MTV entitled Yo! MTV Raps.
With the exception of some people who lived in New York or Los Angeles, few Americans had ever been exposed to hip-hop music and its accompanying style of dress, graffiti art, and break dancing specific to inner-city black America. Yo! MTV Raps brought hip-hop into the mainstream for the first time, so all of America could see and hear the new music as well and its artists.
The hosts of the show, Dr. Dre’ (not the same Dr. Dre from N.W.A, to be discussed on page 367), Fab 5 Freddie, and Ed Lover were funny, irreverent and interesting. They were the perfect people to sell rap to a nation of white teenagers who knew nothing of hip-hop culture or rap mentality.
Yo! MTV Raps made rap accessible to everybody in the 1980s, just as Fats Domino had presented R&B as "safe" for whites in the 1950s. By the early 1990s, the show was airing three or more times a week, and the biggest names in rap were not only appearing on the show, but referencing it in their lyric, to garner more MTV airplay. Yo! MTV Raps went off the air in 1995, its job having been completed. Rap was now mainstream popular music for all of America’s younger generations.
VIDEOS OF THE LATE 1990S THROUGH TODAY
Gone are the days when our minds had to create the pictures to accompany the songs we were enjoying with ears alone. Today every detail of the experience is provided for us by the genius producers and directors with clear visions of what it all should mean. Nearly every pop tune of any consequence now comes with video-clip availability on the artist's website and YouTube. It means, of course, that popular music is now in a new era, where the music is only one piece of the industry, and, in most cases, it will not stand on its own without a "look" to go with it. Unfortunately, this means that some bands are prefabricated for their looks and not necessarily their talent, which can lead to music that is formulaic and, frankly, just a rehashing of something that worked well before. However, in the age of MP3s, homemade websites, and file sharing, truly talented artists can have their music discovered and shared more quickly than artists of the past could have ever imagined.