[16 March 2010]
When music videos first really made their mark in the 1980s, broadcast channels devoted their Friday nights to them. As MTV and other cable channels gained dominance over the field in the 1990s, shows like Pop-Up Video and TRL pushed the networks out. While record labels threw big budgets at flashy videos, knowing that they served as both great publicity and entertainment, the cable channels realized they could profit more from cheap reality shows and “music based programming”.
Nowadays, the majority of music videos are watched on the internet, and their quality has mostly suffered as a result. In fact, some people say the music video is dead. But the music video is not dead. In 2007, OK Go became famous for their inventive treadmill routine in the “Here It Comes Again” video. Currently, Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s nine minute long “Telephone Line” is making a name for itself on the internet.
Nevertheless, aren’t music videos, as a valid art form, worthy of more than a tiny screen on a website or MP3 player? They should be viewed in a larger screen, on a medium that’s free and available to everyone, regardless of bandwidth. While we don’t have the power to add music videos to broadcast television, after all there are infomercials and sitcom reruns that need to be aired, someone is trying.
If you have MHz, a world-based variety network that appears on 25 different US affiliates, then you can watch Strictly Global. (You can check here to see if it airs in your neighborhood.) It airs at various times in different locations, but the set-up is usually the same. Various music videos are shown over the course of one hour by guest hosts, but usually either part-time music video director Dawn Reed or singer-songwriter Danni Rosner hosts, with some episodes having a theme. There were Halloween and Valentine’s Day themed episodes, but a recent hour only showed videos from Japanese artists, and the first show of 2010 was a look back at the best videos of the decade.
Mainstream American hits like MIA’s “Galang”, Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood”, and Phoenix’s “1901” are often mixed in with up-and-coming stuff like Brooke White’s “Radio Radio”, Ladyhawke’s “My Delirium”, and The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s “Around the Bend”. In fact, some episodes feature a segment called “Nextwave”, where new artists are interviewed before they perform live. But what makes “Strictly Global” special is their variety. Amidst videos from Mos Def, Moby, Elton John, Bjork, Morrissey, and Smokey Robinson, are music videos from all over the world. In regular rotation are Hungary’s the Moogs, Latvia’s Backflow, Germany’s Hansen Band, Portugal’s Blasfema, and many more artists from various countries.
No TV show is perfect, so I have to mention that some videos are tirelessly overplayed, like the Chemical Brothers’ “Salmon Dance” and Oren Lavie’s “Her Morning Elegance”. Not to mention, its network seems to keep changing its timeslot. Still, “Strictly Global” is unique and tries to keep improving upon itself. A new segment, “Beat Kitchen”, which features music-themed recipes, was launched this year, and the show does take requests from viewers through its website.
I first came across Strictly Global about six months ago, when I was surprised to see critically ignored the Click Five on regular television and later on, a video mash-up to the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. The point remains, though, that Strictly Global is the kind of show that you wished MTV would make.