I’m an old man, and thus I am entitled to complain about a few things. Top of that list?
MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore.
Now, before you start telling Ol’ Man Goggle Bob the true story of how I don’t understand the kids today and whatever, let me just point out that I’m a student of media, and I know damn well why MTV quit the music biz. I admit that this problem was mostly caused by me, and my generation, and every other person out there that (allegedly) downloaded 3 gigs of MP3s off Napster while still rocking a 56k modem. I know the problem is Youtube and every video streaming service that lets you watch anything you want, any time you want. And I know that, let’s be honest, about seven out of ten music videos completely sucked, and a half hour of The Real World probably gets more eyeballs than three minutes of the latest from Wham (no, you are not worthy of an exclamation point). I know the video star had to die, because, ultimately, the medium itself was untenable in a post-internet environment. I know that.
I miss music videos.
When I was a teenager, I had “the triangle”. Channel 30 was MTV, 46 was VH-1, and 22 was The Box: Music Television You Control. The Box might require a little explanation, so, for those of you that didn’t have such a wonderful service, The Box was a channel that played music videos, and those videos were completely controlled by the viewers (who shelled out to call a 900 number). It was like a jukebox… on your TV! Wow! MTV and VH-1 played videos as according to their corporate overlords, but The Box was totally in the hands of the people! And the people liked Bone Thugs-n-Harmony for some reason, but, still! What an amazing time to be alive! I could scan those three channels at any time, and odds were good that I’d find a music video that was at least passable. And if Al TV was on? Forget about it, I’m not getting anything done for hours.
Obviously part of the appeal of music videos was the, ya know, music. This news may shock you, but I may not have been the most popular teenager in my school, but at least I could listen to the latest hits and impress the pretty girls with my knowledge of counting blue cars (“See! I like popular things, too! Please like me!”). And I guess I enjoyed the actual songs. Looking back on it in my advanced age, I literally cannot tell you if I enjoy a single Blink 182 song, because, somehow, I’ve been listening to tracks from their 90’s hits for the last two decades, and, at this point, they’re practically hymns in my mind. Like, I can’t remember a time I didn’t “know” these songs, and… what’s the musical equivalent of “it tastes like chicken”? “It sounds like pop”? At this point in my life, I feel like I have more discerning tastes, but anything pre-2001 or so kind of blends together into a smoothie of… God help me… now that’s what I call music. Ugh, I think I just made myself sick.
But no matter, what’s important is that I finally get to the point of this article. Music videos had something that I feel is completely lacking in today’s media: true randomness.
The Age of MTV was a truly wild and untamed time, and it seemed like, at any moment, some artist could come along with a halfway decent song and make a big splash by, I don’t know, employing a claymation studio, or maybe dressing up the entire cast in dinosaur costumes. Or both! And the bands actually participated. It wasn’t like these were short films that just happened to be scored by the leaders of the music industry; oh no, this was a time when a band could define itself by how much fun it was having “on set”. Ha ha, this song might be heavy metal, but here’s the drummer scooting around in a wheelie chair. And if the group wanted to be serious, they could be… for this song. This one is a ballad, so let’s make it dark in a moist environment… but who cares if we do the next one on a front porch swing?
And that’s what I really remember about music videos, looking back. Nowadays, I feel like every musician has to be a brand, and, thanks to media outlets and tweets galore, Kanye West must at all times be Kanye Westing, and Lady Gaga must for every second be Lady Gagaing. I’m sure there are music videos today where Rihanna is taking a piss with her image, but since there’s not much reason for anyone but the dedicated fans to cue her up on Youtube, it’s drowned out by social and big media. This is Drake, and we’re far removed from the days when Michael Jackson could be a gang member in one video and an everyman/zombie the next.
In short, I miss the “liquid” music video star; the mercurial creature that could be anything or anyone as the song demanded, schoolgirl or ninja, whatever direction, just so long as it’s entertaining.
And, what’s more, I didn’t realize this is what I missed until Hatsune Miku Project Diva F.
The Project Diva games are rhythm games first and foremost. Hit X or wiggle the analogue stick at the right time to keep the music going, and, if you’re good, you’ll get a high score. It’s the same as it’s been since DDR or PaRappa the Rapper.
But what sets Project Diva F & Project Diva F Encore apart from the competition is the music video aspect. The titular Hatsune Miku is as unpredictable as her MTV forefathers. In this video, she’s a forlorn lover. Now she’s a ghost. Now she’s a goddess. Now she’s some kind of rampaging machine monster. Now she’s an obsessed fangirl. There is no codified Hatsune Miku, and, while she and her friends may have a tendency to fill certain positions, any of the “stars” of this game are in the same boat. You’re unlikely to see the same environment or “module” twice, and it defines a game that refuses to let the beat drop.
MTV as I remember it may be gone forever, but its spirit lives on in a ridiculous Japanese rhythm game. We’re past the days of leather jackets and multi-colored logos, but it looks like we’ll have the Vocaloids to carry on the torch a little longer.
Way to go, Hatsune Miku, you brought a smile to an old man’s face.
FGC #185.1 Hatsune Miku: Project Diva (series)
- System: Playstation 3, Vita, and now Playstation 4.
- Number of players: One? I guess this isn’t Gitaroo-Man.
- So, which version/game is best? You never forget your first time, so Diva (1) seems to have the best songs. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t have English subtitles, which were introduced in Diva Encore, which are helpful to figure out what the hell is going on in these tunes. But I don’t really like the songs as much in that version… I guess? And then there’s the recent Playstation 4 release, and… we’ll talk about that more later.
- Favorite Song: Of them all, I actually like a song from Diva Encore the best: Close and Open, Demons and the Dead. Couldn’t tell you why, exactly, but it… feels right? I’m not a music reviewer, dammit!
- Did you know? The Vocaloid software was called, while in development, “Daisy”, presumably because of Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two). Also presumably because of HAL 9000, because artificially generated voices weren’t creepy enough already.
- Would I play again: Well…
What’s next? I’m not done yet! I’ve got Vocaloid fever, and I’m not wasting this series on a post about rassin’ frassin’ MTV. Get ready for another look at the Hatsune Miku Project Diva series, maybe this time actually looking at the game for more than a paragraph. Please look forward to it!