As a 90s kid, I grew up with a completely different side of MTV, VH1 and BET that the kids and teenagers today are not getting. Before reality shows took over, those three networks were thriving platforms for artists and place for us to discover new music.
Music was a major part of many teenagers lives—especially in preteen and teenage years—, and I know my friends and I mostly received new music two ways, through the radio and TV. This era was right before the Internet became a haven for music. Everyone was just getting over collecting CDs and was now converting to Mp3 players.
For any artist that came out with new material, their fans expected a music video to follow quickly. At school everyone couldn’t wait to talk about who made the top 10 on TRL or 106 & Park. Sometimes, an amazingly creative music video made the song. All it took was for the video to hit the top 10 and boom, instant popularity. Also, of course, most videos with amazing choreography made the top ten easily.
Music videos were aired on MTV, VH1 and BET 70 percent—or more— of the time and many young adults took to it. MTV was one of the main ones that targeted teenagers and adults in their 20s. Now, you may barely see a music video or two played on the networks during the day.
Even though it is now easy to access any music video with just a touch of a finger, the music video era on TV made the videos more valuable. The videos and the countdowns made us appreciate the creativity of the video. In many cases, songs instantly became hits because of them. Not to mention, quite a few of our favorite artists today, -Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Pink, etc.- came from that era.
Today, there is less anticipation for music videos. Yes, we still watch them, but there are so many more viral videos that are over powering the music videos. I’ve even caught myself watching more viral videos of well known songs before actually watching the music video for the song.
So the question is, will these networks ever revert to music video countdown shows? If they do, would it be strictly through the internet?
So let’s take a look at how these three networks incorporated music videos in 90s kids’ everyday lives.
MTV caught the eye of 90s kids with their current mix of music genres and of course, TRL—Total Request Live. MTV had music video loving teens watching videos before school and after school.
TRL—running from 1998 to 2008— was the top 10 countdown for anyone that was interested in multiple genres. It gave us interviews, performances and also kicked off careers for young artists like Britney Spears and ‘N Sync.
BET wasn’t a station specifically catered to music, but they had one show that made history to a lot of teens and adults that liked Hip-Hop and R&B. 106 & Park —pronounced one oh six and park— was where many African-American teens tuned in to watch the top 10 Hip-Hop and R&B music videos in the country.
Even though 106 & Park tried to hang on until 2014, the show was at its best from 2000 to 2005 with the hosts A.J. Calloway and Free. Like MTV many artists, along with actors and actresses, made their debut on the show.
For many 90s kids growing up, VH1 stayed current with music videos but also catered to an older crowd when it came to music. With their infamous countdowns like the “Top 20 Music Video Countdown”, VH1’s decade’s countdowns, and more.
With the decade’s countdowns, 90s kids were able to discover legendary music while discovering their inner New Edition, Beatles, Michael Jackson, and much more.