On August 1, 1981 at 12 midnight, music history was made! Although it didn't seem like it at the time, the launch of MTV, the world's first 24-hour music channel, not only revolutionalized the music business, but also transformed film, fashion and television around the world. Not bad for a cable channel that started with a mere eight hours of programming, no advertisers and very few supporters. On its 20th anniversary, MTV brings you an over-the-top compilation of more than fifty groundbreaking music videos that made MTV the cultural touchstone now watched by over 300 million viewers in 139 countries. "Rock," "Pop" and "Jams"--you want your MTV...we've got your MTV!
Rock: Addicted to Love (Robert Palmer), Firewoman (The Cult), Higher Ground (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Right Here Right Now (Jesus Jones), Livin' on the Edge (Aerosmith), Round Here (Counting Crows), Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden), Run-Around (Blues Traveler), Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver (Primus), Santa Monica (Everclear), Here in Your Bedroom (Goldfinger), The Impression That I Get (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones), Space Lord (Monster Magnet), Never There (Cake), All the Small Things (Blink-182), Voodoo (Godsmack). 76 minutes.
Pop: Cars (Gary Numan), I Ran (A Flock of Seagulls), Promises Promises (Naked Eyes), One Thing Leads to Another (The Fixx), In a Big Country (Big Country), Everyday I Write the Book (Elvis Costello), All Night Long (Lionel Richie), Hold Me Now (Thompson Twins), Shout (Tears for Fears), All Around the World (Lisa Stansfield), Barbie Girl (Aqua), Walkin' on the Sun (Smash Mouth), Tubthumping (Chumbawamba), All My Life (K-Ci and Jojo), Closing Time (Semisonic). 71 minutes.
Jams: Walk This Way (Run-DMC featuring Aerosmith), Eric B. is President (Eric B. and Rakim), Me Myself and I (De La Soul), Humpty Dance (Digital Underground), Forever My Lady (Jodeci), Rebirth of the Slick (Cool Like Dat) (Digable Planets), Bump n' Grind (R. Kelly), This is How We Do It (Montell Jordan), All I Need (Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige), Sentimental (Deborah Cox), On and On (Erykah Badu), Anytime (Brian McKnight), My Way (Usher), Angel of Mine (Monica), Back That Thing Up (Juvenile). 74 minutes.
Bonus "Beats" DVD only available in the box set! Songs: Pump Up the Jam (Technotronic), Jump Around (House of Pain), Setting Sun (Chemical Brothers), Atom Bomb (Fluke), Bodyrock (Moby), Get Down (Jungle Brothers). 221 minutes.
Here's a surprise: Instead of celebrating its 20th anniversary by repackaging, say, the contrived spontaneity of The Real World or the "Party down, dude!" vapidity of Spring Break, MTV is marking this milestone with a boxed set of music videos--the channel's raison d'être in the first place, of course, but pretty much an afterthought in recent years. And an impressive undertaking it is, with more than 50 selections spread out over four DVDs. They're arranged chronologically on their respective discs, which are divided by category: "Rock" (with 16 videos ranging from Robert Palmer to Godsmack, it may be the most interesting of the lot), "Pop" (the most fun disc, with 15 largely trivial but irresistible tracks by Tears for Fears, Elvis Costello, and others), and "Jams" (the most wide-ranging disc of the set, with a 15-track mix of rap, hip-hop, soul, and R&B). The fourth DVD, entitled "Bonus Beats," is the only one not available separately; while it's the shortest of the four (28 minutes), it's also the coolest, with six superb tracks by Moby, the Chemical Brothers, and others covering techno, acid-house, and other electronic dance styles.
There will undoubtedly be disputes about these somewhat arbitrary choices, or complaints about some of the omissions (what, no Madonna or Michael Jackson?). But those are the very things that make MTV20 worthwhile; in eschewing the obvious, the compilers have put together a package that's consistently surprising and engaging. Bonus DVD features are limited (some background info on the artists, along with a "Pop-Up Video"-style on-screen option) but effective. And seeing those MTV animated logos, commercial bumpers and other promos again is a joy. --Sam Graham