I’m watching MTV while writing this post, and I’m pretty sure that I’m watching this with the same bewilderment that my parents had when they first watched this channel in 1981. Ironically, the show I’m watching is called Ridiculousness, and I have yet to see anything music-related. Back in the day, both MTV and VH-1 actually showed real music…played and sung by real musicians! I remember the year, and practically the day and moment that pop music and video changed for me…and it may never be the same for me again.
April 5th, 1994…..the day that Kurt Cobain died. Although music videos were very mainstream, the grunge movement was about musicians that hated the fame and celebrity that came along with it. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden ruled the airwaves, and it was the closet point where college radio and mainstream FM were similar in the music being played. After Kurt Cobain’s death, and after Woodstock ‘94 (the perfect blend of classic rock and grunge sharing the same stage), pop music shifted to Hootie & The Blowfish, it then “progressed” to Hanson, and then “Disney Rock” changed the scene forever (boy bands, the “cookie cutter” pop music of Britney and Christina before they broke away from that scene). It was the moment that pop music started to become much more about video, and less about songwriting.
The last paradigm shift of pop music around 1970/1971 had a significant difference…the music of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison was replaced by the singer/songwriter era of James Taylor, Carole King and Elton John, and social justice was strongly communicated in both the lyrics and the music of legends like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. You heard a song on the radio, and you went to the record store to buy the album. Now, you just buy the download in anticipation of the music video. With the exception of Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheehan, are there any true singer/songwriters in pop music anymore?
1994 was a year that changed my life in many other ways as well…it was the year I moved to Pennsylvania from New York….it was the year I gave up on baseball altogether after the strike….it was the year where I questioned if life was like a box of chocolates…it was the year that O.J became very famous for the knife and the Ford Bronco, and this far outweighed his popularity in “The Naked Gun”…it was one of the last years where two of my favorite teams (the Giants and the Knicks) were both worth watching at the same time, and it was the year that a new show with characters named Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe would have even more of an impact on my “generation x” than any other TV show ever had….it was a year that just about everything about my life in January was completely different by December.
25 years later (half of my lifetime!), I can look back on this year as one of the most important, influential and life-changing years that I’ve ever had. It affected me socially, musically, and in some ways, spiritually. It was the year I dropped a lot of my fears and my inhibitions (thank you, AANR!), and it is a year that I will NEVER forget.