Last November (2008), TRL finally ended and this article basically takes a look at what TRL did with mainstream music from what we call the “Pop Era” (1999-2002): pouncing on hits, turning them into mega-hits so that even if you hated the song with all your sensible might, you knew it. Like when you heard Baby One More Time, you couldn’t mistake it for Christina Aguilera. Or Bye-Bye-Bye, which is so NSYNC, it should just have been their theme song. TRL set up the stage for making pop culture as sort of a shared knowledge that connected kids from the west coast to the kids in Times Square. Pop sparkled and glittered with this style that was, no matter how stupid, coherent, coherent enough for both fans and haters to get.
Basically, TRL made monoculture out of pop for a good solid three years. Of course, radio stations and record stores also helped pave the way but it was TRL which really sustained the mainstream sensation. Is it frightening to believe that TRL rose to power during the years I was most gullible and susceptible to this kind of authoritative dictatorship via MTV via Viacom?
Music acts back then were all about bigness and there is something so intrinsic with those songs that would directly relate to the artist and band. Even though I was relatively young when 9/11 occurred, I would use that event as a timemarker for the end of Pop era (not persay TRL’s mega mono-grip on mainstream pop culture). Shit hit the fan, the Bush Administration suddenly cracked down in a way that pervaded many of the constitutional rights we thought we apparently had, and foreign policy was approached in the most screwed up way possible. Sparkle motion and pop just didn’t have a place in the post-9/11 world of America.
Today, we have so many mediums for music; there are so many different stages; overlapping genre’s, nonexistent genres; diversity is what we’re about. For years, we said no to the big guns telling us what’s hot; who do you think you are telling me what to listen to? Sure, we still have what we call “hits of the day” like Justin’s Sexyback or Britney’s Womanizer or Rihanna’s Please Don’t Stop the Music but none of these hold the same magical, glittering, silly pop attraction that once existed, as so promoted and glorified by TRL.
“Have you seen Pretty Woman? It’s a story about a prostitute. Called Richard Gere. Who gets to go out with a pretty woman, Julia Roberts. Who pays him a lot of money.”— Jemaine, Flight of the Conchords, Season 2, Episode 2