In the world of popular music, does the music matter? No.
At least that’s the sense of things if one takes a look at a week in the programming of VH1. (Lest you immediately think: “What the fuck is this? No one watches VH1 who still has a pulse,” remember that the issue here is popular music. And does popular music matter with regard to (un)popular music, which can be in some ways used as a label to describe much of which is considered on Glorious Noise? Yep. Because to the extent that the economics of the popular portion are in some semblance of order, there is the opportunity for there to be (un)popular acts signed to contracts that may allow them to garner some sort of recognition than they otherwise might not have. Whether those contracts are fundamentally good for the listener is not the question. Whether they allow the (un)popular bands to not only record but also eat does matter.)
Once upon a time, “VH1” signified “Video Hits One,” just as “MTV” was “Music Television.” But in an effort to gain eyeballs, there was a move away from the consideration of ears. Eye candy came to the fore. Music be damned, or at least serve in VH—Video Hell—as nothing more than an excuse to show personalities. And personalities, by definition, are those, for whatever reason, who are popular, even if that popularity is predicated on something other than measurable talent or even looks (vide: Paris Hilton).
On Friday, January 9, there will be a five-hour special, “100 Hottest Hotties.” Five hours. According to VH1, this will “explore why we’re so obsessed with the many hotties of Hollywood and beyond.” Perhaps this obsession exists because outlets like VH1 devote five hours to the subject and those who haven’t had enough from “Entertainment Tonight,” “Excess Hollywood,” etc., etc., etc., tune in, with the anticipation of drool dripping from their lips, collagen injected or otherwise. Lest you think that VH1 is simply rounding up the usual suspects—Britney and Christina and Beyonce and Shakira—know that this is a balanced look. Other “hotties” include 50 cent and Dave Grohl. Hell, this is a five-hour undertaking.
Then there’s Saturday. What to do, what to do. . .? Well, as a mere two percent of the aforementioned 100 are Britney and Christina, and given that on most other measures of “People With Questionable Music Talent Who Shake Their Money Makers So Well That We Don’t Notice The Questionable Music Talent” those two are supreme, why not produce “All Access: Britney vs. Christina”? Notice the “vs.” We don’t want to see them sing. We don’t want to see them dance. We don’t want to see them clubbing. We want to see them wrestle.
Leaping ahead to Monday the 12th, there’s “All Access: Most Awesome Makeouts.” (Does VH1 employ junior high school students to come up with the ideas for its shows?) Let’s see, Britney. . .Christina. . .YES! Madonna. Nothing like a little cross promotion with sister brand MTV’s Video Music Awards. The following evening it’s “Best of Before They Were Rock Stars.” This includes “Mandy Moore showing off her ‘inner wolf’ at theatre camp. A young Joey Fatone tearing it up in his living room.” Now let’s parse this for a moment. The program is “Best of Before They Were Rock Stars.” Does anyone know when Mandy Moore and Joey Fatone were rock stars? The “star” part is somewhat understandable in the VH1 Universe of Dwarf Stars. But doesn’t the word “rock” connote something other than anything either of them have ever done?
Wednesday, it’s all about Vegas, as in back-to-back “The Fabulous Life of: Vegas Superstars” followed by “VH1 Boot Camp: Showgirls”: “Over the course of five days, these girls will battle it out physically [there’s that wrestling thing again], mentally [sure, we’re talking Marie Curie wannabes in G-strings], and emotionally to achieve their dream. And the entire time they’ll be taking orders from their Master Sergeant, a gutsy former showgirl who knows how drive you have to be to make it on a Las Vegas stage.” Presumably “gutsy” is a typo for “busty.” Perhaps at some point we can look forward to “VH1 Boot Camp: Britney vs. Christina,” with Madonna serving as the Master Sergeant putting the two now-aging hotties through their, er, paces.
Finally, Thursday. While all of the programs thus far could fall under the rubric, slight though it may be, of “music,” the attitude here could be summed up by: “Screw it. Let’s not beat around the bush, let’s get to it.” Which brings us to “Centerfold Babylon,” which is supposed to be a 90-minute documentary chronicling “the many layers of a centerfold’s life.” Who needs layers? It’s the layerless aspects that the VH1 viewer wants to see.
It’s all about vision. Listening is, apparently, irrelevant.