“Did you see the drummer’s hair?” – The effect of music videos on music quality

On a day not unlike the day I start writing this, I showed two of my friends a video by the band Liars, for their song “House Clouds.” I showed them because, knowing my friends, the two would enjoy the fact that, throughout most of the video, the three members of the band are playing with animals, the most prominent being the frontman playing with an almost spine-crushingly cute kitten. During this video, one of my friends stated, jokingly, “Maybe they’re using the animals to take attention away from how unattractive they are.”

The video in question: Liars – “Houseclouds”

Even though she was joking, it seems that this is a major factor in music listening in teenagers, for little-to-no reason. Spending time in the company of teenagers means you listen to a lot of popular music, and thus, you listen to those teenagers talk about those bands. And, unfortunately, the discussion usually centers on the relative attractiveness of the members thereof. “I love blank, he is so hot,” or “He has such a hot voice, I would totally bang him” are the most commonly shared comments on whatever band happens to be on. This is, of course, not a new concept, but it shows a lot about what television channels such as MTV and Fuse have done to the collective discussion on the topic of music.

I myself was not around when MTV reared its big ugly head in the first place, so I’m certainly not a reliable source for how things have changed since it became a force in the listening community. However, it goes without stating that, if not for channels like MTV, the relative “hotness” of these bands would be almost irrelevant, unless you were a showgoer. It seems that, since musicians began focusing more and more on being pleasing to the eyes rather than the ears, the quality of the product being produced has taken a marked nosedive. Musicians (or at least well-known musicians) have ceased to be musicians, but more people with good-looking faces and bodies that happen to put out records.

Would this be to say that, without the invention of MTV, people would still be almost oblivious to the looks of their favorite bands? Certainly not. There would still be magazines and posters to be bought, and even if MTV hadn’t come along, someone else would inevitably have the idea to make it possible to see music. However, it has never been so very easy to see the face behind the voice you’ve been enjoying. Even if you don’t watch MTV or Fuse or VH1, you can simply go online and look for pictures of the bands you know and love, which was certainly not possible (or as possible) when MTV arrived. Though it doesn’t necessarily play a lot of music, when kids watch the videos they do air, they are much more concerned with if they would like to go to bed with the musician, and nevermind if that musician is talented.

I don’t place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the listening community. It doesn’t help that pop musicians have become little more than grinning, handsome spokespeople who are trying to sell you their band. This seems to be the purpose of having your face plastered all over the internet, in videos, magazines, so on: to sell the product. You may think I only think this because 90% of the music I listen to comes from faceless (and usually unattractive) people who play music and little else. But really, that’s what they were hired to do. Music is something you listen to, after all, and it doesn’t matter how cute the bassist is with his hair like that. And it shouldn’t matter to the person making the music how their hair looks: as said: we didn’t hire you to look cute and fun loving. We hired you to play us a few songs and go home.

It seems that music has almost gone the way of the profession of acting: who cares if Heath Ledger was on his way to becoming one of the best and most well rounded actors in the modern era? His position in the world was shown by the overwhelming response I got from my peers: “Why did Heath have to die? He was so hot!” It was not an actor who died, it was a hot guy. And so it goes for music. If the members of a certain band were half as good looking, would it be unreasonable to believe that they would sell less records? Would kids still turn out to their shows like they do now? I don’t believe it would be a stretch to believe that, if musicians were still musicians, rather than faces selling a product, music would still be as good as it was when the only time you saw the person playing was if you went out of your way to do so, by going to a concert, or buying a magazine with said band in it.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it somewhat backwards that the faces of musicians sell more records than the quality of the product? Shouldn’t it be more relevant that people in the band can actually use their instruments properly? It is true, people were just as up in arms about the relative attractiveness of, say, Elvis Presley or The Beatles, but it was never more important than the fact that they played pretty good music (even though Elvis didn’t exactly make what is commonly called “good music”). Is it so wrong that I wish musicians would just shut up and play their instruments, like they used to, and stopped fixing their goddamn hair?

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