March 4, 2013

Writer Wrangler: Karen Booth

Remember when MTV plays a lot of Music Videos? I mean that's what "MTV" basically stands for right? Well those days are long gone as the network is now one of the leading cable channel that enable idiocy and rewards bad behavior via their trainwreck original series, The Real World, Jackass, Teen Mom and Jersey Shore. I mean those make good TV, I have to admit, but I miss the days when I can sit on the couch and binge on good, quality, Music Videos all day.

Contemporary romance author, Karen Booth, stops by to share my lamentations.

R.I.P. Music Television
by Karen Booth

On August 1, 1981, an American cable television channel called MTV took the air. With an awesome buzz of static, a grinding duh-nuh-nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh, and a lumbering astronaut on the moon, history was made and the way we consume music was changed forever. MTV insisted, “You’ll never look at music the same way again”, and we didn’t.

The first video played on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles, a perfectly palatable, yet ultimately disposable piece of pop candy. No one knew it at the time, but that song sparked an entity that would provide context for an entire decade. Live Aid, We Are the World, the rise of the PMRC, and even the Iran-Contra affair—if it happened in the 80s, it happened on MTV.

The best part of MTV was the mix of music, especially when the channel first started. Duran Duran’s “Careless Memories” (sigh) and Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” (could those jeans be any tighter?) could exist side-by-side. There was room for Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” (your pores are showing, Phil) and Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone” (Debbie Harry was such a badass). Did these artists share much of anything musically? Of course not. They certainly didn’t share audiences. Or did they? Ah, sneaky, sneaky MTV. See, we didn’t know any better than to watch it all. In the process, we were exposed to music we might have otherwise ignored. This was a good thing.

MTV brought fringe genres and new kinds of music into the mainstream, starting with new wave, moving on to metal and eventually alternative. It’s arguable whether Nirvana would have had the career they had if MTV hadn’t championed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from the minute they got their hands on it. That’s merely the most obvious illustration of my point—there are hundreds of bands that owe much success to MTV. 

Radio is not known for mixing genres, radio is where music is compartmentalized, homogenized and every other kind of –ized they can muster. MTV’s playlist forced radio to get up to speed or get out of the way, giving many artists a shot at building a real career. Unfortunately, when MTV started to let music fall by the wayside in favor of reality TV, they pushed music right back into the days of –ized.

MTV blamed the Internet. Access to music videos became expected, and people watched them anytime they wanted to. MTV had to adapt and survive, but I can’t help but feel like they took the easy way out. It wasn’t just the music that MTV played that made it so great, it was the way in which it was delivered. They always found a way to package it and make it appealing—whether it was the VJs or live specials or world premieres. They innovated, they created, and everyone reaped the benefits. 

When “The Real World” and “Road Rules” took off, MTV saw their chance to overhaul the network. The music was left behind in favor of “Jackass” and “Punk’d”, “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica” and “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila”. I am by no means a snob, I watch reality TV, but this ushered in the era of rich kids as celebrities and everyone insisting on their 15-minutes of fame and that has not served us well.

I know I sound like such a geezer when I bemoan the way MTV used to be. “I remember the good old days when gas was a dollar and we rarely wore seat belts and MTV played music videos.” But, I can’t help it. I miss the days of Martha Quinn and 120 Minutes. I’m sorry, but I want my MTV.

And you're not alone in that, Karen!
Karen Booth is a Midwestern girl transplanted in the South, raised on 80s music, Judy Blume, and the films of John Hughes. An early preoccupation with rock ‘n’ roll led her to spend her twenties working her way from intern to executive in the music industry. Much of her writing revolves around the world of backstage passes and band dynamics. When she isn't creating fictional musicians, she's listening to music with her kids, honing her Southern cooking skills or sweet-talking her astoundingly supportive husband into whipping up a batch of cocktails.

Music Video Junkies Welcome

Bring Me Back
Karen Booth
Contemporary Romance
January 20, 2013
Turquoise Morning Press
Music critic Claire Abby is a single mom dreading her daughter’s departure for college and worried that turning forty will leave her career running on fumes. She’s floored when she lands a Rolling Stone cover story on 80s British rock legend Christopher Penman. She spent her teenage years fantasizing he was her boyfriend.

In person, Christopher is everything Claire feared he’d be—charming, witty and unwilling to address the rumors he’s dodged for a decade. Still, she contains her adolescent fantasies and manages to earn his trust, unearthing the truth and the devastating secret behind it. His blockbuster story is her first priority when she returns home, a nearly impossible task when Christopher starts calling and flirting. She knows she should maintain a professional distance. She knows she should focus on the story. She knows it would be best to simply walk away. But how can she say “no” to the man she could never forget?

Bring Me Back Out Now!


  1. I totally agree...MTV is so not what it use to be, smh. it's so sad that they let reality take over. Music should have always been their mainstay...but alas it isn't...

    Lovely interview ladies :)

  2. Hey Karen! *waves* I never had cable tv growing up, so I never saw MTV. I did hear about it from friends though :) Great interview!

  3. I don't even watch MTV anymore because it's not about music. I think they should just be known as a Reality T.V. Channel cause that's basically all that is ever on there anymore


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