This Thursday night, Feb. 5, the House of Blues Sunset Strip plays home to MTV’s Artists to Watch showcase. Five brand-spankin’ new artists will be performing sets across a fairly wide range of genres.
Now that we’re two sentences into the description of an MTV-hosted event, this is usually the part where someone cracks a joke about how “MTV doesn’t play music anymore,” wistfully name-drops a VJ of old, then yells at those kids to get off his lawn.
Truth be told, while MTV is fairly reluctant to acknowledge its own 30-plus-year history, its critics won’t acknowledge that the critique of “there’s no music on 'Music Television'” has grown outdated.
The music industry in 2015 is a far different beast that it was in 1985, or 1995, or even 2005. Just as the music itself changes, young listeners look for music and consume it in a variety of ever-evolving ways. Since the debuts of House of Style and The Real World at a time many still consider to be MTV’s heyday, the network has proven that the “culture surrounding the music” is just as important to broadcast as the music itself.
While the faces and trends have changed, this guideline really hasn’t. In fact, its kept the network afloat, both ratings-wise as well as in terms of its pop culture influence. But it’s inaccurate to suggest that this has somehow syphoned off an appreciation of music on the network. While Jersey Shore did bring viewership to new highs in 2010, the very next year the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards became highest-rated VMAs ever.
Because of its continued ability to reach and appeal to a wide swath of viewers, MTV is more equipped than ever to spread music to new listeners. And the network’s original programming does more to promote music than may meet the eye.
Thanks to the changing relationship between MTV and the record labels changes, catchy riffs from the upbeat moments of True Life episodes are no longer relegated to the nameless earworm section of your brain. Now, pretty much every sound you hear on the network gets credited in the corner of your screen, and even more information is available on the network's website and social media channels. What 15 years ago would require some elaborate cyberspace crate-digging can now be found with just a few clicks. Not to mention, if music-heavy reality shows aren’t really your thing, you now have as many as six different MTV stations to choose from, some of which are still purely music videos all day long.
That’s why it’s really not all that surprising that MTV still has Artists to Watch. Here’s the rundown on who’s taking the stage on Thursday.
Sixteen-year-old Shawn Mendes (born the year Stephen slapped Irene, for those of you keeping score at home) is a Canadian acoustic-heavy pop singer whose debut album Handwritten comes out April 28. What music video devotees may appreciate, along with Mendes being cute as a button, is the subtle way Mendes’ music and lyrics videos all connect together to tell one ongoing story.
New York’s Hoodie Allen got some traction when he first broke in 2010 as the guy who left a job at Google to pursue a career in hip-hop. While his early work found him doing the same Drake-style punchlines that were over-saturating the game, somehow Allen connected and kept evolving his style with each outing. Today emphasizing more of a melodious flow, the Ed Sheeran-assisted “All About It” condenses all of Allen’s style into one outing.
Indie popsters MisterWives gained a huge Internet boost when their song “Reflections” became popularly used in Vine clips, and an even bigger boost with their own eye-catching “Reflections” clip. Beyond the band's visuals, singer Mandy Lee Duffy’s voice is the perfect emotive anchor for the infectious bounce of the band’s music. Their debut album Our Own House comes out Feb. 24.
New Jersey pop singer and NBC’s The Voice veteran Jacquie Lee has already hit the iTunes top 10 twice thanks to her covers of Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel” and Jennifer Holiday’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Since she was runner up on The Voice in 2013, the 17-year-old (born the year Chris Rock first hosted the VMAs) has amassed buzz for her EP Broken Ones, released last October.
San Diego-born Ryn Weaver made her network television debut two weeks ago on The Late Show with David Letterman. The song and video that brought her to the dance, “OctaHate,” showcased Weaver's unique personality and incredible voice. Weaver seems to be having a blast being a genuine weirdo without trying too hard to tell us she’s a weirdo. She’s different, but isn’t screaming, “Look at how different I am.” With co-signs from producer Benny Blanco and Charli XCX, she’s a safe bet to catch fire.