27 June 2016

TV Top 9: MTV VJs

In celebration (in mourning?) of TRL's last episode today, we have for you the top 9 MTV VJs. PS - does everyone remember when TRL was just Carson Daly was in a candlelit room counting down 5 videos, and Hanson's "Weird" was often number 1?

9. Jesse Camp

Didn't we all think we could be a MTV VJ at some point? And didn't we all kind of want to try out for Wanna be a VJ? But instead we just watched the special on our couch mumbling to ourselves how we were so much better than all those contestants. Or was that just me? Anyway…I kind of assumed that once they chose a winner he/she would slowly disappear into the background only occasionally reappearing to remind us that they existed. But the instant that 6'4", moppy haired, tattered clothed, word slurring genius of a man Jesse Camp walked on stage I was smitten. Sure we later found out he might have cheated to win, and his entire personality was a total farce – but really, did any of us care? Every awkward conversation, every confused guest, every tug of that hair made me fall even farther in love. Eventually he was pretty much pushed from the channel like everything else entertaining, but I'll always remember that one random video he made with his band 8th Street Kidz…if only I could remember what it was called.

8. Ananda Lewis

With a name that means "ultimate bliss" in Sanskrit, how could you NOT have a smooth sultry voice and the ability to make it seem like you're everybody's best friend. Okay, so when she had her own syndicated talk show, we all saw that she couldn't really pull that whole universal friend schtick off as well as we thought she could, but she could really bring out scandalous moments on Spring Break. And we can all thank Lewis for providing excellent TRL counterprogramming with The Hot Zone.

7. Daisy Fuentes

Two words: Beach House! Cuban-born Daisy Fuentes was a major face of MTV (and its Latin American subsidiaries) in the 90s. And I loved joining her at the MTV Beach House each and every summer (particularly when she was joined by Pauly Shore—they clearly despised each other, but it was great fun to watch). I would sit for hours watching Sandblast—my favorite show the network ever aired—The Grind, and all the delicious live performances. And for a few moments every hour, Fuentes would brighten my summer days by introducing a video, or a performance, or an interview. Country Time and Gusher-infused memories aside, Fuentes was a "quality" VJ: nice, gorgeous, and fun as all get-out; when she would start to mix little Spanish phrases into her English-language interviews, I'd nearly lose my mind. Ah, summers of doing nothing but watching MTV and Daisy Fuentes, where have you gone? Growing up bites.

6. Carson Daly

He was the first, he was the best, he was Carson Daly. I remember a time when the show was just called Total Request and consisted of Daly sitting alone in a badly lit room on an ugly sofa showing music videos. How far we've come. From his ever changing inflections (wasn't it amazing how he suddenly became totally thugged out when a rapper was on?) to the most awkward interview ever (see: American Pie cast interview literally right after his failed engagement to Tara Reid) to his oft publicized, always unbelievable relationships (again, see: failed Tara Reid engagement) Daly was the everyman of TRL. He was cute but not threatening, funny but still kinda lame and most importantly he was my VJ and once he left it was the end of the era. Those kids don't know what they're missing.

5. Kennedy

The glasses! We all know the reason Kennedy is making this list is her glasses...and her acerbic wit. Known for her shoeless (but black-socked) galavanting around the MTV studios, Kennedy hosted Alternative Nation and fellated a microphone while interviewing Rudy Giuliani. Too bad she's a staunch conservative (just a Rudy-hater) or else she may have ranked higher. hmpf.

4. Nina Blackwood

One of the original 5 MTV VJ's to premiere with the network in 1981, Nina Blackwood exemplified eighties, rock-girl sheik. With her heavy eyeliner, wild hair, thick lipstick, and New Wave clothes, Blackwood strutted her stuff on the network for five years. She was the first host of 120 Minutes, a spunky alternative to "America's Sweetheart" blah VJ Martha Quinn, and was arguably the most knowledgeable of all the initial VJ's. Without Nina, MTV in its earliest incarnation would have been without edge. And without Nina, there would be no Downtown Julie Brown (wubba wubba wubba!), no Julie Brown (sans Downtown), no Pauly Shore, and no Kennedy; in other words, the last quarter century would have truly sucked.

3. Dave Holmes

An encyclopedic knowledge of all things music. A natural ability to shoot the shit while a camera sits in front of him. Instant chemistry with any co-host you put in front of him. Not to mention the ability to learn the dance to Britney Spears "Sometimes" with Britney and world-class Britney dance team member, TJ (am I the only one who remembers TJ...and this moment?). Too bad he's been relegated to hosting Dinner and a Movie. Such waste of talent. Say What Karaoke (when Holmes hosted) may perhaps be the most entertaining music-themed programming MTV has ever produced.

2. Riki Rachtman

Though many viewers decried Headbangers Ball's original host transition from Adam Curry (who I always found incredibly boring) to Riki Rachtman (who, though obnoxiously self-aggrandizing and star-fucker-ish, had genuine chemistry and amazing knowledge of music), Rachtman took the bull by the horns and was one of my best friends in the 90s, assisting the program in a rather abrupt transition from hair metal bands to alternative metal to all-out hardcore's popularity. Rachtman's Headbangers stint—from 1990-1995—encompasses my early teenage years and obsession with heavy metal. White Zombie, Slayer, Guns N' Roses; you name 'em, I love 'em. In fact, my obsession with the Ball in my teen years—my family had only recently signed up for cable—led my mother to storm into my room late one evening and shout, "we did not get cable so you would do nothing but watch this crap!" Thanks, Riki. Thanks.

1. Matt Pinfield

Of all the VJ's that graced MTV the only one I ever really respected was Matt Pinfield. Before the era when all a VJ needed to do was read a few monosyllabic words and look pretty in tight jeans we had Pinfield – the true music nerd. He had an unending supply of music knowledge that both confused and intrigued me. MTV even created a special segment on TRL called Stump Matt, which is pretty much self explanatory. Starting out on 120 Minutes (remember those days when MTV played videos, straight, for hours) and moving through almost every MTV show, good and bad (I'll excuse him for the Say What years), Pinfield eventually left the channel and became VP of A&R for Columbia and was honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year for his accomplishments – now there's a personality MTV can be proud of. Damien who?

-- bryce, arielle, and dana c. gravesen
Dana's blog can be found at http://714delawarestreet.blogspot.com/


Dana C. Gravesen said...

Totally agree with Pinfield as number one.

AJ107 said...

you know you're hard to replace when MTV needs to higher 3 people to do the job of 1.

p.s. need to give a shout to brian mcfayden - while i don't deem him worthy of the list in terms of knowledge, ability to read a prompter, or overall talent, actually - he was easy on the eyes

MyaStone said...

FYI: Matt Pinfield has a morning show on 101.9 WRXP.

brad said...

i really liked thalia! i think she won the VJ competition one time.

ah well.

arielle baer said...

who knew that mtv vj's would create the most dialogue? such a sensitive issue!

Charley McLean said...

I dont understand. "He was the first, he was the best, he was Carson Daly." And he's not #1? And, wasn't Ananda Lewis on VH1 too?

bryce j renninger said...

thalia almost made my list. i loved her tongue ring.

also, ananda was not on vh1