Elton John slams the ‘MTV Generation’: ‘We were real artists’ before music videos

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Elton John started a YouTube competition called Elton John: The Cut. He asked fans to create their own music videos for “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer” and “Bennie and the Jets.” (And now I have “Rocket Man” stuck in my head.) Elton is part of the panel judging the music videos and assigning the winners. All of this is being done for the 50th anniversary of the start of his collaboration with Bernie Taupin. So, Elton was doing some press around the contest and he sort of let it slip that most of the so-called “MTV Generation” artists were awful. Huh.

In his first public appearance since his health scare in April, Elton John threw some major shade at what he is calling the “MTV generation.” While talking to an audience at the Cannes Film Festival, the “Tiny Dancer” singer was candid with his thoughts on music that came after him.

“We were before the MTV generation, and I’m glad we were because we were real artists,” John said. “The MTV generation brought with it a lot of people who were great, but a lot of people who just made videos. A lot of the artistry went out of the music. We were lucky that we made it before videos.” (He added, though, that “Visuals—whether it is a painting, a drawing, a piece of film, a video – enhance music.”) After knocking Gen-Xers and millennials down a peg, the “Candle in the Wind” singer proceeded to praise the youth for their world-changing potential. “We need the next generation to be good because the world is sh-t at the moment,” he explained. “I just love the energy and the adrenaline of the new kids. That’s the adrenaline we had when we were younger. You can’t buy it. You can’t bottle it. These people have it.”

[From Vulture & E! News]

While I agree with him partially, I don’t necessarily think he’s the best judge? Like, of course there were and there are artists who relied too heavily on music videos rather than actual music. Madonna’s whole deal was that she was a brilliant visual artist… and a mediocre musical talent. But some of the greatest Generation X artists embraced the music video medium and really used it to grow their fanbase. I still remember seeing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time before I went to school one morning. I still remember the controversy around Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” I still remember so many of Prince’s videos, and Madonna’s, Guns N Roses, etc. If anything, I think the MTV Generation was more solid than the current state of music, where it’s more like the YouTube Generation – it’s still all about visuals, but now everything is online.

Also: Elton has a habit of championing artists who really aren’t that great in the grand scheme of things. I mean, he’s been ride-or-die for Lady Gaga for years. He’s currently all about Ed Sheeran, for goodness sake. The MTV Generation would have eaten both of those artists alive and then spit them out.

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17 Responses to “Elton John slams the ‘MTV Generation’: ‘We were real artists’ before music videos”

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  1. Harryg says:

    I agree. Most music videos are total crap.

  2. Beth says:

    Now MTV is only dumb reality shows. I was à teenager in the 90′s so I loved music videos. I never listen today’s kind of music. Yuck. 70′s -90′s bands are the best

  3. Kristen820 says:

    He’s such an old b*tch. LOVE that about him! lol

  4. Marianne says:

    First of all, music is subjective. So what one might be considered “great music” to one person might be crap to another. So maybe he prefers the music being made in his day, doesnt mean everyone will share that opinion.

    • Mare says:

      I think his point was that musicians actually had talent. Most could play instruments.

      • paranormalgirl says:

        So could most of the MTV generation, especially the earlier ones. OK, Mr. John, I’ll get off your lawn now.

    • Erinn says:

      Also – there’s studies showing that the music you grew up with is likely going to be the music you think is the best, regardless of how good it is. You associate the music with memories, and events, and it’s generally the years where you’re starting to become more independent where music means the most to you. Our brains are hardwired to have a certain amount of “Screw todays’ youth ___ decade had THE BEST ____”.

      Here’s the other thing – music is now more accessible than it ever used to be. If you don’t like something – stream something else, youtube something else, download something else – whatever. You’ve got more choice than ever before, and have just as easy access to one genre as the next in some format or another.

      Honestly, some of the ‘big’ names of the past I can’t comprehend how they were as big as they were – same as the current big names. There were some that were absolutely helped by the lack of access to more bands/artists/genres.

      • Ozogirl says:

        That’s so true. I think most of the music today is total crap, but direct me to a 90′s or 00′s station and I’m as happy as a clam!

  5. Neelyo says:

    I enjoyed this rant better when Norma Desmond delivered it. He could actually take a few fashion tips from her and wear a turban instead of that mop he’s sported for the last few decades.

  6. LAK says:

    I think he means recent MTV stars. 80s/ 90s MTV stars were primarily musicians. The videos enhanced the music and both could work independently of each other. Video artists could still put out a live performance without fireworks or pyrotechnics or backing tracks.

    The latest lot can’t sing live. The default position is to have great visuals, so – so musicalitybor vocals because technology will cover the weaknesses.

    I was at Mary J Blige’s first concert in London and we booed her off stage for having a weak voice compared to the CD / video. She went away, worked on her vocals and returned a strong singer. These days, people wouldn’t be bothered by her weak vocal and she wouldn’t bother to go away to learn her craft before trying again.

    • Sigh... says:

      ITAWY. Prince, Nirvana, etc were working musicians in their hometowns, honing their crafts as their audiences grew. They were actual singers/musicians BEFORE the video, not BECAUSE of it. Now most of the effort is behind the scenes (hardworking managers, anonymous writers, versatile videographers, prolific producers, hustler marketers, etc) and *some* “singers” are mere props, manufactured and not manifested, and it shows live. A great look, a so-so sound.

    • V4Real says:

      Yes Elton you made it on your talent before music videos but when videos became popular you jumped on that bandwagon as well. And the MTV music generation was primarily the 80′s and 90”s when artist did have amazing talent and the videos were good.

      He can’t be talking about current MTV unless he considers reality shows and shows like Ridiculousness music videos. The only time you see music on MTV, Not MTV 2 is 3am in the morning . Even then, not so much.

      And there are a lot of talented performers out there, it’s just a different kind of talent. Things are changing even the kind music we listen to now. Almost everyone considers their era of music the best. I’m not a fan of all the new stuff that’s out now but it’s what the current generation is listening to. I’m not a huge fan of Trap music but lately it has become very popular. I be like damn anyone can get a record deal these days, all you need is a good hook and beat.

      And speaking of the 90”s I was listening to the Wallflowers “One Headlight” on my way to work. Damn I miss music like that.

      • Kate says:

        “And speaking of the 90”s I was listening to the Wallflowers “One Headlight” on my way to work. Damn I miss music like that.”

        Exactly! That was a great time for music.

  7. Lillian says:

    Even the early 2000′s was great. TRL, True Life.
    Before I knew how to use a computer, I would wait for the music video. It was awesome

  8. Meredith says:

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, “Music was so much better in the 60′s/70′s/80′s/90′s/whatever.” You know why music seemed better back in the day? 1.) Because you’re being sentimental and 2.) you don’t remember the crap. Every generation has terrible artists who somehow get one big song. For every terrible song today, there’s a “Cotton Eyed Joe” or “Barbie Girl” equivalent in the past (90′s music is my jam, which is why I mention those).

    • Melanie says:

      I grew up during a time when everyone could sing, play instruments. It didn’t matter the genera of music there was talent. It was shocking when Milli Vanilli were lip singing, now it’s the norm.

  9. perplexed says:

    Lady Gaga is a trained pianist, so in that regard I can see why he respects her.

    When he was complaining about some of the artists, I kind of figured he was talking about Selena Gomez and artists of that sort. Like, what does she really do as an artist?

    I actually think Bieber has some talent, but he is also kind of cheesy and super easy to make fun of.