Drunk people. Stunt people. Pregnant people. And New Jersey.
This is what has become of Music Television.
At a time when college students have only fleeting memories of watching Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” on Total Request Live with post-Carson Daly era V.J.s, there has been great skepticism of whether the ‘M’ of the infamous trio, MTV, will ever truly stand for music again.
For nearly a decade, sister station to the main MTV channel, mtvUniversity, or mtvU, has been the stealthy sibling climbing up ranks of popularity as a main stage for college students interested in music that does not fall on the top 40 charts.
“The college audience knows great music way before the rest of us,” said MTV executive producer Eric Conte. “What we try to do is aid the flow of new, fresh artists.”
Now it is time to salute those artists with a Woodie, according to Conte, referring to the Woodie Award.
Since 2004, mtvU has hosted the Woodie Awards to salute budding artists who create noteworthy music and who are yet to be recognized by major industry award panels such as the Grammys. Beginning as a modest show with a few performances and award presentations, the ceremony has taken different formats during its eight-year run including a move to the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas last year.
Taking notes from their host, the music festival style struck a chord with the show’s producers who decided to expand the program to a whole day affair this year featuring performances by 15 artists and groups including Childish Gambino, Chiddy Bang, Santigold and Steve Aoki followed by the presentation of six awards: Breaking Woodie, Woodie of the Year, Best Video, Performing, EDM Effect and College Radio.
“We are all about reinvention and wanted to invite more fans and artists to join us,” said Conte.
The name ‘Woodie’ itself was borrowed from a tradition started by the Seattle-based Sub Pop Records which acknowledges artists on its label with an informal award “to say thanks for putting amazing records that have not gone gold or platinum or got major radio play,” said Conte. “They say ‘they have gone wood.’”
Wiz Khalifa, Death Cab for Cutie, NeverShoutNever, Tech N9ne, Motion City Soundtrack, 30 Seconds to Mars and Plain White T’s have all been recipients mtvU’s version of the record label’s award.
“It is awesome to be recognized by MTV,” said Best Coast’s leading lady Bethany Cosentino, whose music video is directed by Drew Barrymore and is nominated for Best Video. Set to the California surf pop band’s ‘Our Deal,’ the video stars Chloe Moretz and Tyler Posey as star-crossed lovers in a “West Side Story and The Outsiders and Romeo & Juliet” inspired plot featuring two teenage gangs on the brink of revenge that ends in the ultimate “settling of scores.”
“When I got the treatment … I was like, ‘What do you mean he dies?’” said Cosentino, who received several plot proposals but eventually fell for Barrymore’s vision. “I don’t think we would have ever been able to be able to have a video like that without Drew.”
The Woodie of the Year award has proven to be a career stepping stone as previous winners have been My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Kings of Leon and, most recently, Wiz Khalifa. Nominees for a 2012 winner are The Black Keys, Foster the People, J. Cole, Mac Miller, Frank Ocean and Skrillex.
But despite being a top honor at the awards, this year’s newest and most anticipated award winner is the EDM Effect.
The show’s producers have taken a particularly interest in the current electronic dance music, or EDM, wave that has crashed college campus within the past 12 months. The award is aimed to honor artists “who are fusing genres, breaking ground and bringing electronic dance music to a new fan-base,” according to MTV.com.
“It’s a huge phenomenon. For us to not acknowledge it, right now, is irresponsible,” said Conte adding that Avicii, Benny Benassi, Calvin Harris and Martin Solveig have all been chosen to be in the running for the EDM Effect award.
Electro house musician and record producer Steve Aoki, also nominated for the EDM Effect and scheduled to close the award festival, has been highlighted for his help in bringing the genre to the forefront of dorm room culture through collaborations with Kid Cudi, LMFAO and Lil’ Jon among others.
Aoki attributes his current style with inspiration from growing up in southern California, a hotbed for musical variety. “Being surrounded by all of these bands, coming through shaped who I am today,” said Aoki.
While party artists are on the radar, mtvU also presents the College Radio award to campus stations that take risks in their programming and have a passion for broadcasting cutting edge music and talk radio. Ten universities are in the running, including Ohio University’s ACRN and Loyola University Maryland’s WLOY.
The mtvU Woodie Awards will be streaming live on MTV.com on Thursday, March 15. The Best of Woodie, a 30-minute highlight show, will premiere Sunday, March 18 at 8 p.m. on MTV.
Lindsey Davis can be reached at email@example.com.