This week’s MMV selection was made due to a simple time constraint; it’s near to midnight, and I need to be up early in the morning, so I wanted something easy to talk about. That doesn’t mean I’ll be giving it short shrift, though; merely that, as a musical performance, “Do the Bartman” is rather easy to research.
I’ve also got a bit to say about the random selection list, which took up most of my weekend prep time and isn’t quite finished yet. But more on that after the video.
The year was 1990, and The Simpsons was still basking in the glory of being a hot new show. Deciding to essentially milk it for all that it was worth, Matt Groening and company decided to put out a music album, The Simpsons Sing the Blues. “Do the Bartman” was the first single from the record, with Nancy Cartwright providing Bart’s voice, just as in the show. Bryan Loren was credited with writing the song, but in truth he had a co-writer who couldn’t be acknowledged at the time. The song was co-written by Michael Jackson, who was a big fan of the show. At that time Jackson was under contract to a different record company than the one producing The Simpsons Sing the Blues, and could legally be credited — though rumors surfaced that Jackson co-wrote the song, it would be years before it was openly acknowledged.
The video starts things off with a bit of scene setting, with Bart’s usual inability to do what he’s told. In this respect, it could almost be considered a Simpsons short in addition to a video, as there’s a beginning and end to the narrative, bridged by Bart’s daydreaming. As it was made in 1990, and the depictions have changed over the years, many of the characters appear “off model” compared to how they’re depicted today; look at the black hair on Skinner and Milhouse. The animation directors who normally worked on the show did not want to do the video; they needed to remain focused on episodes. So it was given to a relative newcomer, a man who had only one TV episode to his directing resume at the time: Brad Bird. Bird, of course, would go on to direct the feature films The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille.
The song was never officially released as a single in U.S., which didn’t stop some radio stations from playing it anyway. In the U.K., where it was released as a single, it topped the charts for three straight weeks — no mean feat as The Simpsons was only available in the U.K. on satellite TV at the time. The video was nominated for the Best Special Effects in a Video category at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, though it didn’t win. Ultimately, the song was something of a flash-in-the-pan, with people eventually forgetting about the song and video; The Simpsons, however, is still going strong.
And now, a bit of discussion about the Monday Music Video selection process. So far every week has been a video that I’ve hand-selected for one spurious reason or another, or just because I feel like it. And that’s often going to be the case going forward as well. But in case of situations where I’m feeling uninspired, I’m compiling a list of music videos that I can pull a random selection from. Now, it’s impossible for me to include every music video, so there are bound to be gaps, but I’m assembling this list from multiple sources so as to hopefully ensure most of what’s on the list is at least notable, and hopefully well-liked. I’ll still be making my own choices a good part of the time, but this makes for a convenient backup.
Because of my own interests, and the desire to not just wind up sounding like a grumpy old man from it selecting something that’s too new for me to be familiar with, I decided to put the cut-off point at 1999. This doesn’t mean that the MMV won’t ever include a song from 2000 or newer, just that it won’t be randomly selected. The first thing I put into the pile was the Billboard Hot 100 from 1975 to 1999. I know that not every song in there will have a video, especially from the early years, but there are apt to be several that do, especially the further along it goes. I went back to 1975 on that because I know there were some music video shows getting their start about that time; naturally, if there are music video shows, there must be music videos. And if anything from the Billboard list gets pulled up and doesn’t have a video, I’ll just toss it and move on to the next item. No worries.
I’ve also included the list of Grammy video nominees and winners — just for the short form videos, though. The MMV is not the place for a 60-minute concert video.
And, of course, MTV has a pretty big influence on it as well. I’ve included the year-end countdowns from every year from 1984 to 1999; this is usually 100 videos, but 1984 only had a top-20, and 1999 had a top 99. I’m also including all the Video Music Awards nominees and winners from 1984-1999, MTV’s top 100 videos of the 1980s list, and MTV’s 500 Greatest Music Videos of All Time list that they put out at the end of 1999 (plus the 12 songs that were dropped from their mid-year list of the same). And, just for the fun of it, the entirety of the playlist of MTV’s first day on the air.
Each entry on each list is an entry in the final compiled list. This means that if something had, say, seven VMA nominations and was on the year-end countdown list and the Greatest of All Time list, it’s on the list 9 times. So things that were really popular have a better chance of getting chosen at first — though not hugely better, considering the overall size of the list will be somewhere around 10 or 20 thousand entries. And when any video gets chosen for the MMV — whether it’s a random selection or my selection — all the entries for that video will be removed from the compiled list.
Now, the question for you guys is, is there anything I’m leaving out? Any “top X” list that I should be throwing into the mix? I’m definitely open to suggestions on this; while I may not want “Joe Schmo’s 50 favorite videos”, if it’s something significant, it can help balance the odds and/or add variety. I’m just about done with what I have planned — I have to finish the VMA lists for 1996-1999 — but more lists can always be added to the pile as it goes on.
Next week’s MMV is already picked out, but the week after might be a good time to debut the random selection, unless something puts a specific idea in my head.