Apparently this matters: Actual music videos on MTV

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by Jarrett Bellini

(CNN) — Children of the ’80s and ’90s fondly remember a time when MTV actually played music videos.

It was an era filled with art and glory and rebellion, and our parents were convinced this devil channel would surely encourage us to snort drugs and murder puppies and alter our report cards so that a D in math looked like a B.

Truth be told, I almost got away with that last one. It was definitely worth a shot. But I hardly fault Guns N’ Roses for my dishonesty.

I blame long division.

Of course, these days, MTV is known for its reality programming, and the network has basically become a giant bouncy castle for America’s drunk, tanned, and pregnant. As a viewer, it’s kind of like virtually enrolling at Arizona State.

However, on Thursday, to celebrate the Fourth of July, MTV and VH1 decided to go with 12 straight hours of music video programming. And news of this decision played out nicely all over the Web as excitement built for a short taste of that bygone era.

Though, to be fair, the online anticipation rather reeked of moth balls. The younger generation probably didn’t care.

Damn kids. Get off my lawn.

After reading a few of the many trending articles about the upcoming “Music Independence Day,” I actually spent some time Wednesday afternoon nostalgically searching YouTube for old videos from what many argue were MTV’s glory years — when Nirvana competed for airtime with Eric Clapton and Van Halen and Metallica and R.E.M. and Sir Mix-a-Lot.

Yes, those were the days.

Or maybe THESE are the days. The very thing I was doing — instantly calling up videos on YouTube — is part of the reason why MTV doesn’t air them in the first place. We’ve got everything we want just one mouse click and Twitter link away.

So, don’t hate on MTV. It’s a business. And if there was money in music videos, that’s what they would show. But there’s not. The real money is in watching rich kids try to boink each other on Laguna Beach.

However, not during America’s Independence Day!

Thus, as a civic duty to my generation, I decided to dedicate one full hour of my afternoon to channel surfing between MTV and VH1 just to see what the music video experience feels like in 2013.

Yes, it was tough investigative journalism. But at least it didn’t require pants.

My mission started just around 1 p.m. when, after several minutes of cable box confusion, I finally clicked over to the low-numbered SD channel for MTV. Apparently, I don’t get it in high def. And I have to say that being out of the 800s felt dirty and weird.

“People actually watch this crap?”

Nevertheless, I bravely entered a proletariat cave of low technology, and the first video already playing was ‘N Sync’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart” from the late ’90s. Of course, it was that absolutely terrible boy band music, but at least it was fun to see a young Justin Timberlake in the early stages of his world domination.

The next video was Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger,” at which point I promptly moved like Jagger over to VH1. Mind you, the song is totally fine, but there’s just a whole lot going on in the video — too much movement — and I was fairly certain I was about to have a seizure.

MTV’s sister network, on the other hand, seemed to be dedicating the bulk of its airtime to emerging indie bands, and I was immediately introduced to a duo called Johnnyswim and their video for “Heart Beats.” It was decent, actually. And slower. Thus, I was no longer foaming from the mouth. So, things were looking up.

Throughout the rest of the hour, I surfed back and forth, catching videos from artists I’d never heard of like Nabiha and Flume. And I also saw some hits from more mainstream talent like Eminem, Outkast, and Gwen Stefani.

The highlight was actually LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”

And I can’t believe I just wrote that. But it’s a video that simply doesn’t disappoint. It’s colorful and happy and absurd, and somehow it just fixes any situation.

“I’m afraid the test results show you have syphilis.”

“It’s all good, doc. Everyday I’m shufflin’!”

“Right. But seriously. You’re gonna need some penicillin.”

In the end, my hour of modern music videos definitely wasn’t what I remembered from my youth, but it was still interesting and fun while it lasted.

That said, I admit I was more than happy to turn off the TV and move on to other things. I’m a busy man, and it’s not like I can outsource my regularly scheduled 2 p.m. nap.

Not that it matters, what with all the noise coming from outside.

Damn kids. Get off my lawn.

Editor’s note: Each week in “Apparently This Matters,” CNN’s Jarrett Bellini applies his warped sensibilities to trending topics in social media and random items of interest on the Web.

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