New York City’s Skylight at the Moynihan Station ushered in the new age of MTV on Thursday night (April 21). With a giant replica of the VMA moon man, alien-like figurines, and interactive booths covering the large space, the nearly 35-year-old music brand saluted its past but partied for its future.
Before the festivities took place, Viacom Music and Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog took the stage to pay tribute to the lost legend, Prince, who passed hours before the event. “We’re acknowledging the unimaginable passing of one of the greatest artists in music history, an artist that has been synonymous with MTV since the beginning,” Herzog offered at the start of the presentation as an illuminated love symbol (Prince’s signature signage) and purple lights washed over the venue.
The upfront host, comedienne Nicole Byer — also star of the upcoming MTV scripted comedy Loosely Exactly Nicole — delivered the ha-ha’s of the evening. First, she introduced MTV president Steve Atkins in the same way a luxury car would be presented on the Price Is Right, then was later joined by fitness personality Tony Little. The campaign message for MTV’s revamp was “Bring Back More M!,” a return to the music-centric lineup that grabbed the attention of ’80s and ’90s babies.
Colorful montages played out on several flat-screens hanging from the ceiling, showcasing the upcoming programming slated for MTV and MTV2. Among the TV buffet included the untitled singing competition from television superproducer Mark Burnett as well as revivals of Unplugged, Cribs and a comedy sketch show from hip-hop comic duo It’s The Real (produced by John Legend’s Get Lifted company). Other celebrity producers on-board include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Zac Efron, who will also be hosting and producing a yet-to-be-titled foodie friendly docu-series.
Scripted standouts included their Making a Murderer-?esque series The Investigation (one of the upfront booths included a lifelike prison cell that read “Imagine spending 10 years in here while totally innocent” to promote the crime series) as well as Mary + Jane, which follows a female drug-dealing duo. On the music front, Studio 24 perked ears as the series aims to recruit big-name acts to make a “hit record” in 24 hours alongside a surprise collaborator, while a weekly live music series is also expected to make its debut. MTV2’s Uncommon Sense host Charlamagne Tha God (joined by an entourage that included The Naked Cowboy, an astronaut, and Mr. Met) made the announcement that the MTV Video Music Awards will descend on New York’s Madison Square Garden on Aug. 28.
The presentation wrapped with a special performance from Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, who zipped through a five-song set that covered his past releases including “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Backstreet Freestyle,” “m.A.A.d. City” off his debut good kid, m.A.A.d. City and “untitled 08” (a.k.a. “Levitate”) from his most recent set Untitled Unmastered followed by the To Pimp a Butterfly finale “Alright.” Before his last song, Lamar asked the crowds to raise their hands in honor of the “legendary” Prince, a heart-warming musical moment fit for the occasion.