Settling Score

This month, Dallas gets its shot at MTV stardom, and man, does it suck

Because I was an '80s kid, MTV glowed in the background for many of my most formative moments. The first time I bonded with my father was while watching Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" video together. My first taste of rebellion came in kindergarten when I stayed up late and saw Headbanger's Ball. My first crush was Kennedy.

MTV was my babysitter, my friend and, well, the only place I could watch The Grind, so I racked up plenty of time in front of the channel. I'm not quite sure when I snapped, but by the time I was out of high school, the home of MTV Sports and Beavis and Butt-head had become "too stupid" for me. This many years later, things have somehow degraded enough to where I almost miss Carson Daly's idiot face.

If you want to hear music on "music television" anymore, you're better off watching the opening credits of Laguna Beach than waiting for video countdowns, and even MTV2 is too flooded with reruns of MTV shows to be considered a viable source of music. Let's not forget that the station's date-crazy reality shows, from Date My Mom to Next to even The Real World's sex-marathon casts, are starting to make Elimidate seem emotionally constructive by comparison.

Dude, Ryan, even without our Photoshop effects, you still look like a tool on MTV's Score.
Dude, Ryan, even without our Photoshop effects, you still look like a tool on MTV's Score.

But this month, I have to retract my subliminal desire for more music on MTV. I should've been careful what I wished for, because in the end, I got Score.

In every episode, two contestants are given a full day to write a song, and whoever writes the best one wins a prize. Cool, right?

Strike one: The reason they're writing a song is to impress a guy/girl enough to get a date.

Strike two: The prize is an all-expenses-paid date with a person the winner doesn't even meet until after performing a song.

Strike three: The burgeoning songwriters are assisted by Ryan Ca-damned-brera, who plays one of his hit singles at the end of every episode in infomercial fashion. And I'm out.

Before every episode's advertisement-ending, the contestants play their songs with Cabrera's backing band, who also help with songwriting. Three of the four band members on the show are from Dallas--Oddibe's KC Swink, The Greater Good's Ethan Kaufmann and local engineer Taylor Tatsch (Burden Brothers, The Vanished), the latter of whom told me his survival stories after finishing the show's 20-episode taping run.

"When [MTV] cast the contestants, they didn't really take into account their musical ability," Tatsch says. "They cast based on either how pretty they were or how crazy their personalities were. Some of them were really impressive, but a lot of the contestants really didn't know anything about music. One chick couldn't [play or sing] at all. She was more of a dancer. She'd say, 'I want you to do this, tap, tap-tap, tap-tap,' and do a dance move. So we basically had to write a song for her. That was par."

Talk about a complication. And when you combine that with 40-minute songwriting sessions that were repeatedly interrupted by changing camera and lighting angles ("It's hard to get MTV interested in the music part of it"), you have to wonder how the show ever made it on the air, but to their credit, the backing band doesn't flounder nearly as badly as many of the "singers" do.

"Even though this is a dating show, it's centered around people making music together," Tatsch says. "It's like dragging music kicking and screaming back to MTV. I wish we could've had more music on the show, but it is a dating show. It's really nothing I would brag to people about, but it was a great experience. Exposure's always good, and the way the songs were mixed and the way the performances came out...the band really performed well regardless of how the singer did. So that's a positive thing."

Heck, if the show somehow results in an evolution back toward MTV's heyday of music-related programming, then I'll have to eat my words. Until then, though, I can only blame Tatsch, Cabrera and the rest of 'em for more tone-deaf singers on MTV than an American Idol outtakes compilation.

 
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