Last night, MTV kicked off its reboot of the show MTV Unplugged, known for drawing in popular artists such Nirvana, Lauryn Hill, Pearl Jam, Jay-Z since its debut in 1989 to play stripped down and acoustic versions of some of the artists’ biggest hits. This comes with MTV’s promise of bringing back more music and classic reality T.V. shows such as TRL and moving away from the dramatic television of ‘Teen Mom’ and ‘Teen Wolf’ that it had shifted towards over the past decade.
The new season kicked off with 19-year old singer songwriter Shawn Mendes, who ever since starting his career on Vine three years ago has gone onto have chart-topping hits such as “Stitches”, “Mercy”, and “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back”. As a young artist with a loyal following of young millennial fans, who was also fresh off of his performance at the VMA’s on August 27th, he seemed the right choice for the premiere of the new and improved Unplugged.
Mendes performed 11 in total, creating a mixed set of his upbeat radio singles and softer, less familiar songs from his debut album. The most notable of which was his rendition of “Stitches” which featured only him at the piano and an acoustic guitar accompaniment, stripped of all the over-production of the radio version. Mendes also chose to cover Kings of Leon’s 2008 hit “Use Somebody”, which he says was a way to show his fans where he aspires to move his sound and style in the future, as both a performer and an artist.
However since Unplugged’s last height of popularity, acoustic versions and covers of songs by popular artists are more accessible than ever through streaming services and Youtube, an obstacle that producers would no doubt have to face when dealing with the ratings of the new Unplugged. Even video clips such as Carpool Karaoke give fans the chance to see singers performing covers of popular songs.
To combat this, the network strived to create what would feel to be like a one-time only event in order to draw viewers in. At the venue, attendees had to check their phone at the door before entering, which meant no video recordings or social media posts of any parts of the performance. What this helps to do is to recreate the energy of what the show used to be back in the 90’s and early 2000’s- an exclusive concert that is unique to any of the artists’ other performances, and where you have to tune into MTV to watch.
However this version of Unplugged does get to come with all of the perks of today’s modern viewing- that means being able to stream the show on multiple devices while it airs, as well as visit the MTV website for exclusive interviews and behind the scene moments with the artists.
Upcoming artists of Unplugged include the Bleachers, set to air on Friday, September 15th. Amani Duncan, MTT’s executive in charge of Unplugged’s reboot promises that other future episodes are “not just going to be people who primarily play the acoustic guitar”, a goal of a very diverse new wave of artists
As for Mendes, he hopes that his performance on the show helps to bring a new sense of credibility and notoriety to his career. He says “there’s a lot of moments in a career that shape you as an artist… and when I think of bands like Pearl Jam and how much their Unplugged affected them as a band.. and people if you ask them about it today still think about that.”
Performances of Unplugged’s most famous episodes have left a lasting impression viewers for decades. By bringing Unplugged back to the forefront of MTV, it gives the next generation of both artists and audiences a chance to experience that again.