DAR TV: The Best Music TV Shows

By @TrueGodImmortal

When we talk about music TV shows, a lot of people instantly run to shows like Empire, Glee, American Idol, 106 and Park, TRL, and more mainstream centered programs, but when I think about music TV shows, I think the shows that impacted the culture in a way that can't be replaced. Nothing that the shows I just referenced brought to the table really impacted the culture (except American Idol), but there are shows that fit that description. There are some shows that changed the course of everything, and inspired a generation. Today, we look at those shows. Let's get into it.

*Behind The Music
(VH1, 1997-2013)

-While this show wasn't always my favorite, it was the pioneer for a number of shows, and the basis for my favorite music show today. Behind The Music addressed everything behind your favorite artist, whether it was musical beef, drug addiction, a fall off from success, creative problems, whatever it was, Behind The Music discussed it and put it out there. It was reflective for the artists themselves, informative for the fans, and allowed the story to be told from the people who actually lived it and not just the media. Behind The Music was great for that reason and the documentary style show kept viewers engaged for the duration. Every artist who mattered usually got a Behind The Music, from Aaliyah, Christina Aguilera, 50 Cent, Boyz II Men, Bobby Brown, Snoop Dogg, DMX, The Game, and so many more. Behind The Music took us behind the scenes of the lives of our favorite artists and the importance of this show should never be forgotten.

*Soul Train
(1971-2006, 1,117 Episodes)

-Peace, love, and soul. If there is one music show that permeated our televisions in a major way, it is without a doubt Soul Train. The Don Cornelius hosted program is one of the most iconic brands and shows ever and it was the first to really showcase our culture the way it needed to be. With afros, bell bottoms, 70s fashion, and the dances of the time, the show debuted looking and sounding like US. From the opening themes to the Soul Train line to Don Cornelius and his interview, even to the lip syncing in EVERY performance, Soul Train was special in its own right. Every artist that was a part of our music made their way to the Soul Train stage almost like a rite of passage. Whether it was The Four Tops and Gladys Knight in the 70s or The Time and Debarge in the 80s, or De La Soul and Mint Condition in the 90s, Soul Train had something we enjoyed every decade. The show took a bit of a hit when Don Cornelius stopped hosting, but it was fun seeing all the black celebrities of that time host and take turns hosting this show minus Shemar Moore and Dorian Gregory. Still, Soul Train lives on forever as one of the most important shows in TV history.

(TV One, 2008-Present)

-Essentially the urban Behind The Music, Unsung is my favorite music show today. It showcases artists that VH1 wouldn't have documented and some that they have/would. What makes Unsung so special is that it feels like a show that is about recognizing the stories and the history of our music. Artists from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s that might have been forgotten or didn't get the credit they deserved get shown love via Unsung. Artists like Debarge, Alexander O'Neal, After 7, Atlantic Starr, Angela Bofill, The Delfonics, DJ Quik, Hi-Five, and so many more were featured on Unsung and their stories were told. Unsung is one of the best music TV shows ever and it's my current favorite program (besides sports) to watch.

*Austin City Limits
(PBS, 42 Seasons)

-In what has to be one of the most underrated shows ever, PBS gave us a concert series that showcased the music of Texas, but it eventually switched over to feature more current genres and styles. While there was an element of country, blues, and folk music, the series would incorporate some soul, gospel, R&B, and to an extent, comedy. The show has seen performances from artists like Gnarls Barkley, Bjork, Bobby Blue Bland, Tracy Chapman, Ray Charles, Coldplay, Mos Def, and so many more. Austin City Limits doesn't have the same level of legacy as some other music shows, but it's 100% a vital and important show in music TV history.

*MTV Unplugged
(MTV, 1989-2014)

-While this may shock you for the inclusion on the list, there are few programs that captured the artistic side of the artists in the game quite like MTV Unplugged. It allowed more instrumentation and freedom for artists to give their listeners a more acoustic experience. This show was groundbreaking in a way, as we got to see acoustic rock, soul, R&B, and even hip hop in this setting. Artists like Nirvana, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Maxwell, Lauryn Hill, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam, and my personal favorite, Jay-Z. Over the years, MTV Unplugged gave us something special and it's one of the most important music TV shows to exist.

*American Bandstand
(ABC, 1952-1989)

-There aren't many shows that really change the landscape of musical television, but American Bandstand was the biggest crossover show for music on TV without question. Starting in the early 50s, by the time Dick Clark began his ascension to the top of the musical host world, the show was a favorite for a lot of the population. With 37 total seasons under its belt, American Bandstand brought bands and artists into the fans' homes via their TV screen and everyone who was someone important in music appear on the show. Prince, The Jackson 5, Aerosmith, Madonna, Def Leppard, Sonny and Cher, among so many others appeared on the show and watched their fame rise as a result of the appearance on the show. Truth be told, what makes American Bandstand so important is the fact that they were a huge proponent for integration during a highly segregated time, and that was a bit risky, but it worked for years and years. American Bandstand is one of the most important, if not THE most important of them all.



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