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MTV Unplugged: Where are you now?

DeAndre Washington, Arts & Entertainment Editor 

There’s bravado in an artist when watching them perform songs from their album live. The songs you imagined for months what they’d sound like with a band behind them. The culmination of shower concerts and making imaginative playlists of how your favorite performers set would sound like. Feeling every word in a crowded room filled with people who love those songs just as much as you do.

MTV Unplugged, a platform created by MTV in 1989 showcased an artist’s music in a more intimate setting for the enjoyment of smaller crowds. Many of those live acoustic performances groomed an already established artist that may have felt like an enigma in the days where social media didn’t exist.

The other day I listened to JAY Z’s unplugged album for the first time. Before continuing, I’ve never resonated with JAY Z’s music enough to actively call myself a fan. Not because it wasn’t good, but as Kid Cudi jokingly stated in his 2014 Arsenio Hall interview “I would listen to JAY Z, take certain stuff, and the rest I just didn’t understand it — and now I’m 30 realizing that’s what Hov was talking about”.

But something influenced me to wake up and want to hear “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS” from his sixth studio album “The Blueprint”. Somehow I ended up finding his MTV Unplugged album and began considering how much of a fan you can become when hearing songs live.

This poses the question —  what if MTV Unplugged was still mainstream? Imagine seeing your favorite songs performed acoustically beyond the digital streaming. MTV Unplugged was created to strip down the artist from just being a loved enigma; and into someone that remembers the moments leading up to some of our favorite songs.

Hearing JAY Z’s “Song Cry” live put me in a position I never thought I’d be in. To feel the story JAY told about losing a long term relationship felt surreal in the minutes that passed on. Hearing him say at the end “I got lost for a second I ain’t gonna lie, I was in my own thoughts for real” reminds me that artists are people too.

The songs we come to love stem from real places that CD quality just can’t digitize the way a live performance can. MTV Unplugged bridged the gap between an artist and listener in order to show that we’re no different from each other. Sometimes we can forget that part as consumers; this makes me wish that the famously known unplugged series was still in rotation.

Yes, NPR’s Tiny Desk exists; But nothing compares to the feeling of being in an audience surrounding the spotlight of an artist on stage. Just imagine hearing a stripped down version of “Who You Foolin” by Gunna. Watching his LoveRenaissance (LVRN) performance made me wonder how that violin would sound again with the release of “Drip or Drown 2”. Or even hearing Smino perform any of the songs from his second studio album “NOIR” in a stripped down acoustic session.

Where are you now? Just a few archived albums on streaming services for people to find whenever the nostalgia comes over to hangout. My only two hopes for music going forward are that people experience music the same way they used to; and that MTV Unplugged returns for artists to share themselves beyond a digital upload.

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