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Best Music Videos Of 2012: How Psy, Gotye and Carly Rae Brought Videos Back From the Brink

Who Needs Their MTV? How Music Videos Roared Back In 2012
South Korean rapper Psy, center, performs
South Korean rapper Psy, center, performs

One of the year's biggest music successes wasn't defined by millions of record sales, arena tours or even a controversial headline. He simply released a music video.

Korean entertainer Psy became a worldwide sensation with his video for "Gangnam Style," a cheeky commentary on a wealthy Korean district in South Korea rapped entirely in Korean. It's humorous, over-the-top and includes a signature dance move that rivals the popularity of the Macarena.

Since the video's release in July, the video has surpassed Justin Bieber's "Baby" as the most-viewed clip on the internet, raking in approximately 990,900,000 views and counting.

By way of Australia, musician Gotye also hit it big this year with a hit single "Somebody That I Used to Know." Although strong sales helped bolster Wally De Backer's success, the 350 million views on YouTube for the music video also did wonders for the band's popularity. So much so that Andy Samberg and Taran Killam parodied the video during Gotye's appearance on an episode of Saturday Night Live.

Article continues after Top Ten Music Videos of 2012 slideshow

These successes are a marked difference from the turn of the millennium. In 2001, following a 36.5 percent decline in music video airplay, prominent music channel MTV decided to rebrand themselves and move on from the glory days of putting Madonna's "Like A Virgin" or Michael Jackson's epic "Thriller" (which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year) on rotation.

Instead, the network focused on the up-and-coming trend of reality TV shows, building off the success of their '90s hit, The Real World. They continued to churn out seasons of that as well as a slew of other shows, one more outlandish than the next: Punk'd, The Osbournes, Newlyweds, Laguna Beach and My Super Sweet 16, just to name a few. The more shows gained popularity, the less the channel seemed to bare any ties to the music culture it once pioneered.

"Clearly, the novelty of just showing music videos has worn off," MTV/MTV2 president Van Toffler said in a 2001 interview with Billboard. "It's required us to reinvent ourselves as a contemporary audience.

"Music will remain the soul of MTV. Our non-music shows like Jackass just get more press. What matters most to us is pleasing our audience."

Well, so much for Music Television.

Part of this shift in focus, though, was MTV's - and other music channels, such as Canada's MuchMusic — way of coping with the giant wave of competition rushing in from the internet. With file sharing, illegal downloading, and this new platform for music videos, YouTube, television was quickly losing its audience to the computers.

In a witty online video by comedic group Brian & Maria, they address this shift in a harsh, but mostly true manner. When asked by Natalie, a female in her mid-20s, why MTV doesn't play music videos anymore, Brian Firenzi simply responds, "Dear Natalie, are you fucking kidding me?"

"Yes, back in the day we earned our brand credibility by breaking new artists," he continues. "But music videos were only worth making if they had actual promotional power behind them and the game has changed. Your generation, not the one before you, not the one after you, your generation decided to steal music and music videos are more worthless than ever before."

He also mentions the blatant product placements in music videos today, "the only reason that video got funding in the first place.

"Why bother otherwise when you can build an avid Twitter following for free? Before I continue, I want to reiterate that it's your generation that stole music and it's your generation that's bitching about us not playing music videos anymore."

In this transitional period, as the video points out, music videos briefly lost its audience. With the sudden ability to create and upload your own content online, the internet became the music video wild west.

And it's only now when online music video culture has matured that we've found ourselves with one of the most successful years for music videos... ever.

The popularity of YouTube, and a growing number of other video-sharing websites and social networks such as Vimeo, VEVO, Facebook and Twitter, has brought eyes back on elaborate music videos that could potentially spark a viral reaction at any given moment.

VEVO now reports that they're streaming 3.6 billion videos a month to more than 425 million users worldwide, delivering more than $100 million in royalties to its rights holders. VEVO chief executive adds, "VEVO offers the largest premium music video inventory in the world."

YouTube is teens' first choice for music now and music is the most popular category of videos being watched online today, capturing 31 percent of analyzed videos according to research conducted by marketwire company, Sysomos.

Even two years ago, MTV rejoined the music video game. In 2010, the company began a new project entitled Supervideo, financing music videos and pairing them up with big name directors and stars for bigger and better videos in an attempt to recapture the luxury and extravagance of old, big-budget clips.

Their first venture was the now-defunct LCD Soundsystem's glossy video for "Pow Pow" featuring movie star Anna Kendrick. Supervideo has since also funded the Best Coast-Drew Barrymore collaboration for the band's single "Our Deal."

Music videos have comfortably survived the wave of technological changes; much like the vinyl record has, and has claimed its rightful place on worldwide web.

So stop wondering why MTV has opted to show you Jersey Shore reruns, type in whatever you want to watch in the search engine and enjoy your new version of Total Request Live, where you're the DJ. Carson Daly's too busy hosting The Voice anyway.

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