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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Observations on the man with an oddly shaped head:

How Carson Daly represents our generation

Published: October 24, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

I am not a fan of Carson Daly. However, that sentence alone would suggest that I dislike the guy, which is in fact not entirely the truth.

In my television viewing lifetime, I have realized only a few things about Daly and the celebrity life surrounding him. Firstly, he has an oddly shaped head. Secondly, he has in the past (I’m not up to date on his love life as of now) dated people he had no right talking to (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and people no one should ever have to talk to (Tara Reid).

His late night show is later than most late night shows and remarkably less funny than them as well (“Last Call with Carson Daly” also begins at the curious time of 1:36 a.m.—I know this may not seem perplexing, but it is to me). Daly is not the most memorable television personality. In fact, when I watch him on television I’m reminded of a less cool Dick Clark (and Dick Clark is not exactly cool). That being said, the real truth of the matter is I have no opinion, good or bad, on Carson Daly.

Thus, the incongruity is not lost on me when I offer the idea that Carson Daly for the last ten years has been the defining voice in popular music as we know it today.

Ten years is a long time. Ten years is an even longer time to be the important voice in music for someone who rarely comes up in casual conversation. But, not everyone was the host of a generation defining television show. Carson Daly (and his oddly shaped head) appeared every day (Monday through Friday) for an hour on the hit making television show Total Request Live (or TRL as it is often referred to by those strapped for time). Daly was the first VJ on the MTV show and continued his duties of reading cue cards and quieting down screaming fans until 2002. TRL was the voice of the not-so-silent teens who looked to express what they thought was the best music video of the day.

Like most important things however, it was more than that. Whether the throngs of screaming teens who waited outside of the MTV’s Time Square studio (sometimes in scary numbers) knew it or not, they were becoming a part of pop culture history.

I must confess I was not one of those kids who ran home from the bus stop to catch the show. I don’t think I know anyone who really was. It is also true I don’t remember talking to my friends about TRL the next day in school. The show was never a must-see television event for me.

Instead, it was more of a routine. After walking home from my bus stop, I’d leisurely procure a snack, sit down, and watch as Carson Daly played the music that would become the soundtrack of my childhood. Every tween and teen’s musical taste was influenced by the show (whether they liked to admit it or not).

Looking back on it now, I could say that my musical taste has truly evolved. But, that would be a lie. I still listen to Eminem, I still listen to Justin Timberlake, and even on occasion (and when I say “on occasion,” I mean anytime, no one is around) I listen to a Backstreet Boys song.

Still to this day (and I haven’t watched the show since 2002) TRL has weaved its way into my musical psyche as well as the musical psyche of my generation.

TRL’s loudest cheers always came when a surprise guest or musical act was introduced. When I was younger I never questioned this. The star appears you scream until your lungs give way. Although I never did it, I also didn’t analyze the idea of standing outside in the freezing cold to see a mere glimpse of a favorite band. It just seemed right.

Thus, as the show’s end draws closer (November 16), I have come to realize something I probably always knew in the back of mind. It wasn’t the surprises or even the videos that made TRL such an iconic hour of television programming. It was the things that took place every episode that made it a sight to behold. It was the crowd overflowing into the New York City streets. It was the teenagers waving signs outside the studio. It was the routine. It was a host with his perfect oddly shaped head. It was a portrait of a generation. It was our generation– like it or not.