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TV Reviews : Rock Around the Year With MTV

December 22, 1990|CHRIS WILLMAN

As years in rock go, 1990 was a bizarre, politically eventful and even more garish than usual one, so one approaches MTV's inevitable "The Year in Rock 1990" (premiering on the cable network tonight at 6) with greater anticipation than might be mustered up in some other December. What an inspiring 12 months it was: One thinks of future generations who will not be prodded to vote under threat of corporal punishment from Madonna and shudders.

It's a lively hour, filled with the flashiest and most charismatic stars and jam-packed with one comic highlight after another, if very little that's likely to reassure anyone over 21 about the state of the art. Host Kurt Loder, a veteran rock journalist and MTV's regular music news anchorman, approaches this all with the sort of reasoned sobriety that seems to be barely suppressing a good giggle.

You at home, of course, can guffaw out loud as Milli Vanilli speaks up backstage at the Grammys. ("Of course we sing, and we proved it already.") Or as Luther Campbell tries to articulate a complete sentence (successfully ban 2 Live Crew, he warns apocalyptically, and "the next thing you know, Madonna, she gotta put her clothes on"). Funniest of all, rap huckster Vanilla Ice--defending not giving credit where credit is due--explains the very subtle difference between the sampled bass line in his "Ice Ice Baby" and the apparently identical source part in Queen's "Under Pressure" ("See, we changed it"). What a kidder!

Though enjoyably breezy, the program could have stood a mite more in the way of commentary from generally objective Loder, who holds his tongue far too often but has nonetheless brought a measure of respect to the network that once had Nina Blackwood as its foremost on-screen reporter.

Loder does wax solemn when it comes to free speech issues, championing "rock and pop musicians (who) were at the forefront of a new fight against censorship and cultural repression. . . . The big surprise hit of the year was the First Amendment."

Well, a bigger surprise than anything except Vanilla Ice. Sigh.

("The Year in Rock 1990" repeats on MTV Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., and again on Jan. 1 and 2.)

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