MTV Unplugged
Created byJim Burns[1]
Robert Small[1]
Country of originUnited States
Production
Running time60 minutes
DistributorMTV Networks
Release
Original networkMTV
MTV Live
Original releaseNovember 26, 1989 (1989-11-26) –
present

MTV Unplugged is an American television series on MTV showcasing musical artists usually playing acoustic instruments. The show aired regularly from 1989 to 1999 and less frequently from 2000 to 2009, when it was usually billed as MTV Unplugged No. 2.0. Since 2009, MTV Unplugged specials have aired occasionally, sometimes online only. Episodes and specials have tended to showcase one artist or group, playing a combination of their hit songs and covers.

Many of the artists who appeared on the show in the 1990s released their Unplugged session as an album, and some of these albums were commercial and critical hits. Eric Clapton's Unplugged (1992) sold 26 million copies worldwide and became the best-selling live album of all time. Other Unplugged albums that went platinum include Mariah Carey's MTV Unplugged (1992), Rod Stewart's Unplugged...and Seated (1993), 10,000 Maniacs' MTV Unplugged (1993), Tony Bennett's MTV Unplugged (1994), Page and Plant's No Quarter (1994), Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York (1994), Alice in Chains's Unplugged (1996), Shakira's MTV Unplugged (1999), Lauryn Hill's MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2001), Alicia Keys' Unplugged (2005) and Ricky Martin's MTV Unplugged (2006). Some of these albums produced successful singles as well, including Mariah Carey's No. 1 hit cover of "I'll Be There".

The show received the George Foster Peabody Award and three Primetime Emmy nominations, in its original form.

A limited-run reboot of MTV Unplugged came in 2009, featuring six acts, which won the Emmy Award for Best New Approach.

As of 2021, several episodes are available to watch on Paramount+.[2]

Unplugged

The term "unplugged" has come to refer to music that would usually be played on electrified instruments (such as an electric guitar or synthesizer) but is rendered instead on instruments that can be played without electricity, for example acoustic guitar or traditional piano, although a microphone is still used. In most cases, the bass (or bass guitar) is amplified, and a Hammond organ is sometimes used.

MTV launched MTV Unplugged in 1989.[3] The show featured musicians performing unplugged versions of their electric repertoire. Many of these performances were subsequently released as albums, often featuring the title Unplugged. It was believed that the show was inspired by a 1989 MTV Video Music Awards acoustic performance by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora; however, the show was already in production.[3]

Launch of Unplugged

The MTV show titled Unplugged, drawing on this phenomenon, was created by producers Robert Small and Jim Burns.[1] Songwriter Jules Shear hosted the first 13 episodes.[4] The pilot and first seven episodes were produced by Bruce Leddy, after which Associate Producer Alex Coletti took over for the remainder of the series, producing the show through 2001.[5] After the first 13 episodes, the role of host was eliminated.[5] The show was produced by Viacom and RSE Inc[6] and was most frequently directed by Milton Lage and Beth McCarthy.

The first episode of MTV Unplugged was taped on October 31, 1989, and aired about a month later on November 26.[3]

Selected list of artists

For a full list of performers sorted by date, see List of artists featured on MTV Unplugged.

1989–1992

1993–1994

1995–1999

2000–2009

The MTV Unplugged 2.0 logo used for the show's return in the 2000s.
The MTV Unplugged 2.0 logo used for the show's return in the 2000s.

Since 2000, the Unplugged format has been revived on a number of occasions for specials.

2010–2019

2020–present

Performances using the "Unplugged" format

The pop metal band Tesla performed an all-acoustic live set on July 2, 1990 that was released under the title Five Man Acoustical Jam in November of that year, following the format established the previous year by MTV Unplugged.[37]

MTV's sister channel VH1 airs VH1 Storytellers, interspersing mostly acoustic performances with the artists discussing the history, meaning and memories of the songs.

Bon Jovi performed unplugged in 2007 on CMT. The Police, Mary J. Blige, Kenny Chesney and John Mayer were scheduled to perform.[38]

The fourth season of Canadian Idol featured an Unplugged night which was held at Toronto's Masonic Temple. This episode of Canadian Idol was a tribute to MTV in two ways: a direct tribute to the Unplugged format, and to celebrate the recent licensing of the new MTV Canada which was located in the Masonic Hall until 2012.[39]

On July 30, 2020, Code Orange performed a livestreamed acoustic set on Twitch spoofing MTV Unplugged under the title of "MUDTV Mudbanger's Ball" during the COVID-19 pandemic.[40] The band described it as "conceptually akin to classic MTV Unplugged performances, but with nightmarish digital twists and turns."[41] The performance was later remastered and released on September 4, 2020, as their album Under The Skin.[42]

References

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