If you were a teen music fan in the 90s, watching MTV was inescapable. The memes you see today are all true: there was in fact a time when MTV played a ton of music videos. After midnight, MTV would show an endless display of music vids and for music fans coming of age in the late 90s, it was possible to digest all genres. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see the playlist go from Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Jay-Z to Limp Bizkit, Static-X and Adema in the span of 15 minutes. This writer would stay up late every night one summer waiting to see the Bloodhound Gang video for The Bad Touch before going to bed.
Prior the days of Ridiculousness and Catfish dominating the MTV schedule, most of the shows on the channel were about finding new and unique ways to showcase music videos. In 1997, MTV debuted Total Request, a daily prime-time music video ranking show where users would call in or vote online for their favorite videos. The following summer, shooting at their Seaside Heights location, the show combined formats with two other daily series, MTV Live and Dial MTV, to launch Total Request Live, which became a monster hit. The show debuted from its iconic Times Square location in September of 1998 and changed the way music was consumed by young fans.
Total Request Live was appointment television for many teens, regardless of genre preferences. The show was a way to keep up with what was happening in pop culture that mattered to hungry young music lovers. Carson Daly was this generation’s Casey Kasem and Jay Leno wrapped into one, offering fans all the big world stories, and even which fingernails it was okay for a guy to paint. Besides just featuring a countdown of music videos, each episode would include guests from all walks of the music world. The show wasn’t just a launching pad for a ton of pop acts; it also offered huge exposure to nu metal bands like Limp Bizkit, Korn, Kid Rock and others. Can you imagine a show today that would put metal mainstays like Five Finger Death Punch and Spiritbox right up next to Ariana Grande and BTS? Such a world was possible 20 years ago in the TRL universe, and was likely responsible for the birth of many metalheads.
With all that in mind, let’s look back at the nu metal legacy of the show with 10 of TRL’s most memorable nu metal moments.
Limp Bizkit blow up a boat
In the summer of 1999, Limp Bizkit were set to explode with the release of Significant Other, and MTV was there for the entire ride, featuring Fred Durst and the band prominently whenever they could. Durst was the guest host for their summer series kick-off, the “Blow the Boat BBQ.” Fred co-hosted the entire two-hour TRL special, culminating with the Limp Bizkit frontman blowing up the symbolic boat that got them to the island. The episode featured the band performing Nookie when it was still the hot new single of the moment. It was wild watching Fred hype up the album by saying that Limp Bizkit will prove that they weren’t just a cover band after the success of Faith. They sure as hell did that; the Significant Other album cemented their status as the biggest rock band of that moment.
Korn show up in style to promote Follow The Leader
Before Limp Bizkit were put on the map by TRL, there was Korn. In the fall of 1998, Korn rolled up to Times Square in “the hummer from Hell,” as Carson Daly put it, to promote their monster hit, Follow the Leader. The lead single, Got the Life, had already climbed the TRL charts and was truly the first nu metal track to break through on the pop countdown show. In fact, by this point, Got The Life had made the countdown 65 times, and due to TRL's rules, the video was retired - a huge accomplishment for any artist at the time. On this show, Korn were promoting Freak On A Leash and also giving props to Limp Bizkit, who were just breaking through with their cover of Faith. It’s fun to see Korn hang out and watch other music videos on the countdown, including comparing Britney Spears to, er, Debbie Gibson.
Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and Wes Borland co-host TRL with Eminem
This is peak TRL, in the summer of 2000, with the biggest hip-hop act and the biggest rock act of the time sharing the screen on the biggest music show in the world. The trio were talking about their collab track, Turn Me Loose, originally recorded for Significant Other but left off the album. While the track got massive play on both local rock and rap stations at the time, it’s not a song anybody really brings up anymore. You can't officially stream the track on services like Spotify, but bootlegs exist on Youtube. The song disappearing from public discourse may have something to do with the relationship between Em and Fred getting a bit sour the following year. More on that soon...
Korn unveil the cover art for Issues
This writer believes Issues is the best Korn record front-to-back. The album features lyrics about Davis dealing with the fame and success the band had after Follow The Leader broke, but, as a sign of the times, one of the questions MTV’s Chris Connelly asks is actually why Korn decided to release their lead single as an MP3. The studio audience, who were only just cheering on boy bands, goes ballistic when Carson Daly introduces the nu metal legends, who arrive in style courtesy of a bus that brings them to the set.
The TRL 'Class of 99' photo shoot
While Limp Bizkit are considered a nostalgia act by many today, nothing showcases just how huge the band were in their moment like this MTV News segment about the Total Request Live Class of 99 photo shoot. The company decided to fly in the biggest stars of the moment to New York City for a photo shoot with iconic photographer David LaChapelle for their Christmas card, and the center of this news piece is Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst. You have megastar Jennifer Lopez giving Fred a shout-out and Fred himself beginning the infamous rumors about his tryst with Christina Aguilera, which became huge tabloid gossip for the next year or two. And, in the shoot itself, Durst was front and center in the photo with Britney, Puff and NSync. The only other rock acts invited were Goo Goo Dolls and Lenny Kravitz.
Hungover Fred Durst pushes back on Eminem drama, introduces Puddle Of Mudd
This video is from the summer of 2001, right before 9/11, and you can see just how big Limp Bizkit were at this point compared to their previous appearances on the countdown. Fred was the featured guest on the episode, promoting the band’s two Video Music Awards nominations. By this time, Fred and Eminem are no longer friends, as Fred talks about Eminem recently dissing him. Being a media pro, Fred doesn’t take the bait to diss back and only has good things to say about his fellow rapper. We also see a clip from the Boiler music video, which the band will be premiering on the show the following day.
Also on this episode, TRL bring out Puddle of Mudd frontman Wes Scantlin, and Fred and Wes premiered the band’s new music video for Control. Puddle of Mudd got some huge exposure during this time, which they are still cashing in on to this day.
Incubus hang out with Britney Spears
Nothing captures the post-9/11 era in music like Carson Daly and Britney Spears hosting a show together and introducing Incubus. The California band had just seen their album Morningview go platinum, and Carson turns to Britney and asks her if she’s heard it. Britney responds: “Yeah, it’s hot. I love it. Very cool.” Totally convincing! Another highlight of the clip is Britney and Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd commiserating about being considered sex symbols, befoe guitarist Mike Einziger quips that he thinks Britney is more attractive than Brandon. The most charming moment of this clip is easily Britney leading the entire audience in a sing-along of Happy Birthday to Brandon Boyd. To thank her, Brandon gave her an all-access pass to get into any one of their shows. This is the type of stuff TRL producers live for, and the type of showbiz schlock that fans could not really see anywhere else.
P.O.D. preach post-9/11 positivity
In the fall of 2001, P.O.D. were having their big moment. Their massive hit Alive crossed over from rock radio to pop radio at a time when the country was looking for positivity after the attacks of 9/11. The song was climbing the TRL charts, and the follow-ups Youth of the Nation and Boom were set to do the same. During a very sad chapter for the world, P.O.D. just happened to have the perfect, uplifting song for the moment to help music fans start to heal.
Kid Rock hangs out with Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter, Ashanti and Vanessa Carlton
Other than Fred Durst, no single rock artist benefited more from MTV exposure than Kid Rock. Rock always made himself available for the channel and as a result, it led to a ton of airplay and a whole new audience. And, when Rock became successful, he didn’t forget how much MTV helped him and always made sure to come back for repeat appearances. Here is a perfect example of that in a clip featuring an enormously diverse set of musicians - the “UN of music”, as Vanessa Carson calls it.
Avenged Sevenfold perform Bat Country
Alright, Avenged aren't nu metal, but this was such a big moment in their career we felt it was worthy of inclusion on such a countdown. By 2006, TRL wasn’t the force it was in the early part of the 00s. Carson Daly was gone, and the show had gone through its first generation of fans and was trying to rebuild. While TRL was more selective with which rock acts were featured, the daily series was still a huge platform for Avenged Sevenfold, arguably the last rock band to get the “MTV bump” with their breakthrough hit Bat Country. Avenged were huge at this moment, on the verge of headlining Ozzfest and riding fame that carries them to this day.