mtv will revive 'trl' for voter registration, with help from kendall jenner and ty dolla $ign

‘Total Registration Live’ will air tonight for National Voter Registration Day.

by Emily Manning
27 September 2016, 5:30pm

Thanks to the collision of nostalgia and capitalism occurring within a relatively forward-thinking socio cultural moment, cherished late-90s, early-00s relics are not only being resurrected, but imbued with far more interesting ideas. Juicy Couture tracksuits are back, reborn as actual couture pieces (and majorly covetable ones at that). The Boy Meets World reboot found its star in a queer-identifying 14-year-old who is vocal about her passion for intersectional feminism. MTV, too, has chosen to raise its long-loved music video request series TRL from the dead. This time, though, the network plans to highlight a cause far more important than the immense popularity of low-rise pants: voter registration.

Total Registration Live will air tonight at 6 PM to coincide with National Voter Registration Day, an initiative made all the more important by last night's circus of a presidential debate. The special will include appearances from rapper Vic Mensa, model Kendall Jenner, Fifth Harmony vocalist Camila Cabello, writer-producer Joss Whedon, and more. Ty Dolla $ign is scheduled to perform three tracks from his recently-released, politically minded mixtape Campaign.

Related: Ty Dolla Sign on mass incarceration and voter registration

Total Registration Live's preview video recalls the original TRL's populist, youth-led ambitions: "For over a decade, Total Request Live gave viewers the opportunity to be heard, empowering fans to choose the artists, celebrities, and music that defined a generation." Tonight, the network is asking millennials to, "make your voices heard once again, this time on the issues that matter most in the upcoming election." These issues include national security, immigration, gender equality, education, and racial injustice — crucially important topics both candidates spent far less time discussing than multinational trade deals, tax returns, birth certificates, and deleted emails at last night's debate.

This is not the first time MTV has dipped its toes into political waters. In the early 90s, the network launched "Choose or Lose," recruiting Tabitha Soren as its face. The then 23-year-old did serious political reporting for MTV News, interviewing Yasser Arafat, Anita Hill, and Hillary Clinton. "Just because I know about Axl Rose," she told the New York Times, "doesn't mean I don't read Arthur Schlesinger." Yet that sharpness waned in the coming years; you might remember a series of celebrities stopping by TRL wearing t-shirts in support of Diddy's "Vote or Die" initiative, which sought to rally civic engagement around the 2004 presidential election. (Though Paris Hilton rocked one, she didn't vote — or register to. And yet, she lives).

While entertainment-led youth initiatives like "Vote or Die" are often mocked for failing to materialize their goals, it feels as though this TRL resurrection might be different. Today's youth care deeply about the issues that face our nation, hold cultural figures accountable for words and actions they don't feel align with social progress, and are certainly galvanized by how terrifying this year's political contest truly is. Any steps a major organization takes to try and translate this energy into election action is music to our ears. 


Text Emily Manning

election 2016
national voter registration day
total registration live