Whatever Happened To VH1's Pop-Up Video?

An iconic piece of '90s pop culture, VH1's "Pop-Up Video" gave viewers tantalizing details about the artists behind their favorite tracks. Accompanied by a memorable popping noise, the tiny bulletins provided interesting and sometimes hilarious tidbits. During the music video for Madonna's "Vogue" for example, a helpful pop-up informs viewers that there was some debate during the production over whether Madonna's nipples could be seen through her particularly risque top. In case you don't know where to look, tiny arrows appear on the screen to point to the offending area. On the other hand, the bubbles sometimes revealed pieces of gossip that didn't really have anything to do with music. In the video for Lionel Ritchie's "Hello," for example, the pop-ups remind viewers that Ritchie was beaten up by his wife after she caught him cheating on her.

The show was the brainchild of Tad Low and Woody Thompson, who owned their own production company, Spin the Bottle. Thompson in particular had previously worked creating music videos and had nothing but disdain for them as failed pieces of art (via Billboard). Mockery seemed like a good way to liven up the sometimes soulless productions. The producers started phoning around to find the best gossip in the industry and flashed it up on screen. The show had a fairly respectable run from 1996 to 2002 and earned 13 Emmy nominations. In 2011, VH1 unexpectedly gave in to nostalgic demands to bring it back for a brief period.

Controversy and disappearance

While many people clearly loved the show (the production even spawned a board game of the same name), VH1's notoriously rude pop-ups were not without their controversies. After all, many of the notes were a little cheeky.

In an interview with Billboard, producers Tad Low and Woody Thompson revealed that they had to fight quite hard with VH1 over what they were allowed to say about certain musicians. To source their gossip, the showrunners obtained crew lists from music productions and interviewed workers for their amusing stories. For a time, when they weren't allowed to run a certain story, they would hide text in the show, making the info appear for a split second in the credits for intrepid fans to find. "The business, at the time, was pre-TMZ, the media outlets and the press reps for the artists had a very cozy relationship," Low remarked. "There are definitely people at VH1 who treated artists sort of reverentially, like gods — God forbid you say anything bad about Bruce Springsteen, you know?"

And their comments did sometimes get them into trouble. On one occasion Meat Loaf complained that the show had made fat jokes about him, and the pop-up created for Billy Joel's "Keeping the Faith" allegedly drove Joel into such a rage it had to be canceled (per Spin the Bottle). The troublesome team was eventually booted from the VH1 building, and in 2002 —  fueled by a dip in interest in music videos — the company felt that the show had run long enough and finally pulled it (via The New York Times).

A triumphant but short-lived comeback

In 2011, VH1's "Pop-Up Video" very briefly made a return, featuring commentary on the likes of Britney Spear's "Till the World Ends" and other videos. According to The New York Times, almost a decade after it had disappeared VH1's president, Tom Calderone, felt public pressure to resume the show. "People were so loud about how much they missed it, we said, 'Let's just do it,'" he said. The Hollywood Reporter noted that this time, Woody Thompson and his crew were given permission to dissect hip-hop and rap videos along with their usual pop fare in a new commission for 60 30-minute episodes.

But alas, despite the nostalgia mobs to please, the show's second run was all too brief. This time, "Pop-Up Video" only ran until September 2012. The decision to scrap the show a second time has rankled at least a few people, and there's even a Change.org petition to resurrect the beloved snarky music show.