“Throwback Thursday”/’The Box’

What do late-’90s videos, “…Baby One More Time” by Britney, “Candy” by Mandy and “Faith” by Limp all have in common? While yes, all three are all ‘TRL’ staples and they’re also songs you continuously butcher on karaoke nights, but they’re also videos that you used to dial up and pay for on a little known T.V. channel called, ‘The Box.’ Yes, this music channel ruled our lives and drove our parents crazy in the late-’90s and early -’00s, because for just $.99 you could pay for and control the videos that you wanted to see. Today, we’re going to press pause on featuring a classic album for your Philly Mixtape “Throwback Thursday” and instead, we’re going to take a stroll down the music memory runway in a different way, by diving straight into ‘The Box.’ You know you miss it…

Founded in Miami in 1985 by Steve Peters and originally called, ‘Video Jukebox Network,’ the channel served as a television station for new Hip-hop artists and was hosted by a group of local Miami Bass rappers known as Miami Boyz. From the revenue Peters collected from the station, he formed a record label called Peter’s Records, but quickly went belly up after none of his featured artists had managed to produce a hit record. (I tried.) In turn, he ended up selling the name and the label in the early ’90s, and the service shortened the name to ‘The Box.’ Soon after, viewers were able to request videos through a designated telephone number, having them enter a code to request either a new or classic video and ‘The Box’s’ infamous slogan, “Music Television You Control” was born.

At first, all of the channel’s request lines used a large chunk of Miami telephone numbers and callers were only charged for the fee of a long distance call. However, in order to make it rain for the newly bought company, they switched the line to a 1-900 toll number, with callers being charged anywhere from $1.99 to $3.99 per call and were allowed to request up to three videos. (Britney, Britney, Britney, please.) Once the new lines were in place, ‘The Box’ blew up and would go on to be widely known as being an “underground’ network for not only discovering new music artists, but for playing videos that were banned from MTV. (“Erotica,” “Justify My Love” and “Erotica,” please.)

It’s no secret how ‘The Box’ met its demise….no one gave a shit about music videos anymore and the launch of ‘TRL’ was such a dominate force to be reckoned with that the channel quickly lost steam. MTV daddy company Viacom bought ‘The Box’ in 2001 and went on to adapt its concept for a short while in a network you guys now know as MTV2. The concept lived on again in 2010 when cable music service Music Choice launched a similar version called, SWRV. So, don’t worry guys, ‘The Box’ truly never left us…

I remember some of my favorite ‘The Box’ moments were seeing Mariah’s epically choreographed “Heartbreaker” for the first time, J.Lo was all over the channel with “Waiting for Tonight” and I’ll never forget the first time I saw Mandy Moore in ’99 an wondered…”Who the fuck is that?” Alas, ‘The Box’ was the one that started the “Candy” singer’s career, leading her to a solid two more years delivering hits. Ahh, memories. Dive into ‘The Box’ favorites below, and remember kids, ask your parents first! Happy “Throwback Thursday!”

Britney Spears/”…Baby One More Time”

J.Lo/”Waiting for Tonight”

Mandy Mooore/”Candy” 

Mariah Carey/”Heartbreaker”

XXXtina/”Genie in a Bottle”

Korn/”Freak on a Leash”

Limp Bizkit/”Nookie”


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