“His loss was something big to me,” said Tim McIlrath.
But the band members wanted to get out the message, so they made a gripping video for “Make It Stop (September’s Children)” featuring three teens bullied and at the brink of suicide.
Now the video is competing in a new category at the MTV Video Music Awards: the best video with a message award. It highlights music videos sending messages of positivity and self-empowerment and raising awareness about social issues that affect today’s youth.
“I hope that category sticks around and I hope it gives artists something to aim for,” said McIlrath, who teamed with the It Gets Better Project for the music video.
MTV President Stephen Friedman says the new category is proving popular among voters this year.
“I have to tell you in the voting, this category catapulted. It was among the top three or four categories – millions and millions of people voted on this,” Friedman said. “It shows not only an interest from the artist, but also more importantly for the audience.”
Friedman says he hopes “this will be an ongoing category from here on out.”
McIlrath said he thought about writing “Make It Stop” when a gay fan told him she wasn’t sure where the band stood on gay rights.
McIlrath says the song – and the MTV nomination – is helping raise their profile.
“We’re not a band who really aims for the VMAs, I’ll be honest. Like, we’re not really a band that traffics on the Billboard chart and MTV and VMAs and that kind of thing, we never really relied on that,” he said. “When the video came out, CNN called me and Fox had me on, NBC had me on, like these little news blips, and I’ve never even done that type of stuff before.”
Dave Meyers, the music video director of the Pink and Perry videos nominated in the new category, said making a video with a message can be difficult.
“What’s challenging for me is I don’t want to seem like I’m talking down to the audience – that I’m not preaching the message, that I’m asking them to come on a ride that is not one-dimensional,” he said. “Sometimes I think message-y videos can be too message-y.”
“After 15 years of nominations and countless wins, this actually has a lot of meaning to me,” Meyers said. “This is MTV saying, ‘We as an organization think these videos deserve special acknowledgment’ versus a popularity contest, which is what a lot of the other categories tend to be.”
The Perry, Eminem and Lady Gaga videos nominated for best video with a message are also up for other awards. Perry leads the pack with 10 nominations at Sunday’s show, which will be held in Los Angeles.