Shortly after 3:30pm Eastern on October 2, a once-familiar scene beamed from a pocket of New York's neon-bathed, jam-packed Times Square. From the windows of an 8,000 square foot studio, Vine star and Wild 'N Out cast member DC Young Fly beckoned to Tamara Dhia, a correspondent on the streets below, to decide which Ed Sheeran fan would get a "bless up," an upgrade from the sidewalk cheering section to the white-floored and screen- and light-paneled walls.
Welcome to TRL for Gen Z.
As the camera panned around the studio, the faces of audience members, not seated on bleachers, but interspersed throughout the space, hardly seemed old enough to remember the Total Request Live’s first iteration, which ran from 1998 to 2008, as an after-school countdown of the top pop music videos. Piercing screams that were once reserved for boy bands like N*Sync and Backstreet Boys were now directed towards Sheeran and Migos, Monday’s first musical guests.