The AOL Sessions seem to be traceable back to February 2003, when Coldplay recorded a series of songs and a Q&A in a live studio. Since then, over 100 artists have recorded such sessions from all over the U.S. The featured artists tend to come from their respective genre’s Top 40 lists, and have even started to use the sessions to promote their new music. Take, for example, Danity Kane (Diddy’s third-season spawn), who used the recording to help launch their new single that featured Diddy himself. But don’t be alarmed. With appearances by Tom Petty, the Beastie Boys, Al green, and Pearl Jam, the quality of the musicians is almost always greater than music groups conceived by reality TV shows and studio execs.

The site is highly stylized. As you click on each artist, their picture pops up in the window with a quote from their interview displayed over it. That fades and gives way to a menu allowing you to select which content (performances, Q&A, photos etc.) you would like to view. The artists themselves introduce the videos, which are all shot in AOL’s comfortably sized and homey looking studio set. As you watch the performances, you can move through interview text without interrupting the feed. You also have the option to view video responses to individual questions. Also Check out the Chevy-sponsored Backstage Pass, where you can watch the musicians gearing up, goofing off, and spouting out words of wisdom. Sponsorship and ad inundation aside, this site is awesome. The audio/video quality is fantastic and the access they offer viewers feels intimate and raw. With its behind the scenes look at many of today’s top artists, AOL is doing a fantastic job and producing music video content that MTV and VH1 seem to have left behind.

Definitely check out the clips of Snoop Dogg who brings back some of his old school classics like Gin & Juice. In the Backstage Pass, you may wonder if everyone’s braids are really twinkling, or if you’re just getting a contact high from all the smoke between sets. Also see Tim McGraw’s March Sessions, where he appears looking like quite the young buck in preppy clothes with his long hair swept back under a knit hat. Now Faith looks like the lucky one!

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