Monday, August 29, 2011

A look back at MTV's Video of the Year

I've long given up hope that MTV will retain musical relevancy ever again. For a little over two decades, the cable network dictated trends while also breaking in new acts with graceful ease. Its dedication to showing music videos also pushed the medium forward, with its artistic heyday being in the 1990s when creative, visually distinct directors like Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Stéphane Sednaoui, Hype Williams, Anton Corbijin and Mark Romanek, among many others, made regular contributions, therefore upping the ante for any artist trying to get their video into regular rotation. Since MTV has long abandoned showing music videos during regular viewing hours, you would almost think that their annual award show, the Video Music Awards, would no longer need to exist. There is a bit of humor to be found in the fact that a network that hardly airs music would pretend to care for one night while keeping up the facade that they follow everything throughout the year.

While the VMAs have never been mistaken as harbingers of quality, I do place a bit of value into the main award: Video of the Year. Having come up in the 90s, music videos became one of my first loves and Video of the Year is probably the highest honor one can receive in that field. The Grammys have made some solid nominations over the years for their Best Short-Form Music Video category, but hardly any attention is paid to it and MTV has a longer history of identifying the most striking and relevant videos in the art form.

Despite barely dedicating time to music programming and with the majority of videos being watched online, I feel the Video of the Year award still manages to hold prestige by coming up with at least one surprise nomination a year. It shows that they care just a little bit, at least for me. I understand that MTV is in the business of making money and attracting viewers, so they have no choice but to include popular, albeit inferior videos into this category at times. This is also a different era than the 80s and 90s when the music industry thrived and more money was able to be thrown at budgets for videos, which meant more good videos in general.

With me still being a music video fan, I'm usually eager to see what happens with Video of the Year. Over the course of the VMAs' history, MTV has at times proven that it can acknowledge quality, but the VOTY could have more prestige if the network had decided to be consistently more daring. Here is a look back at all the previous nominees and winners in that category and what was overlooked in that respective year. Keep in mind when discussing what should have been nominated, I narrowed it down to videos that could have conceivably landed in the biggest category of the night, meaning that it had to have been a sizable hit with MTV rotation. Also, it should be noted that viewers have been able to vote in this category since 2006, which has taken away from the surprise factor, meaning we may never seen an upset like "Nothing Compares 2 U" or "Virtual Insanity" ever again.


The Cars — "You Might Think"

* Herbie Hancock — "Rockit"
* Michael Jackson — "Thriller"
* Cyndi Lauper — "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"
* The Police — "Every Breath You Take"

What should have won
: While the campy humor of "You Might Think" still holds up very well, "Thriller" was an unprecedented accomplishment at the time and has not lost its luster.
What should have been nominated: Talking Heads — "Burning Down the House"; Queen - "I Want To Break Free"; Twisted Sister - "We're Not Gonna Take It"


Don Henley — "The Boys of Summer"

* Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — "Don't Come Around Here No More"
* David Lee Roth — "California Girls"
* David Lee Roth — "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody"
* USA for Africa — "We Are the World"

What should have won: The set design for "Don't Come Around Here No More" trumps the lush cinematography of "The Boys of Summer" for me.
What should have been nominated: Art of Noise — "Close (To the Edit)"; 'Til Tuesday - "Voices Carry"; Madonna - "Material Girl"; Frankie Goes to Hollywood — "Two Tribes"; Bronski Beat - "Smalltown Boy"


Dire Straits — "Money for Nothing"

* a-ha — "Take on Me"
* Godley & Creme — "Cry"
* Robert Palmer — "Addicted to Love"
* Talking Heads — "Road to Nowhere"

What should have won: A good deal of me wants to say "Take On Me," mostly for the mirror shot where the camera rotates around and reveals both the animated and live-action world, but overall, "Cry" is the most distinct. "Road To Nowhere" would have been a good choice as well seeing as how Talking Heads were miles ahead of everyone when it came to making videos around this time.
What should have been nominated: Kate Bush — "Running Up That Hill"; Talking Heads — "And She Was" ; Prince and The Revolution — "Raspberry Beret"; INXS — "What You Need"; Kate Bush - "Hounds Of Love"; ZZ Top — "Rough Boy"


Peter Gabriel — "Sledgehammer"

* Genesis — "Land of Confusion"
* Paul Simon — "The Boy in the Bubble"
* U2 — "With or Without You"
* Steve Winwood — "Higher Love"

Should have won: "Sledgehammer" was the right call this year.
Should have been nominated: Talking Heads — "Wild Wild Life"; Wang Chung - "Everybody Have Fun Tonight"; Madonna - "Open Your Heart"; Crowded House — "Don't Dream It's Over"; Kate Bush — "The Big Sky"


INXS — "Need You Tonight/Mediate"

* George Harrison — "When We Was Fab"
* Bruce Springsteen — "Tunnel of Love"
* U2 — "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
* U2 — "Where the Streets Have No Name"

What should have won: The humor in "When We Was Fab" is just too charming for me to deny, but there was no way INXS would lose after the monster year that they had.
What should have been nominated: Squeeze — "Hourglass"; XTC — "Dear God"; Eurythmics — "You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart"; Janet Jackson — "The Pleasure Principle"; Guns N' Roses — "Welcome to the Jungle"


Neil Young — "This Note's for You"

* Fine Young Cannibals — "She Drives Me Crazy"
* Michael Jackson — "Leave Me Alone"
* Madonna — "Like a Prayer"
* Steve Winwood — "Roll with It"

What should have won: Kind of crazy that Neil Young won in a year with MJ and Madonna nominated. Either one of those videos would have been a better choice, although the scathing "This Note's For You" was still a worthy pick.
What should have been nominated: Madonna — "Express Yourself"; R.E.M. — "Orange Crush"; The Escape Club — "Wild, Wild West"; DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince — "Parents Just Don't Understand"; Metallica - "One"


Sinéad O'Connor — "Nothing Compares 2 U"

* Aerosmith — "Janie's Got a Gun"
* Don Henley — "The End of the Innocence"
* Madonna — "Vogue"

What should have won: "Nothing Compares 2 U" was refreshing with its minimalism and emotion.
What should have been nominated: Tears For Fears - "Sowing The Seeds Of Love"; Janet Jackson — "Rhythm Nation"; Paula Abdul — "Opposites Attract"; Faith No More — "Epic"; Depeche Mode — "Personal Jesus"


R.E.M. — "Losing My Religion"

* C+C Music Factory — "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)"
* Deee-Lite — "Groove Is in the Heart"
* Divinyls — "I Touch Myself"
* Chris Isaak — "Wicked Game"
* Queensrÿche — "Silent Lucidity"

What should have won: "Wicked Game" is still one of the sexiest videos ever made.
What should have been nominated: George Michael — "Freedom! '90"; Janet Jackson — "Love Will Never Do (Without You)"; Jane's Addiction — "Been Caught Stealing"; LL Cool J — "Mama Said Knock You Out"


Van Halen — "Right Now"

* Def Leppard — "Let's Get Rocked"
* Nirvana — "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
* Red Hot Chili Peppers — "Under the Bridge"

What should have won: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" brought an authentic rebellious energy to the airwaves, a contrast to much of what MTV was playing at the time.
What should have been nominated: Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Give It Away"; En Vogue — "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)"; Metallica — "Enter Sandman"; Guns N' Roses — "November Rain"; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — "Into the Great Wide Open"; A Tribe Called Quest - "Scenario"; Michael Jackson - "Black Or White"; Metallica - "The Unforgiven"; Sir Mix-A-Lot - "Baby Got Back"


Pearl Jam — "Jeremy"

* Aerosmith — "Livin' on the Edge"
* En Vogue — "Free Your Mind"
* Peter Gabriel — "Digging in the Dirt"
* R.E.M. — "Man on the Moon"

What should have won: "Jeremy" was fitting, but it was a very strong year overall.
What could have been nominated in a very tough year: Madonna — "Rain"; Ice Cube - "It Was A Good Day"; Lenny Kravitz - "Are You Gonna Go My Way?"; Terence Trent D'Arby - "She Kissed Me"; Annie Lennox - "Walking On Broken Glass"


Aerosmith — "Cryin'"

* Beastie Boys — "Sabotage"
* Nirvana — "Heart-Shaped Box"
* R.E.M. — "Everybody Hurts"

What should have won: This was another strong year, but "Sabotage" was one of the most brilliantly executed parodies MTV had seen up until then and helped to usher in a new age of irony for music videos.
What also could have been nominated in another tough year and with more than just four slots: Soundgarden - "Black Hole Sun"; Björk - "Human Behavior"; Rollins Band - "Liar"; Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - "Mary Jane's Last Dance"; Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Soul To Squeeze"


TLC — "Waterfalls"

* Green Day — "Basket Case"
* Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson — "Scream"
* Weezer — "Buddy Holly"

What should have won: "Buddy Holly" had one of the most original concepts for its time, which is saying a lot for this era.
What should have been nominated: Nine Inch Nails - "Closer"; Lucas - "Lucas With The Lid Off"; Madonna - "Human Nature"; Snoop Doggy Dogg - "Gin & Juice"; Janet Jackson - "Any Time, Any Place"


The Smashing Pumpkins — "Tonight, Tonight"

* Bone Thugs-n-Harmony — "Tha Crossroads"
* Foo Fighters — "Big Me"
* Alanis Morissette — "Ironic"

What should have won: "Tonight, Tonight" gave a cinematic experience that the other nominees could not match.
What should have been nominated: Björk – "It's Oh So Quiet"; Garbage - "Stupid Girl"; Radiohead - "Just"; 2Pac (featuring Dr. Dre) - "California Love"


Jamiroquai — "Virtual Insanity"

* Beck — "The New Pollution"
* Jewel — "You Were Meant for Me"
* Nine Inch Nails — "The Perfect Drug"
* No Doubt — "Don't Speak"

What should have won: "Virtual Insanity" still remains visually impressive to this day.
What should have been nominated: Missy Elliott - "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)"; Cibo Matto - "Sugar Water"; Eels - "Novocaine for the Soul"; Daft Punk - "Da Funk"; The Chemical Brothers - "Setting Sun"


Madonna — "Ray of Light"

* Brandy and Monica — "The Boy Is Mine"
* Puff Daddy and the Family (featuring The LOX, Lil' Kim, The Notorious B.I.G.
and Fuzzbubble) — "It's All About the Benjamins (rock remix)"
* Will Smith — "Gettin' Jiggy wit It"
* The Verve — "Bitter Sweet Symphony"

What should have won: "Ray Of Light was the correct choice here, but there were a wealth of other great nominations that did not make the cut, with MTV perhaps paying too much attention to commercial success this year.
What should have been nominated: Björk — "Bachelorette"; Garbage — "Push It"; The Prodigy - "Smack My Bitch Up"; Busta Rhymes — "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See"; Radiohead - "Karma Police"; Janet Jackson — "Got Till It's Gone"; Dave Matthews Band - "Crash Into Me"


Lauryn Hill — "Doo Wop (That Thing)"

* Backstreet Boys — "I Want It That Way"
* Korn — "Freak on a Leash"
* Ricky Martin — "Livin' la Vida Loca"
* Will Smith (featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee) — "Wild Wild West"

What should have won: Besides that freaky bullet from "Freak On A Leash," "Doo Wop" was the most memorable nominee in another year that yielded too strongly to popularity and not the quality of videos.
What should have been nominated: Fatboy Slim — "Praise You"; Marilyn Manson - "The Dope Show"; Eminem — "My Name Is"; Busta Rhymes — "Gimme Some More"; Smashing Pumpkins - "Ava Adore"


Eminem — "The Real Slim Shady"

* Blink-182 — "All the Small Things"
* D'Angelo — "Untitled (How Does It Feel)"
* 'N Sync — "Bye Bye Bye"
* Red Hot Chili Peppers — "Californication"

What should have won: "Untitled" aptly portrayed the rawness of the record and became one of the most talked about videos of the year in the process.
What should have been nominated: Blur — "Coffee & TV"; Björk - "All Is Full Of Love"; The Chemical Brothers — "Let Forever Be"; Foo Fighters - "Learn To Fly"; Lauryn Hill – "Everything Is Everything"


Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and Pink — "Lady Marmalade"

* Missy Elliott — "Get Ur Freak On"
* Eminem (featuring Dido) — "Stan"
* Fatboy Slim — "Weapon of Choice"
* Janet Jackson — "All for You"
* U2 — "Beautiful Day"

What should have won: "Weapon Of Choice" featured Christopher Walken dancing and flying around a room. The actual video is more captivating than the treatment sounds.
What should have been nominated: R.E.M. - "Imitation of Life"; Robbie Williams - "Rock DJ"; Outkast - "B.O.B."; Gorillaz - "Clint Eastwood"


Eminem — "Without Me"

* Linkin Park — "In the End"
* 'N Sync — "Gone"
* Nas — "One Mic"
* P.O.D. — "Alive"
* The White Stripes — "Fell in Love with a Girl"

What should have won: "Fell In Love With A Girl" was the perfect image for the song and the artist, while also managing to amaze.
What should have been nominated: Kenna - "Hell Bent"; Elton John - "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore"; Cake — "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"; Missy Elliott (featuring Ludacris and Trina) — "One Minute Man";


Missy Elliott — "Work It"

* 50 Cent — "In da Club"
* Johnny Cash — "Hurt"
* Eminem — "Lose Yourself"
* Justin Timberlake — "Cry Me a River"

What should have won: "Hurt" invoked a deeper reaction than most videos.
What should have been nominated: Kylie Minogue - "Come Into My World"; The Chemical Brothers - "Star Guitar"; Queens Of The Stone Age - "Go With The Flow"; The White Stripes - "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground"; Scarface - "On My Block"


OutKast — "Hey Ya!"

* D12 — "My Band"
* Jay-Z — "99 Problems"
* Britney Spears — "Toxic"
* Usher (featuring Ludacris & Lil Jon) — "Yeah!"

What should have won: "99 Problems" still has a reputation as one of the grittiest videos ever made.
What should have been nominated: The White Stripes — "The Hardest Button to Button"; Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Y Control"; Kanye West (featuring Syleena Johnson) — "All Falls Down"; Steriogram — "Walkie Talkie Man"; Christina Aguilera - "Fighter"; Ludacris (featuring Shawnna) — "Stand Up"


Green Day — "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"

* Coldplay — "Speed of Sound"
* Snoop Dogg (featuring Pharrell) — "Drop It Like It's Hot"
* Gwen Stefani — "Hollaback Girl"
* Kanye West — "Jesus Walks"

What should have won: "Jesus Walks" had the strongest concept from this year's categories, which were mostly just an exercise in style and not much else.
What should have been nominated: Beck - E-Pro"; Missy Elliott (featuring Ciara and Fatman Scoop) — "Lose Control"; Gorillaz — "Feel Good Inc."; My Chemical Romance — "Helena"; The Killers - "Mr. Brightside"


Panic! at the Disco — "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"

* Christina Aguilera — "Ain't No Other Man"
* Madonna — "Hung Up"
* Red Hot Chili Peppers — "Dani California"
* Shakira (featuring Wyclef Jean) — "Hips Don't Lie"

What should have won: "Hung Up" turned every setting into a dancefloor and was the most distinct in one of the weakest years for this category.
What should have been nominated: The Killers - "All These Things I've Done"; Pink - "Stupid Girls"; Beck — "Hell Yes"; Beyoncé (featuring Slim Thug and Bun B) — "Check on It"; R. Kelly - "Trapped In The Closet"


Rihanna (featuring Jay-Z) — "Umbrella"

* Beyoncé — "Irreplaceable"
* Justice — "D.A.N.C.E."
* Justin Timberlake — "What Goes Around... Comes Around"
* Kanye West — "Stronger"
* Amy Winehouse — "Rehab"

What should have won: "Umbrella" rightfully established Rihanna as a big player in the medium of music videos, but the category also momentarily got back on track with worthy clips from Justice, Kanye West and Justin Timberlake.
What should have been nominated: "OK Go - Here It Goes Again"; My Chemical Romance" - "Welcome To The Black Parade"; Ciara - "Like A Boy"


Britney Spears — "Piece of Me"

* Chris Brown — "Forever"
* Jonas Brothers — "Burnin' Up"
* Pussycat Dolls — "When I Grow Up"
* The Ting Tings — "Shut Up and Let Me Go"

What should have won: "Shut Up and Let Me Go," although it was far from the best that the year had to offer.
What should have been nominated: Erykah Badu - "Honey"; Weezer - "Pork & Beans"; Snoop Dogg - "Sensual Seduction"; Kanye West (featuring T-Pain) — "Good Life"; Fergie - "Clumsy"


Beyoncé — "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"

* Eminem — "We Made You"
* Lady Gaga — "Poker Face"
* Britney Spears — "Womanizer"
* Kanye West — "Love Lockdown"

What should have won: According to Kanye West, "Single Ladies" was one of the greatest videos of all-time.
What should have been nominated: Gnarls Barkley – "Who's Gonna Save My Soul"; Matt & Kim – "Lessons Learned"; Lady Gaga – "Paparazzi"; Kanye West (featuring Mr Hudson) – "Paranoid"; Pink – "So What"; Keri Hilson (featuring Kanye West & Ne-Yo) - "Knock You Down"


Lady Gaga — "Bad Romance"

* 30 Seconds to Mars — "Kings and Queens"
* B.o.B (featuring Hayley Williams) — "Airplanes"
* Eminem — "Not Afraid"
* Florence and the Machine — "Dog Days Are Over"
* Lady Gaga (featuring Beyoncé) — "Telephone"

What should have won: "Bad Romance" is the kind of extravagant pop art that the biggest stars should be doing.
What should have been nominated: "Janelle Monáe (featuring Big Boi) — "Tightrope"; Rihanna - "Rude Boy"; Dan Black — "Symphonies";


Katy Perry — "Firework"

* Adele — "Rolling in the Deep"
* Beastie Boys — "Make Some Noise"
* Bruno Mars — "Grenade"
* Tyler, the Creator — "Yonkers"

What should have won: "Yonkers" is still one of the most daring and unsettling videos of the year.
What should have been nominated: Lady Gaga — "Born This Way"; Erykah Badu - "Window Seat; Kanye West - "Power" & "Runaway"; Willow Smith - "Whip My Hair"; Bruno Mars - "The Lazy Song"; Katy Perry (featuring Kanye West) — "E.T."

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