We’re just one day away from MTV’s Video Music Awards and it’s literally all people can talk about. You know, other than 9/11 and Qu’ran burnings and Ground Zero mosques and stuff. But other than all that? Nothing but VMA talk, y’all.
Far be it from us to be left out. In a rare weekend feature, frequent TSJ contributor Molly McAleer and TSJ editor Adam Brown take a shot at predicting who will walk away with some of Sunday night’s most important awards, among other things.
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys brought us one of the best songs of last year with “Empire State of Mind”, but their tribute was made complete with a beautifully shot and edited video directed by Hype Williams.
Most of the VMA winners in recent years have gotten a leg up on the competition by employing computer generated imagery, celebrity cameos and ground-breaking concepts, but none of those old tricks are used with Jay and Alicia. Instead we got a flawless yet somehow very “real” feeling ovation to the greatest city in the world.
However, the success of this video can’t be entirely chalked up to New York’s complicated beauty. Hype Williams is one of the most celebrated music video directors of all time and was given a tribute at the 2006 award show. Hype is to the VMAs as Adam Sandler is to the MTV Movie Awards, so any year he makes something, he’s likely going to take home the prize. Thankfully this video was more of a Billy Madison and less of a Little Nicky.
I’m going out on a limb and predicting a complete Jay-Z shutout this year. Even if that doesn’t happen, I at least hope he doesn’t win this award. Or anything for “Empire State of Mind”, for that matter. Why? Because Nas already recorded this song damn near 20 years ago. “NY State of Mind,” look it up, people. He could have at least let the guy have a verse or something. And I’m not talking about on a goddamn remix.
Even if not for the blatant idea jacking, I still see an upset in the works here. My pick goes to “Video Phone” by Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. It’s got all the Hype Williams awesome of “Empire State of Mind” with a whole lot of scantily clad Beyoncé and Lady Gaga thrown in for good measure. It’s a better video, for sure. Is it a better song? Probably not. But this is just the kind of epic letdown the VMA’s love to hand out. “Empire State of Mind” will definitely be the sentimental favorite given the time of year. But remember when Johnny Cash was nominated for video of the year and Missy Elliot won? The prosecution rests.
Best New Artist
Why is Justin Bieber, who is definitely not the best new artist of any year, ever, definitely going to take home the Moon Man? It’s because of a little disease that’s been sweeping the nation and eating away at the brains of our youth faster than even the most mighty strain of syphilis. We’re talking about Bieber Fever and the only prescription is more Bieber.
Every generation of teen girls has a heartthrob, and right now they’re all about Justin Bieber. The sixteen year old YouTube sensation has quickly climbed his way into our collective subconscious. Yep, he’s the guy who first rocked that hair cut you now see on mall patrons and lesbians alike. And BTDubs? The dude’s responsible for 3% of all Twitter traffic. The social networking site has dedicated entire servers to making sure that not one 140-character message from Bieber to his millions of followers gets dropped.
But what about the video? Eh. It’s a cheesy romp through a bowling alley that’s reminiscent of the videos that the Backstreet Boys, Color Me Badd and New Kids on the Block used to suck in their audience back in the day. If this category wasn’t a popularity contest run by the network to keep themselves relevant, Bieber wouldn’t stand a chance. Thankfully for him, it most definitely is.
Yeah, I’m afraid the Beebs has this one locked up for all the reasons Molly stated. And it’s no secret that I have kind of a soft spot for Justin Bieber, so I guess I can live with it.
But in a perfect world, this one goes to Nicki Minaj. She is all that is awesome and should win every award she’s nominated for, including this one. So, if I have to pick against Bieber, she gets the nod. But it’s probably a lost cause, even if she has way better music (and hair).
Also, if Ke$ha wins, I will go on a six state killing spree. That’s all.
Best Rock Video
English singer Florence Welch and her band teamed up with LEGS, the director behind Goldfrapp’s totally wild and visually compelling “Alive” video, and created one of the most enthralling videos this year. While average, softie rockers seem content to strum their guitar and lip sync around a pool or in a barn for their video, Florence unleashes her persona on us through ornate costumes, hair and make up.
There’s something Bjork-esque about the significance of her style in this piece. Sure, there’s blue ladies dancing and scary looking zombie monk-types to attempt to distract us, but the smoke that swirls around the singer as she belts out the lyrics might as well be a flashing red arrow demanding, “LOOK AT WHO I AM.”
Every few years an artist comes along who seems to “get” music and the ever-crucial ability to market herself better than her contemporaries. Lady Gaga is certainly an example of this in the pop realm, and Florence is one of the closest things we have these days to a New Rock Goddess. If she can’t take the award for hypnotizing us with her killer voice/wardrobe combo, she can have it for the bad ass impression she left.
Wow, it’s a sad state of affairs for rock music right now, huh? I’m having a hard time really giving a shit if any of these people win. Florence + The Machine = Regina Spektor dressed like Lady Gaga. Color me unimpressed.
I guess I’m taking MGMT here, but if you have yet to admit that their sophomore album was a huge letdown, you’re just lying to yourself. But still, better them than 30 Seconds to Mars, you know? But that’s just who I hope wins. I honestly have no prediction here.
Video of the Year
Look. No one wants to win video of the year like Lady Gaga. In a world where MTV doesn’t even play videos, Gaga blew seven million dollars on the six-minute visual spectacle that was “Telephone”. And you know what? It was totally worth it.
Not only can you give most of the credit for the absolutely dreadful song’s success to its moving picture version but several elements of this video stand alone as somewhat iconic (Diet Coke curlers and cigarette sunshades, we’ll never forget you.) And of course the entire thing is a tribute to director Quentin Tarantino, a man whose work you’d get called out for improperly mimicking in a split second once it hit the Internet, and we can’t recall hearing any complaints to that effect.
Then there’s Beyoncé, who is featured in both the song and the video. We’ve seen better acting out of Bey (it’s safe to bet that she read all of her lines off cue cards), but she’s just so damn pretty that it really doesn’t matter what she’s doing. Oh, and she’s got some experience when it comes sweeping the VMAs. Not only did Beyoncé win with Destiny’s Child back in the day, but she also quite famously took home last year’s grand prize, which Kanye West felt she deserved very much, apparently.
Look, I fucking love Lady Gaga. There, I said it. If she doesn’t win Video of the Year, banish the awards for eternity.
Is spending more than the GNP of a typical South American country on filming a video a responsible move in this economy? Yes, it is. I need something to take my mind off the fact that recent stock market turbulence has all but guaranteed that I’ll be working my fingers to the bone bagging groceries for prescription money until I’m laid to rest in a potter’s grave at the age of 86. Lady Gaga rocking Diet Coke curlers and tooling around in the Pussy Wagon with Beyoncé is exactly the kind of shit I need to see right now.
Lil Kim may tell you that she is whack, but new female MC Nicki Minaj is just as wild as The Queen Bee ever was. With this being her very first year at the show, you shouldn’t put it past Nicki to do something scandalous with her wardrobe. In fact, since she refers to herself as the Harajuku Barbie, she’ll probably rock several something scandalouses.
Nicki’s nominated in the Best New Artist category for her “Massive Attack” video, and while it doesn’t look like she’ll be taking any trophies home on Sunday, she’ll still be the one to watch.
Without so much as a full album released, Nicki has become a household name by being featured on other artists’ songs. She’s contributed verses to Mariah Carey, Robin Thicke, Ludacris and Gucci Mane’s singles this year and in every instance was the highlight of both the track and the video. BET noticed as much when they gave her three awards at their big show this year, including “Best Female Hip Hop Performance” and “Best New Artist”. Between her ridiculously clever rhymes, stupefying facial expressions and bevy of accents, Nicki Minaj is one of the most unique things to happen to not just rap, but music, in forever.
After last year’s Taylor Swift debacle, it was all but certain that Kanye West would never be invited back to the VMA’s. But come on, who in the hell really wants that? Not me, and especially not MTV. Kanye West is back once again and performing to boot.
Have you ever seen that documentary about that senior citizen who got caught robbing a bank and was released because everyone thought he was old and adorable and then he immediately went out and robbed another bank? That’s Kanye West. You would think after the shitstorm that broke out after crashing Taylor Swift’s coming out party last year that he’d keep things relatively low key, but he wouldn’t be Kanye West if he did that.
Rest assured, something will happen. Maybe he’ll say some crazy shit while he’s performing, maybe he’ll crash the stage in a moment of confusion when Beyoncé beats Jay-Z for Best Collaboration, who knows? But inviting Kanye West to an awards show when he isn’t really nominated for anything major is a recipe for disaster. Dude needs attention at all times, and he will get it somehow. The only question is who will be the first to turn his inevitable meltdown into the next internet meme.
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