The VMAs have progressively gotten more boring and predictable through the years. This year the list of nominees just looks like who the VMAs producers want to attend and perform. Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift lead with ten nominations each, Billie Eilish follows with nine, and Lil Nas X with eight. These artists released great videos this year, but so many great videos, artists, and genres were passed over in favor of big name stars. To confuse things even more, there were big name stars that dominated this year that were surprisingly absent from the nominees list. Regardless here’s an (unranked) list of who deserved better
When I Get Home (Solange)
Solange released perhaps the most daring and beautiful music art film since Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. The “Almeda” clip from the film did garner a Best Editing nomination, but at the very least When I Get Home deserved recognition for Best Direction, Best Longform Music Video (which was inexplicably retired this year), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing. Outside of the professional categories, I don’t see why “Almeda” wasn’t at least nominated for Best R&B.
“Dancing with a Stranger” (Sam Smith & Normani)
Sam Smith & Normani’s “Dancing with a Stranger” (review here) was a really great video. Not to mention, the song was one of the biggest pop hits of the year. There really isn’t any reason why this wasn’t nominated for Best Pop especially in place of Cardi B & Bruno Mars’ “Please Me,” which should’ve been in the Best R&B. Normani, at least, snagged a nominated for Best R&B for her 6LACK collaboration, “Waves” (review here).
“Never Really Over” and “365” (Katy Perry)
Witness was a rough patch for Katy, there’s no doubt about that. Nevertheless, she made a valiant comeback with “Never Really Over” (review here) and “365.” The former was a really solid pop track accompanied by an even more solid music video about healing and growth. The science fiction-influenced “365,” a collaboration with Zedd, was stacked with robots and love. Both videos deserved some recognition. Katy is a 5-time VMA winner, so she has history there. “Never Really Over” should have been recognized in Best Art Direction and Best Pop, and “365” for Best Dance.
Outside of the juggernaut that is “Old Town Road,” DaBaby’s “Suge,” and Blueface’s “Thotiana” for that matter, is the biggest rap song of the year. DaBaby was absent from the nominees list despite his hilarious and well-made “Suge” video being eligible. DaBaby is one of the most promising breakthrough rappers of the year. so why he couldn’t score nominations for Best Hip Hop and Best New Artist is beyond me.
Pretty Much Every New Female Rapper
This year was a marquee year for female rap, and the fact that Cardi B is the sole representative of the genre at this year’s VMAs is absolutely ridiculous. Megan Thee Stallion’s “Big Ole Freak” video should have been a no brainer and Saweetie’s “My Type” video should have been recognized, depending on how strict MTV wants to be with their eligibility period deadlines. Tierra Whack scored her first Grammy nomination for Best Music Video, she should have been somewhere on the nominations list. City Girls dominated this year with “Twerk” and “Act Up,” and somehow they were absent from the list. None of this makes any sense at all and the VMAs should be embarrassed.
Thankfully, the VMAs finally revived the Best R&B category after neglecting it for twelve years. For some reason the VMAs have never had a Best Country category, and if any year was the year to start it, it would be this one. Kacey Musgraves, Dan + Shay, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs, and Kane Brown have all released great videos that deserved to be recognized. I don’t understand why MTV continues to neglect an entire sect of excellent musicians and artists for the sake of online engagement.
Okay, so Iggy obviously isn’t as much of a draw as she was during the summer of “Fancy” and “Black Widow.” Her new album (review here) was also kind of awful, but she consistently delivers very strong music videos. For an artist that essentially independent, Iggy’s creative skills are not held back by budget issues. Her videos have always been great, hence her nine nominations (one win), but her recent visuals for “Started” and “Sally Walker” were very well-made.
For a primarily R&B artist who is up there with Ariana and Billie as one of the most successful artists of the year, I don’t see why Khalid was given only a single nomination (Best Pop for “Talk”). “Talk,” from his Free Spirit album (review here), should have at least been in the running for Video of the Year, Best Art Direction, and Song of the Year. Khalid himself should have been an obvious pick for Artist of the Year as well.
“This Land” (Gary Clark Jr.)
“This Land” is how you do a political video. There’s a perfect mixture of highbrow imagery and no-holds-barred symbolism. Look, anyone burning a Confederate flag in a video this well-shot should be in the conversation for awards. Gary Clark Jr. is on my radar for a potentially huge Grammy nominations haul later this year, but he could have at least been given a Best Rock nomination. I love Panic! At the Disco as much as the next guy, but “High Hopes” is very much a pop song.