The 2015 MTV Video Music Awards are coming up this Sunday, and it’s looking to be nothing short of a spectacular show. The pre-show alone features Nick Jonas‘ performing his late-summer jam “Levels” as well as the premiere of the videos for Justin Bieber‘s “What Do You Mean?” and Taylor Swift‘s “Wildest Dreams.” The main show’s also sure to get everybody talking with controversy-magnet Miley Cyrus hosting with an array of stars from Demi Lovato to most recently announced Nicki Minaj performing, and a little birdy has let it leak that the legendary Miss Britney Spears will indeed be in attendance, seated front row with murmurs of being the first presenter.
There’s no doubt that the VMAs have been the source of incredible moments in the past, so we’re hoping for a good show this year. But let’s not forget about the actual awards! Today we have Poison Paradise writers Brandon Joseph and Mikey Xi as well as our good friend Rich Baxter of Popology Now to weigh in on who we’re rooting for to bring home the Moonman for the four big awards.
1. VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Beyoncé — “7/11”
Kendrick Lamar — “Alright”
Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) — “Uptown Funk”
Ed Sheeran — “Thinking Out Loud”
Taylor Swift (feat. Kendrick Lamar) — “Bad Blood“
Brandon Joseph: Taylor Swift (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – “Bad Blood”
There’s no doubt that “Alright” is the most important of all these videos, and deserves an award of it’s own in a special elevated category. In fact, I’m wondering why this video wasn’t nominated for “Best Video with a Social Message” — but I am voting based on entertainment value in this general case. I really appreciate Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson‘s “Uptown Funk” because it’s a return to amazing music videos shot on urban city sets (and/or on location) that are reminiscent of music videos like TLC‘s “Waterfalls,” Mase‘s “Welcome Back,” and Christina Aguilera‘s “Can’t Hold Us Down” — something we haven’t seen much of recently, aside from “Bang Bang“. That being said, my vote goes to “Bad Blood.” I truly enjoyed this video the most of all those nominated. Not so much because of the all star cast, but because of the flossy direction, the references to cinema, and how much was fit into a four minute long video. I was obsessed with “7/11” for quite a while, and it’s super fun! But I think it’s more like an awesome DVD bonus than a “Video of the Year”.
Mikey Xi: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
We all know I’m obsessed with the videos for Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar’s incredibly expensive “Bad Blood” (I even wrote about it!) and Beyoncé‘s probably less expensive “7/11,” but I might be rooting for a different Kendrick visual this time around. “Alright” is an incredibly powerful addition to today’s conversation on racism and police brutality. It’s hard to find visuals as hopeful as this one when it so explicitly shines a light on the grim realities of today, but the amalgamation of images and elements in the video perfectly encapsulate the bittersweet vibe of “Alright,” from the car being carried by policemen to Kendrick being shot in the final scene. Colin Tilley‘s direction and cinematography is great already, but it’s the way the song and video hits you right in the heart is what pushes the video over the edge to deserve the recognition. Oh, and Kendrick’s smile at the camera at the end? Dead.
Rich Baxter: Beyoncé – “7/11”
You know, this category is tough. You’ve got five videos from five powerhouse artists. Ultimately, it should come down to one video, but for me… it can’t. Come VMA night, I wouldn’t be mad if Beyoncé’s “7/11” or Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” took home the top honor. When the nominations first came out, everyone let out a collective “hmm?” when Beyoncé snagged a VOTY nom for “7/11″… even me. But, when you actually sit down and analyze the video, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Beyoncé is this artist that focuses on showmanship and professionalism while keeping her personal life guarded (except #Elevatorgate). Take a look at every other Beyoncé video; they rely on sex appeal, flashy production, and a consistent theme or storyline. “7/11” throws that formula in the trash and showcases Beyoncé in the most relatable light ever as she lets her hair down and turns up all over a hotel. It breaks down the wall that Beyoncé has built and gives us a peek at this goofy side that not many people are aware of. For that reason alone, Beyoncé deserves to take home Video Of The Year. Now, Taylor? Eh, “Bad Blood” is no “Blank Space,” but it’s the most action packed music video in recent memory.
2. BEST MALE VIDEO
Nick Jonas — “Chains”
Kendrick Lamar — “Alright”
Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) — “Uptown Funk”
Ed Sheeran — “Thinking Out Loud”
The Weeknd — “Earned It“
Brandon Joseph: Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) – “Uptown Funk”
Even though the song itself was sickeningly played to death, I have to give my vote to “Uptown Funk.” It was energetic, feel-good, and like I said before, awesome sets/locations. The visuals gave me even more of a Motown feeling that the song alone did. “Thinking Out Loud” was just “cute”, and although I loved the concept for “Chains” the darkness of the video made it seem cheaply directed and low-budget. Just because the song is dark and they want to make a “dark” video, doesn’t mean I should have to turn up the brightness of my monitor to view it. I understand using low lighting as an artistic choice, but the story and the subjects suffered because of it in this case.
Mikey Xi: Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) – “Uptown Funk”
Ed Sheeran‘s “Thinking Out Loud” is still heartwarming to hear and watch even now, but because Ed’s mainly letting his dance partner do all the work, I’m handing the award to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Yes, I am absolutely just as sick of the song as you are, but the video is still insanely delightful. Bruno’s charisma and charm shines whenever he performs and that’s what really carries the video all the way through. Not to mention the camera work, editing, and choreography just makes everything a total viewing pleasure.
Rich Baxter: Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”
Honestly, none of these nominations are anything to get excited about. Nick Jonas comes in a close second with “Chains,” but it’s Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” that I expect to take home Best Male Video. Heavy dancing was a consistent schtick in music videos this past year, but it was Ed jumping on this bandwagon that was the most unexpected for me. Did you ever expect this little ginger from the UK to learn some of the most intricate ballroom choreography you’ve ever seen? Not only did he learn it, he mastered it! Sometimes, you go out on a limb to take a risk and it doesn’t pay off. In this case, Ed had all the right moves to dance his way to a VMA.
3. BEST FEMALE VIDEO
Beyoncé — “7/11”
Ellie Goulding — “Love Me like You Do”
Nicki Minaj — “Anaconda”
Sia — “Elastic Heart”
Taylor Swift — “Blank Space“
Brandon Joseph: Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
Wow, I am going to sound like a hardcore Taylor stan here, but really maybe I am just a Joseph Khan stan? I think “Anaconda” is an amazing piece of art. Yes, art! It has lots of variety: jungle settings, chair choreography, lap-dances, beautiful visuals, and a touch of humor. Not to mention Nicki’s gorgeous body and exciting style. The video has ZERO boring moments. That being said (I say that a lot) I prefer “Blank Space”, and it has nothing to do with my love for male models (hello, Sean O’Pry). I don’t want to bore you with my nerdy talk about aesthetics but I loved the chronological story the video tells, how Taylor is finally making fun of herself and acknowledging her image, but mostly it’s just a beautiful video. Lots of symmetry and beautiful locations that don’t look like sets. Taylor’s over-the-top acting comes off a bit annoying at times, but I think that’s on purpose? Again, this was very close for me, and the fact that “Anaconda” had choreography almost put it over the top for me, but not quite enough.
Mikey Xi: Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”
I’m torn on this one. Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” was an earth shattering video that will probably go down in history as a modern feminist masterpiece. Every moment is pretty memorable: the chair choreography, the cooking show segment, the lap dance (everyone in the world basically wanted to be Nicki or Drake at that moment). On the other hand, Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” is a grand address of her public image (I even covered it here!) where she shows off her acting chops and enlists near-legendary director Joseph Khan to bring it all to life in a beautiful mansion with a legitimately entertaining storyline. It’s a pretty tight race, but I’m going to hand it to Nicki for the sheer amount of iconic moments in the video. “Anaconda” was a defining moment for Nicki, taking the male gaze and using it to her advantage, being a body-positive role model, laughing in the face of slut-shaming, and making sure all eyes were firmly planted on her, all while allowing me to write a thesis on the video for my English class that probably saved my grade. I salute you, Nicki.
(Side note: Why is “Love Me Like You Do” nominated? I love the song but I’m sure there were better videos to choose from rather than a Fifty Shades advert cut with Ellie Goulding glam shots.)
Rich Baxter: Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”
Let me start off by saying “Blank Space” should have been nominated for Video of the Year and should win it. Alas, I’m not in charge of everything and can’t always have my way. Now why am I talking about Video of the Year in the Female video category? It’s because “Blank Space” won’t have a single chance when it comes to winning Female Video. Nicki Minaj will take the prize this year for her VEVO record-breaking “Anaconda” music video. Despite Ms. Minaj’s childish tirade about not racking up a VOTY nomination, she failed to see why she’s the clear front-runner for Female Video. “Anaconda” celebrates women of all shapes and sizes and shows how much power women can hold. Sure, maybe not in a typical way and a more of an ass-tastic way, but hey the point is made! Plus, if Nicki doesn’t win this, I literally won’t be able to handle her Twitter tirade. MTV, do the right thing.
4. ARTIST TO WATCH
James Bay — “Hold Back the River”
George Ezra — “Budapest”
Fetty Wap — “Trap Queen”
FKA twigs — “Pendulum”
Vance Joy — “Riptide“
Brandon Joseph: Who?
Just kidding. Honestly I don’t even care as long as it’s not Austin Mahone again. He won the award two years ago in 2013 and he still doesn’t have a damn album out. We have been watching but little has been happening, save for a lot of Instagram selfies. But I digress. I guess “Pendelum” would get my vote. None of these videos really do much for me, especially not “Trap Queen”.
Mikey Xi: FKA twigs – “Pendulum”
FKA twigs has been one of my favorite acts this year and I have no doubt that she deserves to win the award, especially knowing just how involved with every aspect of her career she is, including being director on her own videos. She’s already proved it post-“Pendulum” with the 16-minute short filmed for her EP M3LL155X. “Glass & Patron” is a personal favorite, featuring amazing vogue dancers (oh yeah, twigs is one of, if not the best voguer amongst music artists in the industry right now) in an epic runway battle. But she also works well with simplicity, “Water Me” being a prime example.
Rich Baxter: FKA twigs – “Pendulum:
This one is no contest. FKA Twigs is the only person worth mentioning in this entire category. I may not follow her every move and she may not be my cup of tea, but everything I’ve made the effort to pay attention to, including the ‘Pendulum’ music video, is nothing short of incredible. She’s unique, she’s consistent, she’s a true performance artist (ahem, Gaga), and come VMA night she’ll be a winner as well.
Readers! Tell us what you think: Who deserves to sweep the Moonmen? Who needs Kanye to run up and shut it down? Who was snubbed and needs to start a Twitter rant? Let us know in the comments below.