MTV voters played it safe once again with the nominations for the 26th annual MTV Video Music Awards, rewarding slickness and style over innovation. But then again, they didn't have much to work with.
Beyonce and Lady GaGa each earned nine nominations to lead all artists, while Britney Spears garnered seven. Of all the nominated clips, Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It") is the only one that has already reached iconic status, getting spoofed and imitated far and wide with anyone from 8 to 80 able to break into Beyonce's little robotic dance move.
We no longer really expect truly innovative or imaginative in videos, we'll settle for even mildly amusing, but many of the nominations don't even meet that criteria. For example, let's look at the best new artist nominees: Even though Lady GaGa is a lock for "Poker Face," 3Oh!3's "Don't Trust Me," has such a goofy sense of humor that we're rooting for it. Whereas Asher Roth's "I Love College" symbolizes what's wrong with videos today. It's a literal interpretation of a god-awful song with the usual array of scantily clad girls. It's offensive in how boring it is. For all its T&A, Drake's "Best I Ever Had" at least has a winking sense of humor about it in between the jiggle.
For any hint at creativity, check out the clips in the breakthrough video creativity. For example, I have no idea what those black creatures are supposed to be in Bat for Lashes' "Daniel," but at least they kept me intrigued. Gnarls Barkley's "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" works on so many different levels that we get something new out of it every time we watch it (although it should probably be up for the non-existent category of best written video). Major Lazer's "Hold the Line" cartoon is also pretty trippy. We are a little surprised that MGMT's "Kids" isn't in this group.
The most fun category is Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman), a collection of now classic clips that time has been kind to, despite their shutout at award time. One will get a second chance to shed its loser status. While Bjork's sublimely odd "Human Behavior" is kind of my sentimental favorite, Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" still makes me laugh. Both came out in 1994, which was clearly a much better time for videos than now. Budgets were still big. MTV was much more influential than it is now since you couldn't just go onto youtube.com to see a clip.
Other than "OK Go's" 2006 treadmill bonanza for "Here It Goes Again," all the clips up for the best video (that should have won a Moonman) are at least 12 year old. That makes our point about the tragic state of current video-making more than we ever could.
The MTV Video Music Awards air live on Sunday, Sept. 13 at 9 PM EST.