The MTV Video Music Awards are not, and accept never been, a barometer for artful accomplishment aural the artful branch of music videos. This is not opinion, but plain-as-day actuality — accurate wholly by the complete accuracy that the backward Michael Jackson, absolutely a adept of the form, never took home the show’s bigger award-winning of Video of the Year in his career. (For what it’s worth, he was awarded the Video Vanguard award-winning in 1988, and the approval was renamed in his angel three years later.)
Regardless, the commemoration has occasionally accustomed admirable accomplishment in the Video of the Year category, alike alongside some of its added ambiguous choices. Digging through the VMAs’ 34-year history is complete in agency above acquainted who got snubbed over the years, anecdotic how the artful architecture has developed and/or devolved over time as able-bodied as the ever-changing attributes of what “Video of the Year” absolutely agency in MTV’s eyes. Aback 2009, voting for Video of the Year has been in the public’s hands, a popularity-contest move which, regardless, hasn’t chock-full the approval from actuality handed to admirable artists like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar; this year’s six nominees accommodate Drake’s “God’s Plan” and Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” both statement-making clips in their own appropriate that complete able-bodied could booty home the prize.
Until we acquisition out who wins tonight, let’s dig in with a little baronial of the Video of the Year winners aback 1984, the aboriginal VMAs in existence. The afterward baronial is based absolutely on quality, demography into annual factors alignment from how able-bodied assertive abstruse advances accept age-old to how ailing assertive attempts at cultural annotation appear off in 2018. Watch forth if you like; best of these are on YouTube, and there’s affluence of amusement to be had — the stultifying aftereffect of the complete VMA commemoration be accursed — in bingeing on music videos for hours at a time.
33. Van Halen, “Right Now” 
A little claimed fact: the average academy I abounding (shout-out to Benjamin Franklin Average Academy in Ridgewood, New Jersey) had an A/V chic that produced its own morning account show, and the piano accession to “Right Now” was the show’s actionable affair song. The beheld analysis for “Right Now,” accordingly, is best ill-fitted for an eighth-grade akin of compassionate aback it comes to society’s ills and issues. To say the sloganeering on affectation actuality has age-old like rotten bake-apple is an understatement, with platitudes biting the abandoned and alms ankle-deep criticisms of the government alongside no-shit statements like, “Right now, your parents absence you.” You’re bigger off giving them a alarm instead of watching this video.
32. Green Day, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” 
This American Idiot distinct carries with it the accomplishment of actuality the alone song to win both the Almanac of the Year Grammy and Video of the Year. That’s great! Acceptable for Green Day. The video itself, however, isn’t as absorbing of an accomplishment — aloof some dusty-ass footage of Green Day walking around, a montage of abject bodies (presumably complete on the titular boulevard?), and some accomplishment footage. Added like “Wake me up aback this video ends,” amirite?
31. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball” 
A video directed by Terry Richardson, for a distinct produced by Dr. Luke? Adamantine pass.
30. Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing” 
The 1986 Video of the Year champ was emblematic of a few VMA-winning trends in the ’80s: namely, treatments acting as automatic criticism adjoin what the music video architecture stood for and groundbreaking-at-the-time appropriate effects. There’s an air of ability to the conceit of gruff, computer-animated men perplexingly watching Mark Knopfler & Co. do their affair on the baby awning — itself absorption the banal banter and abeyant homophobia reflected in the song — but the blocky activity has age-old awfully compared to added agnate abstruse advances reflected in music videos about this time. The added rotoscoping to Dire Straits’ accomplishment footage doesn’t advance things, nor does it affectation the actuality that it’s affectionate of a abhorrent song.
29. Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer” 
The year afterwards nabbing Video of the Year for his all-knowing “The Boys of Summer,” above Eagles advanced man Don Henley joked that he won the approval for “riding about in the aback of a pickup.” He’s not wrong! Administrator Jean-Baptiste Mondino went on to lens the controversial-at-the-time blow for Madonna’s “Justify My Love,” but his assignment on “The Boys of Summer” is appealing tame: some bank projections of seasons past, adults attractive regretful, a tiny Henley-esque kid (played by Josh Paul, who would go on to handle bass duties for Daughtry) bashing abroad on the drums — and, yes, Henley benumbed about in the aback of a pickup. Wikipedia claims the video was afflicted by French New Wave cinema, but don’t appear to this one assured Godard.
28. Katy Perry, “Firework” 
Bleh. Lots of fake-inspo tableaux arranged into this Dave Meyers–directed blow for the Teenage Dream single, pointing the way in hindsight for Perry’s inspo-pop about-face taken on her Teenage Dream follow-up, Prism. A abundant bigger beheld analysis for this song (which, for the record, bangs): Marion Cotilliard’s affecting advance in Jacques Audiard’s powerful, underrated 2012 blur Rust and Bone, soundtracked to “Firework.” If you haven’t witnessed this arena aural the film, do so as anon as accessible — it ability change the song’s appulse for you, absolutely added so than its official clip.
27. Aerosmith, “Cryin’” 
A account as old as time: boy cheats on girl, babe pushes boy out of car, babe gets piercing, babe gets purse baseborn by Sawyer from Lost, babe pretends to jump off a arch in advanced of ex-boyfriend and badge admiral — alone to acknowledge that she’s agreeable in the complete ’90s trend of bungee-jumping. Sike! Whether this Alicia Silverstone–starring amazon blow is bigger or worse than her aftereffect Aerosmith video appearance, in the risqué 1994 blow for “Crazy” that additionally actualization Aerosmith advanced man Steven Tyler’s babe Liv skinny-dipping (very awe-inspiring and affectionate of gross!), is absolutely up to you. Otherwise, it’s a evocative and thoroughly antic clip, aloof like Aerosmith themselves.
26. Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors” 
A stylishly attack blow for an eight-minute distinct that absolutely feels eight account long. It feels rude, on a level, to abuse this Floria Sigismondi–helmed blow for JT’s The 20/20 Experience, Allotment 1 single; bent amidst banausic narratives to acquaint the adventure of an old couple’s activity (and death) and utilizing added mirror adumbration than a goddamn funhouse, the video was committed to Timberlake’s real-life grandparents William and Sadie Bomar, who backward calm for 63 years until the above anesthetized a year afore “Mirrors”’ release. That’s sad, and a nice sentiment. It doesn’t accomplish the video any added absorbing to sit through, unfortunately.
25. Panic! At the Disco, “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” 
A abundant distinct (it’s 2018, we can say this now) from one of big-budget emo’s best theater-kid acts — with a thoroughly unimpressive theater-kid beheld analysis address of emo-video vet Shane Drake and featuring a accomplished lot of accurate absurdity about from the Los Angeles-based Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque. Granted, the nominees for this accurate year — Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Added Man,” Madonna’s “Hung Up,” Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California,” and Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” — weren’t absolutely boxy competition, which absolutely accustomed for this clip’s cheap-thrills theatrics to bastard its way to VMA glory.
24. The Cars, “You Ability Think” 
There is conceivably no greater adumbration of the VMAs’ complete aberration aback it comes to advantageous artful accomplishment than the actuality that this video won the countdown Big Approval instead of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Read that antecedent book aback a few added times — it doesn’t accomplish any added faculty with repetition. The video for this distinct from the Cars’ fifth album, Heartbeat City from 1984, bulk $80,000 to accomplish — amateur the archetypal music video account at the time. The clip’s asinine beheld furnishings accept acutely not age-old well, and that goes amateur for the video’s ambiguous artifice consisting of Cars advanced man Ric Ocasek approval countless agency to axis archetypal Susan Gallagher (popping up in her bathtub, aerial into her face as a bee) afore serenading her in a baiter with a ukulele. Ah, love.
23. Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar, “Bad Blood” 
Arguably, the promotional rollout advanced of this video directed by common assistant Joseph Kahn — which consisted of Swift affliction the star-studded appearances and their consecutive characters in the video, with affected cine posters to cossack — was added agreeable than the blow itself, which shuffles through Swift’s “posse” with the acceleration of the kid from Big Little Lies crafting a Spotify playlist. It’s stylish, loud, and not abundant else.
22. Eminem, “The Complete Slim Shady”/ “Without Me” [tie] [2000/2002]
Much of turn-of-the-millennium Eminem has not age-old well, and that applies to this then-ubiquitous analysis for “The Complete Slim Shady,” the assured distinct from The Marshall Mathers LP. Possibly the best accordant aspect about 2018 of the Dr. Dre and Philip Atwell–helmed blow is the actualization of Kathy Griffin as a acrimonious psychiatric-ward nurse; otherwise, it’s a battery of pop-culture references staler than old bread, from Tom Green to TRL-era Carson Daly. Credibility added for the alpha accurately of change pre-Em’s added Video of the Year win for the about identical-in-approach (hence the tie), Video of the Year–winning “Without Me” two years later, and affluence of credibility docked for a arena in which Em breach up a bells amidst two men with disgust.
21. Britney Spears, “Piece of Me” 
Justice for “Toxic”! Seriously, it’s crazy that Spears’s best iconic blow from 2004 didn’t booty home the award-winning (although it faced annealed antagonism in that year’s winner, OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”), and accustomed this single’s adjustment aural Spears’s improvement era, you could altercate that application Video of the Year to this Wayne Isham–lensed blow is article of a activity authoritative up for absent time. Its atoning musings on the perils of acclaim are agilely amusing, but done added memorably (quality aside) in the clips for added Spears singles “Lucky” and “Everytime.” No Stephen Dorff, no cred.
20. INXS, “Need You Tonight”/ “Mediate” 
This blow featuring two songs from the 1975’s — sorry, INXS’s — 1987 LP Kick is article of a bait-and-switch. The aboriginal half, absorption on “Need You Tonight,” is a adequately accepted video with affluence of assuming and advance from backward advanced man Michael Hutchence; but the “Mediate” area is area things get interesting, as Hutchence and the bandage angle in a abandoned automated esplanade while he shuffles cue cards à la the blow for Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” There’s article endearingly amorous to it, alike as it pushes the akin of corniness — and in agreement of vague, statement-making sloganeering, it’s a hell of a lot added able than the putrid blow for Van Halen’s “Right Now.” (Also, in case my antic in the alpha of this blurb didn’t drive it home enough, it’s the alpha and omega of advertence credibility aback it comes to the 1975’s influences.)
19. Rihanna, “Umbrella” [ft. Jay-Z] 
Rihanna’s allotment of a baby club of Video of the Year winners who accept won twice; Eminem and Beyoncé are additionally members. Of Rih’s two alveolate wins appropriately far, the Chris Applebaum–directed “Umbrella” stands as the bottom accomplishment visually, artlessly because of its allusive plainness to the hyperspeed blow of the blow for “We Found Love.” But watching Rihanna aloof do her affair never gets boring, and the video’s singing-in-the-rain adumbration has stood the analysis of (relative) time in the eleven years since.
18. Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mýa, and Pink ft. Missy Elliott, “Lady Marmalade” 
Controversially low, I’m abiding — but accustomed the beheld full-blooded of the high degree represented in this list, does bald iconography answer in what is about a revolving-door accomplishment video? I anticipate not. Sure, there hasn’t absolutely been a posse-pop cut like this one in years aback that has accomplished a abiding abode in pop-cultural Valhalla — and it’s a solid awning with a beheld analysis that actualization agreeable performances. There’s aloof not abundant to this one, though, and through the lens of artifice, it avalanche aloof a little short.
17. Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris, “We Found Love” 
Rihanna’s rave-iest song, accompanied by rave-y visuals that would angle to accord alike Gaspar Nøé a cephalalgia (in a acceptable way — and that guy deserves it anyway). Lensed with almighty activity by Melina Matsoukas, who afterwards went on to nab accession Video of the Year approval for Beyoncé’s “Formation,” the video for “We Found Love” gave us the endlessly memeable breeze of Rihanna flipping a double-bird while filming; it additionally courted a amusing bulk of altercation when, afterwards Rih ran topless in an Irish farmer’s field, said Irish agriculturalist reportedly told her to “Find God.” Rude!
16. The Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight” 
A solid access from the music-video dream aggregation of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who accept aback gone on to complete films alignment from Little Absence Sunshine to Battle of the Sexes. The “Tonight, Tonight” blow took complete afflatus from Georges Méliès’s turn-of-the-century bashful blur A Trip to the Moon, and the starry-night ball and surreality of the video is a bound fit alongside the Pumpkins’ bombastic, aureate rock. A little trivia for you TV active out there: the video additionally stars Tom Kenny and Jill Talley, who were again approved players on Mr. Actualization With Bob and David and afterwards went on to do voicework for SpongeBob SquarePants (with Kenny delivery the titular blot in question).
15. R.E.M., “Losing My Religion” 
A archetypal song from arguably the best bedrock bandage of the aftermost 40 years (fight me), Tarsem’s about intricate beheld analysis for the Out of Time distinct is loaded with lyric-mirroring adumbration and comprised of countless artful advertence points, from Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice and the assignment of Italian painter Caravaggio to the 1955 Gabriel García Márquez abbreviate adventure “A Complete Old Man With Enormous Wings.” Ambitious, visually agreeable actuality —and, fascinatingly, not what Stipe initially capital for the video, as he allegedly aboriginal adopted a aboveboard accomplishment blow à la Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
14. Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance” 
Gaga’s arguably had bigger videos (my vote’s for “Videophone”), but the agrarian and aberrant visuals for “Bad Romance” angle as the aboriginal time the greater apple was alien to the consciousness-expanding multitudes that she contains. Helmed by Francis Lawrence (who would go on to complete the massively acknowledged The Hunger Games blur series) and creatively directed by the Haus of Gaga artful team, “Bad Romance” is loaded with so abundant adumbration that it’s about overwhelming, from spontaneously-combusting beds to awe-inspiring coffin-pods — but none as enduring as the final scene, which actualization Gaga smoker a cigarette abutting to a skeleton while acid a spark-spitting bra.
13. Lauryn Hill, “Doo Wop (That Thing)” 
A lovely, nostalgic, and effects-laden blow for the The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill single, giving admirers two Lauryns — one in 1998, and one in the 1960s — side-by-side assuming at a block affair in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. A bit of adventitious foreshadowing, too, aback Hill and the Fugees would accumulate six years afterwards for a one-off accomplishment as allotment of the Clinton Hill back-bite captured in the documentary Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. (Initially, Hill was appointed to accomplish solo, but Columbia banned to let her songs be featured in the afterwards doc.)
12. Madonna, “Ray of Light” 
The Jonas Akerlund–directed video for Madonna’s best song off her best anthology of the aforementioned name is simple in its execution: the avant-garde apple moves fast, and Madge is continuing in advanced of it all, the accelerated adumbration abaft her altogether bond with the track’s rave-era velocity. Akerlund took afflatus from the intense, time-lapse-tastic 1982 beginning documentary Koyaanisqatsi, which already fabricated me bandy up afterwards demography a bell rip in college. The “Ray of Light” blow isn’t as acute (thank God), but its head-rush glories are still a adventure to booty in.
11. TLC, “Waterfalls” 
TLC were never ones to shy abroad from arrest amusing issues in their clips, and this F. Gary Gray–directed video for the CrazySexyCool accident is no exception, with a capital anecdotal apery the song’s acclamation of the AIDS catching and drug-related violence. And, of course, there’s TLC themselves dancing in what looks like the world’s bigger absorption pool, attractive as if they are actually walking on water.
10. Kendrick Lamar, “HUMBLE.” 
DAMN. apparent Kendrick Lamar’s advantage from rap prodigy to complete pop showstopper, and the beheld for “HUMBLE.” (credited to Dave Meyers and the Little Homies) was a throat-clearing moment ushering in this era of his career. Every arena ancestor about off of the awning here, abnormally the beheld of Kendrick, arch aflame, amidst by analogously on-fire abstracts with blubbery cords of braiding captivated about their skulls. It’s his best video to date —a byword we’ll absolutely be repeating about added videos in the years to come.
9. OutKast, “Hey Ya!” 
This That Affair You Do!–esque blow for OutKast’s all-over The Adulation Below accident is as fun as watching That Affair You Do! (which is to say, a lot of fun). Obviously, administrator Bryan Barber’s accurate beheld afflatus for this video was the Beatles’ 1964 accomplishment on The Ed Sullivan Actualization — which, amazingly, OutKast affiliate André 3000 had never apparent afore Barber showed it to him. (Hey, YouTube wasn’t alike a affair in 2003, accord him a break.) Due to time constraints, Andre — who plays the role of every fabulous bandage affiliate in the blow — improvised the choreography in the moment, which makes his unforgettable, Polaroid-picture-shaking moves all the added impressive.
8. Beyoncé, “Formation” 
Complicated win here, because that the all-embracing appulse of the instant-classic beheld anthology that was Lemonade would’ve been far added admirable of such an accolade. (Upon release, Lemonade additionally served as a admonition that the attributes of music videos themselves are added changing, which the VMAs could — but apparently won’t — acclimatize to activity forward.) But advanced of Lemonade’s release, the Melina Matsoukas–directed blow for “Formation” was affluence absorbing in its own right, arena host to a alternation of enduring images alignment from Bey lying aloft a partially abysmal cop car to this no-further-explanation-necessary GIF of Blue Ivy. Bow down.
7. Peter Gabriel, “Sledgehammer” 
Iconic! One of the best music videos of the 1980s — maybe anytime — utilizing a array of special-effects techniques, from stop-motion activity to claymation and pixelation. In accession to actuality a analgesic blow for a analgesic song, the video for “Sledgehammer” additionally represents a accomplishment of absorbing concrete accomplishment for Gabriel himself: he lay beneath a area of bottle for sixteen hours while administrator Stephen R. Johnson filmed the abundant proceedings, one anatomy at a time. Article like this would booty abundant beneath time to put calm now, and that alone makes Johnson and Gabriel’s charge to blame the abstruse boundaries of the era that abundant added impressive.
6. Neil Young, “This Note’s for You” 
This is a awe-inspiring one: Young’s song and video assault shots at pop heavyweights and corporate-shill musicians was initially banned by MTV afterwards Michael Jackson’s attorneys threatened acknowledged activity due to the MJ amateur featured in the video. Eventually, the accommodation was antipodal and the blow took home 1989’s big approval (beating the blow for MJ’s “Leave Me Alone,” ironically), and whatever the acumen for its closing win, it’s adamantine to accept that it didn’t deserve it. Young’s ’80s aeon was awfully inconsistent (and, some would argue, underrated), but what David Lee Roth disparagingly referred to as the “hippie babble from the ’60s” beheld argumentation of “This Note’s for You” feel no beneath accordant in an age area artefact adjustment in videos is so commonplace that we almost bat an beard at aboriginal afterimage of a Beats bolus or affluence vodka brand. Never apperception that MTV doesn’t alike air videos anymore — if they did in 2018, would any currently-in-their-peak pop or bedrock artisan attack annihilation as acerbically analytical as this video? Apparently not.
5. Pearl Jam, “Jeremy” 
A video analysis so acute and atypical that Pearl Jam autonomous not to accomplish accession music video for six years, until the activated blow for 1998’s “Do the Evolution.” It’s absurd not to apprehend “Jeremy” after cerebration about Eddie Vedder foolishly bawl in the Mark Pellington–directed clip, which centers on the titular adolescent boy adversity at home and academy afore committing suicide in advanced of a classroom abounding of adolescent students. Heavy actuality that feels no beneath accordant today, and with a adverse real-life ending: the amateur who portrayed Jeremy in the video, then-12-year-old Trevor Wilson in his alone accustomed acting role, died two years ago by way of drowning in Puerto Rico.
4. Missy Elliott, “Work It” 
The abuse apropos Jennifer Lopez’s accessible Video Vanguard accession at this year’s VMAs instead of Elliott is valid, and all you charge to do is revisit this video for proof. About every Missy video in actuality is arranged with beheld gags, camp ideas, and layers of amusing appraisal that are as acid as they are hilarious, and Dave Meyers’s blow for this Beneath Construction distinct is no exception. It additionally alien the apple to boyhood ball phenom Alyson Stoner, who complete abundant still has the range.
3. Sinead O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U” 
O’Connor was the aboriginal female-identifying aerialist to win Video of the Year, and it was added than able-bodied deserved. It’s adamantine to enlarge the access of John Maybury’s close-up beheld analysis here; after it, analogously archetypal videos like D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” (which was nominated, and lost, in 2000) would arguably not exist. O’Connor’s beheld accomplishment actuality is no beneath impactful and affecting than the song itself, to the point area she sheds complete tears triggered by memories of her backward mother, who died in a car bang bristles years previous.
2. Jamiroquai, “Virtual Insanity” 
An complete archetypal of a beheld analysis from a adept of the form, Jonathan Glazer (who has aback become one of the best alluring and atypical filmmakers of the century). To say this blow put Jamiroquai on the map is an adumbration — it remains, to date, their best arresting moment in pop’s monoculture — and as abundant as Glazer’s single-take, constantly-moving-floor-in-a-small-room artful cements this video’s iconography, it’d be annihilation after the active able of advanced man Jay Kay, agilely dispatch amidst the alive anarchy afore affair what seems to be a blood-soaked fate (spoilers!).
1. Beyoncé, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” 
What’s to be said about this video that hasn’t been already? About anybody on Earth remembers the aboriginal time they watched this mind-bogglingly athrill Jake Nava treatment, featuring Beyoncé and advancement dancers Ebony Williams and Ashley Everett busting every distinct move in actuality to choreography aggressive by Bob Fosse’s 1969 “Mexican Breakfast” routine. The video apparent an aboriginal instance of engaging, viral visuals alarming YouTube-clogging ball crazes, and admitting its Video of the Year win, its accident for Best Female Video to Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” triggered Kanye West’s abominable stage-crashing outburst, a pop-cultural moment that would absolutely adapt West’s and Swift’s careers and accessible acumen for the afterward decade and, assuredly, beyond. In agreement of pop-cultural appulse on this list, it’s artlessly unmatched; added importantly, it’s a bang to attestant alike on the millionth view, the attenuate grin-inducing pop-cultural antiquity that hasn’t absent its flash and apparently never will.
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