Happy birthday, MTV. You’re 25. A little old to be playing with 12 year olds, doncha think? But that’s exactly what the premier music channel is doing at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. Now that the Breakthrough Video category is legal (it turned 18 last year), it seems MTV is no longer interested. And, for the first time, the channel is allowing its viewers to help pick the winners at the ceremony. This attempt at appealing to the interactive generation could spell disaster for what’s left of the award show’s credibility: Over the past few years, the VMAs have become more and more like a popularity contest than an acknowledgement of craft in the music video medium, and involving the TRL hyper-voting contingent could feasibly push things over the edge. It also makes predicting winners almost as difficult as naming all of the Pussycat Dolls. So we urge you not to place any bets using our predictions and instead simply bask in the joy of knowing that our picks for who should win are, as always, right on the money.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Christina Aguilera, “Ain’t No Other Man”
Madonna, “Hung Up” (Should Win)
Panic! at the Disco, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”
Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dani California” (Will Win)
Shakira f/ Wyclef Jean, “Hips Don’t Lie”
Sal Cinquemani: Unless something goes awry (and it very well could), I’d place my bets on the two pioneers here, Madonna and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The three other times Madonna has been nominated in this category, the videos have been iconic (“Like a Prayer,” “Vogue,” and “Ray of Light”), so that puts “Hung Up” in nice company but that’s probably the award in and of itself. The video has a serious handicap since it’s the oldest one in all of the categories it’s nominated and it didn’t exactly stage a coup on the U.S. charts. RHCP have never won Video of the Year before, so this could be MTV’s chance to give the band props. Although I should mention that it just doesn’t feel right (this is not their big renaissance) and the video is mediocre at best.
Eric Henderson: Too bad they don’t give out awards for Costume Design, because I might give Christina Aguilera’s video much better odds if it were nominated for even one single tech category. But it was mysteriously snubbed for Director, Editing, Cinematography (dig those John Carpenter-esque horizontal lens flares), and even Art Direction. I’m not a huge fan of it, generally—it’s like a corny, forced version of the cover art for Missy’s The Cookbook—but, I mean, the thing has opening credits, people! I guess because RHCP’s video practically comes with footnotes that all say “rock history,” it’ll have an edge with people who can’t get past the fact that Xtina listens to her 78s on a silvery-sparkled wireless headset.
Ed Gonzalez: Yeah, I can’t get past the silvery-sparkled wireless headset, and if I were Mike D’Angelo, I wouldn’t give any of these videos higher than a 78. Xtina’s video is a po’ woman’s version of En Vogue’s “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” (the slapdash editing is embarrassing, betraying an otherwise attractive old-school vibe). The RHCP clip has none of the wit of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” and none of ecstasy that fueled OutKast’s “Hey Ya!,” but the MTV people seem to love it, and the band seems due for the top prize.
BEST MALE VIDEO
Busta Rhymes f/ Mary J. Blige, Rah Digga, Missy Elliott, Lloyd Banks, Papoose, & DMX, “Touch It Remix”
James Blunt, “You’re Beautiful”
Kanye West f/ Jamie Foxx, “Gold Digger” (Should and Will Win)
Nick Lachey, “What’s Left Of Me”
T.I., “What You Know”
EH: Remember what I just said about opening credits? Forget I said it. T.I. needs to give screen time to the name of the craft service coordinator, since they were the only ones doing their job on that set. On the other hand, Busta spreads the title card wealth for the entire duration of his video—superimposed, shouted out, worn on T-shirts. “Touch It Remix” even finds time for a funereal homily. More video than the skeletal song merits, but I’ll take any chance to see Rah Digga’s biceps I can get. That they show up in the proximity of a step dancing routine and what looks like a formal homage to the artistry of the ringtone ad just sweetens the deal. Sometimes having no ideas adds up to more than just one.
EG: I’m so bummed that Brooke’s hair doesn’t feature more prominently throughout the Busta video that I have to begrudgingly give my vote to Kanye West. Also, am I the only one who thinks James Blunt commits suicide at least four minutes too late in his video?
SC: It’s between the bling and the Blunt here, and rightfully so: “Gold Digger” and “You’re Beautiful” are the two best videos in the category. I’m surprised “Gold Digger” didn’t score a Video Of The Year nod; the simple red light district/pin-up vibe works well, and any video that downplays Jamie Foxx’s involvement gets my vote. “Touch It” is nice to look at but it doesn’t exactly beg for repeat viewings, and Nick Lachey has no business being here other than MTV making good on his solo reality show that never made it to the airwaves.
BEST FEMALE VIDEO
Christina Aguilera, “Ain’t No Other Man” (Will Win)
Kelly Clarkson, “Because Of You”
Madonna, “Hung Up” (Should Win)
Nelly Furtado f/ Timbaland, “Promiscuous”
Shakira f/ Wyclef Jean, “Hips Don’t Lie”
EH: I like the mise-en-scène of this version of “Promiscuous” better than the original.
EG: Madonna’s video almost convinced me that I could touch my toes for the first time in my life without bending my knees, but I like the mise-en-scène of this version of “Hung Up” better than the original.
SC: I prefer this one, but just for the costumes and choreography, not the “mise-en-scène.” Anyway, despite being the artist with the most wins in this category, Madge doesn’t have the greatest track record: this is her 12th nomination for Female Video but she’s only won three times. I think Christina will take this one based on the illusion that it’s original—like the song itself, there seems to be something missing. But she’s become somewhat of an MTV darling and her fanbase is rabid. Foaming at the mouth and all. And are those implants? Looks like baby’s been emulating Mariah a little too much.
BEST GROUP VIDEO
The All-American Rejects, “Move Along”
Fall Out Boy, “Dance, Dance”
Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy” (Should Win)
Panic! at the Disco, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” (Will Win)
Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dani California”
SC: If the Best Group Video should ideally incorporate the group members in an inventive, compelling way, then The All-American Rejects’ “Move Along” shouldn’t win, but the crafty clip certainly plays to that group’s strength: pretty-boy lead singer Tyson Ritter. It’s between RHCP and Gnarls Barkley, with a possible upset by Panic! at the Disco.
EG: What other things did you learn about Tyson Ritter after Googling his name?
SC: I didn’t Google his name, I got it from the poster on your wall.
EH: I think All-American Rejects are the dark horse in this one, not Panic! at the Disco. Don’t underestimate the sizable voting demographic who call Garden State the best movie ever made.
SC: Yeah, but they’re not watching MTV, are they? And they’re certainly not voting.
EG: True, Panic! at the Disco’s video may be a little too spastic for people trying to match their clothes with the wallpaper in their rooms, but I still think it’s between them and RHCP.
EH: I’ve been officially done with RHCP ever since they left behind George Clinton, so I can’t say I was all that impressed when the Mothership Connection was reduced to a linking device between acid and glam. Especially since the song itself makes “Under The Bridge” sound like “Psychoalphabetadiscobioaquadoloop.”
BEST RAP VIDEO
50 Cent, “Window Shopper”
Busta Rhymes f/ Mary J. Blige, Rah Digga, Missy Elliott, Lloyd Banks, Papoose, & DMX, “Touch It Remix” (Should and Will Win)
T.I., “What You Know”
Yung Joc f/ Nitty, “It’s Goin’ Down”
EH: The real question is: Who is Fiddy going to threaten in this line-up like he did Fat Joe last year?
SC: Watching two rappers with significant speech impediments (Fiddy and Mase) express frustration while talking to a European sales person during the intro to “Window Shopper” was comical to me, but the video goes downhill from there—and fast.
EG: The Busta and T.I. videos are the only ones that don’t seem to be advertising how much bling these rappers were able to acquire after signing record contracts. The race, though, is probably between Fiddy and Busta. I’ll give it to the latter: He’s never won before, and given the amount of people rapping alongside him, the video is this category’s Crash.
EH: Then which is this category’s Brokeback? The one about goin’ down or the one about ridin’?
SC: The one about shopping.
BEST R&B VIDEO
Beyoncé f/ Slim Thug, “Check on It”
Chris Brown, “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)”
Jamie Foxx f/ Ludacris, “Unpredictable”
Mariah Carey, “Shake It Off”
Mary J. Blige, “Be Without You” (Will Win)
Editor’s Note: We will be abstaining from choosing who should win in this category due to our inability to reach a consensus on which video is “least bad.”
SC: Mimi’s video fails on many levels, not least of which is her Fergie impersonation on the bleachers and that vintage Hollywood long-take that’s reminiscent of Janet’s ode to Touch of Evil in “When I Think Of You,” but it’s probably the best of the sorry lot here. Hype Williams’s clip for Beyoncé’s “Check on It” is a lot like the song itself: nauseating. Some Pepto might be in order.
EG: Just thinking about “Check on It” makes me want to go to the bathroom, only I’m afraid to because I might pee pink. To the video’s credit, the oceans of satin sheets do complement Beyoncé’s gyrations.
SC: The three-bar style worked much better on LL Cool J and J. Lo’s “Lose Control.” In light of the quality of most of these videos, I’m actually surprised that one didn’t get a nomination this year.
EH: “Check on It” may shriek pink, but I can’t get over how much the song sounds like “The Ballad Of The Green Berets.” Another notch in Beyoncé’s already sealed (or, rather, catering 2 u) reputation as the reigning queen of R&B for the epoch of Laura Bush.
SC: Speaking of overzealous dance moves, Chris Brown is like some creepy choreographer/stalker in his video.
EG: That kid is all teeth.
EH: I wouldn’t “next” him or anything, but he’s no Craig David.
SC: I wouldn’t even let either of them get on the Next bus.
EG: Speaking of getting on the back of the bus, Crash almost got as much love from MTV as it did from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Consider a victory for Mary J. Blige a consolation prize for Terrence Howard losing the Oscar.