- The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards nominations were announced Wednesday.
- Olivia Rodrigo, BTS, and Beyoncé all received nods, but deserved more in major categories.
- Stunning visuals by Phoebe Bridgers, SZA, and Tyler, the Creator were shut out completely.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
But while Rodrigo wasn’t exactly snubbed, I maintain that she deserves to compete for all three major awards.
Video of the year is arguably the biggest honor of the ceremony, so 2021’s biggest breakout star should be represented — especially since she released one of the buzziest, delightfully brattiest videos in recent memory.
Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” visuals were inspired by “cult horror movies and feminine rage,” she said, like “Jennifer’s Body” and “Audition.” The breakup saga casts Rodrigo as a demonic cheerleader, pouting in the grocery store and setting her ex’s room on fire. It perfectly compliments the energy of the song, a chart-topping hit that even threatens to eclipse the success of “Drivers License.”
You can read Insider’s complete breakdown of the music video here.
The eligibility window for this year’s VMAs is June 20, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Within that interval, BTS became the first all-South Korean group to top the Billboard Hot 100 — and they did it three more times. Oh, and then they did it again in July.
Their domination didn’t stop there. After “Dynamite” was nominated for a Grammy Award, “Butter” became the most-viewed music video on YouTube and the most-streamed song on Spotify in its first 24 hours.
The song has continued to top charts since its release in May, securing its crown for song of the summer.
With those numbers, anyone would be considered a shoo-in for artist of the year — never mind the septet’s status as the most beloved boy band in the world. BTS did manage to secure a nod for song of the year, unlike last year’s gross oversight, but they should obviously be competing in all three major categories.
The film may not have met the requirements for VMAs consideration, but Beyoncé released two clips on YouTube within the eligibility window: “Already” and “Brown Skin Girl.” These were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on Insider’s list of the year’s best music videos.
Both received scraps of love from MTV this year, but none in major categories. “Already” was nominated for best art direction, while “Brown Skin Girl” was nominated for best R&B and best choreography.
This feels plainly inadequate for Beyoncé, who’s on another level when it comes to translating her music into a visual feast. Of course, both “Already” and “Brown Skin Girl” are better consumed within the greater framework of “Black Is King.” But evenclipped out of context, these videos are more evocative, deliberately detailed, and painstakingly styled than anything else on the nominations list.
But “Solar Power” is much more than a pretty jaunt on the beach. It’s one of the best songs of the year, with a video that makes its revelry feel even richer, which is precisely the kind of art the VMAs should seek to reward.
Lorde has cited a variety of influences for the utopian scene — Ari Aster’s folk-horror “Midsommar,” ’60s Coca-Cola commercials, the 1978 romance “Days of Heaven,” among others — which casts her as a sort of cult leader guiding us to better days.
The bold reference material, on top of the sheer joy the song produces, would’ve made “Solar Power” the perfect contender for best pop.
Tyler released several chapters of his newest story in June, just before the VMAs eligibility cutoff, but only the first received any recognition: “Lumberjack,” directed by Wolf Haley, was nominated for best direction.
“SZA’s song slyly captures the varying stages of tainted love,” Shannon J. Effinger wrote for Pitchfork. “Her artful video direction brings out the inherent duality of the message: At one turn, SZA comes across as emboldened by her sexuality, and juxtaposed shots of a barn and a junkyard suggest beauty, strength, and resilience.”
“But soon, flashes of a blood-drenched SZA warn onlookers — and perhaps even herself — to proceed with caution in this bad romance.”
Although SZA’s more recent single “Good Days” was nominated for best R&B, neglecting to nominate “Hit Different” for best direction, or any visual categories at all, was a missed opportunity.
While lead single “Do It” did receive a nomination for best R&B last year, Chloe x Halle came up empty-handed this time.
Technically, “I Know the End” would’ve been eligible too, but “Savior Complex” is Bridgers’ most cinematic video to date; the singer herself called it “very David Lynchian,” evoking the cryptic director of “Twin Peaks” and “Blue Velvet.”
Indeed, the black-and-white visual was directed by “Fleabag” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge and stars “Normal People” heartthrob Paul Mescal. Even if Bridgers hasn’t quite reached the fame threshold of a typical VMAs nominee, “Savior Complex” has all the makings of a pop-culture moment.
And yet, instead of handing Sullivan a much-deserved nod for best R&B, MTV managed to make space in the category for Chris Brown — twice.