The MTV Video Music Awards have had their ups and downs, and recent years have led some critics to believe the MTV VMAs have lost their relevance. The 2010 awards show, taking place in L.A. on September 12, may change their minds. With a sassy host on the cutting edge of relevance, pop and rock powerhouses paired with innovative newcomers, and actual music videos with style, the MTV VMAs have a chance to recapture their glory days. Not convinced? Check out these 26 compelling reasons to watch the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards:
A for Artistry : Back in the 80s, MTV music artists were just getting their feet wet in the new music video medium. Videos ranged from awkward to innovative to insane, and pop artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Duran Duran soared to staggering heights of popularity by engaging fully with the medium. Despite the fact that MTV and sister station VH1 have devolved into reality show programming, music artists are once again embracing the artistry of the music video and creating visual feasts for viewers.
Check out the MTV VMAs nominees for Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Special Effects, and Breakthrough Video to see some of this year’s best artistic visions. From the dreamy subtlety of Mumford & Sons to the frenetic avant garde concoctions of Lady Gaga, the 2010 MTV VMAs have an impressive range of art, effects, and imagination.
B for Beyoncé : Beyoncé got a boost for this year’s MTV VMAs from sister diva Lady Gaga, earning 8 VMA nominations for her collaborative efforts with the innovative performer. Though there’s no word yet that she’s performing, she may turn up as a surprise guest when Kanye West takes the stage. After all, Kanye’s infamous Taylor Swift/Beyoncé moment from last year can’t be ignored, and Beyoncé is featured on Kanye’s newest single “See Me Now”.
C for Controversy : Whether good or bad, the MTV VMAs have always been a fertile ground for controversy. With sharp-tongued Chelsea Handler at the helm in 2010, Kanye West returning to the stage, and all the usual opportunities for wardrobe malfunctions, unedited speeches, and drunken brawls, there’s plenty of potential for juicy headlines to follow.
D for Deadmau5 : If you don’t already know this year’s MTV VMA house DJ Deadmau5, head on over to this MTV interview to get the scoop on this talented musician/producer. There’s nothing better than rockin’ the MTV Video Music Awards with a giant electronic mouse head–and it’s reason enough to tune in to the VMAs.
E for Eminem : Eminem is back in fine form, racking up 8 MTV VMA nods for his new best-selling album Recovery. Though he’s got strong competition, Eminem deserves artistic credit for the strength of the narrative and cool effects of VMA nominated “Not Afraid”. Eminem will also be performing, and it will be interesting to see if he goes big or keeps things stripped down. It’s definitely worth tuning in to find out if: a.) Eminem can break a Lady Gaga streak of MTV VMA wins, and b.) if the new and improved Slim Shady will be stirring up some of that Controversy business.
F for Florence + the Machine : You might not know why you should be excited by indie rock artist, MTV VMA nominated Florence + the Machine, but watch wicked cool video “Dog Days Are Over” on Vevo and you’ll get there. An amazing voice like this in modern music needs to be celebrated, and here’s hoping that Florence + the Machine bring the creative intensity of their videos to the MTV stage.
G for Gaga : Nominated for an unprecedented 13 MTV VMAs as well as a double nomination in the Video of the Year category, Lady Gaga is set for VMA domination. Oddly, she’s not set to perform her music on one of her biggest nights, but there’s no need to worry. Recent events illustrate that every appearance by Lady Gaga is a performance, so we probably won’t be disappointed by lack of spectacle.
H for Handler, Chelsea Handler : I’ve been waxing poetic over Chelsea Handler for over a year, and this late night talk show diva was an inspired choice to liven up the MTV VMAs. The problem with the VMAs in the past was that while the show was amusingly irreverent, it could also be mind-numbingly stupid. The joy of Handler is that she can be inappropriate, cruel, and a little bit crazy–but also brilliantly funny. The jokes can hurt because they’re clever and well-aimed–it will be interesting to see how much she’ll direct her barbs at the celebrity-filled audience.
I for Indignation : We watch the MTV VMAs to cheer on our favorites, but we also love to gripe about our beloved musicians that get left out in the cold. With Lady Gaga set to mop the floor with her rivals, there will be plenty to groan about for fans of the other artists. But don’t stop there. As Entertainment Weekly points out, plenty of deserving artists didn’t even land a nomination, including the most egregious slap of all–no Adam Lambert. Love him or hate him, you have to admit he lavished super fabulous glam love all over the video genre, and a VMA nomination was well-deserved.
J for Justin Bieber : The inevitable Bieber backlash seems unwarranted. There’ll be plenty to hate on if this teen pop star grows up to become a hotel-trashing, drugged out #$%^!, but right now he’s making all the right moves. He’s got singing talent, can dance, is age-appropriate without being corny, takes his career seriously, and he’s got a heck of a swagger already at 16. He held his own on SNL, and he’s already proven he can keep pace with VMA host Chelsea Handler–perhaps sparks will fly again on the MTV stage. We can also watch to see if he swoons over Sasha Fierce–word is he thinks she’s hot.
K for Kanye West : Kanye, thy name is Controversy. Supposedly banned from the MTV VMAs after his outburst last year, Kanye nonetheless was granted a performance slot on for this year’s Video Music Awards. Sure, he annoyed the audience, viewers, and Taylor Swift while at the same time embarrassing Beyoncé–but what’s that compared to the ratings he’ll generate when everyone tunes in to see what happens this time? Will he make amends, or will his stage-storming impulses take over again during the 2010 VMA ceremony?
L for Laughs : MTV VMAs host Chelsea Handler should provide plenty of laughs, and some of the awkward presenter pairings MTV loves may provide a sublime moment or two of hilarity. There will also be the deliciously unintentional laughter from bad performances and bad fashion–and occasionally a jaw-dropping combination of both. Stay tuned!
M for Mars, as in 30 Seconds to Mars : It’s the little engine that could, a much-loved and even occasionally respected rock band fronted by an actor (a hot actor, with hot bandmates, ahem). Nominated for four MTV VMAs, 30 Seconds to Mars could prove a startling upset to competitors like Muse and Paramore. For once, someone seems legitimately happy just to be nominated; ABC news reports Jared Leto’s reaction to the news was overwhelming: “”I was completely blown away. It was so unexpected that my first reaction was, ‘Holy f**king s**t f**k f**k f**k!’ And then someone sent me the list of artists we’re nominated with, and we couldn’t believe that either. It really is exciting.”
N for New Artist : The best new artist can often be the kiss of death for a musician’s career, but this MTV VMA category is still wildly anticipated by fans each year. Voting is frantic on the MTV Best Artist Nominees site, as viewers choose their favorite from the pack of hopefuls. Justin Bieber, Ke$ha and Jason Derulo seem poised to duke it out for the top, but there’s always a possibility that indie collaboration Broken Bells or “Massive Attack” songstress Nicki Minaj will sneak up for the win.
o for the small o in B.o.B. : I’ve always appreciated Eminem for his use of not just rhymes–but the cadence of the words to make music. MTV VMA newcomer B.o.B. seems to appreciate those same skills, and we could be in for a pleasant surprise when he performs at the VMAs September 12. A recent Boston Herald review of a B.o.B. show praised the artist for his musical talent, which includes playing guitar and piano, and exploring different genres of music. “And [then there’s] the segment where B.o.B. proved that if he ever gets bored with singing, rapping and playing instruments, he could probably have a viable career as a backup dancer.” All hail B.o.B.
P for Paramore : I dare you to sit still during Paramore’s performance on the MTV VMA stage. With steady thrumming beats, and Hayley William’s resonant vocals soaring and winding through them, Paramore is guaranteed to get the audience rocking. We should get a taste of their VMA-nominated “Ignorance”, and we can also hope for a second performance by Williams–if she teams up with B.o.B. for “Airplanes”.
Q for Queen of the VMAs : MTV may have already named her “VMA Queen”, but there’s always a chance Lady Gaga’s throne will be upset. After all, her partner in crime on “Telephone” and “Video Phone”–Beyoncé–has 8 nominations that she could just as easily snatch from Gaga’s artistically decorated fingernails. If fellow pop princesses Katy Perry and Ke$ha land a couple of upsets on Gaga, the royal title may be called further into question.
R for Robyn : If you don’t know this Swedish dance pop artist, on September 12 you’ll learn fast. And if Entertainment Weekly‘s review of a recent Robyn show is any indication, the MTV VMA audience is in for the musical ride of their lives from “the tiny, platinum-quiffed blond who last night swept New York City’s Webster Hall into a frenzy so wild that it threatened to collapse the floors of that historic venue and send the sold-out crowd straight to their calamitous deaths, still dancing.”
S for Sex and Swearing : Ever since Madonna rolled around on the stage in a white lace teddy, the MTV VMAs have been about pushing boundaries. The 2010 VMAs should be no exception, with plenty of pop tarts in provocative outfits with sexy and suggestive dance routines–and maybe we gals will be lucky enough to get some attractive shirtless guys in tight pants. (I’m looking at you, Usher.)The censors aren’t always that quick on the button, so we should get plenty of exuberant profanity as well. Sex and swearing, it’s every teen’s dream party.
T for Timberlake, Justin Timberlake : Sadly, talented pop hunk Justin Timberlake won’t be performing on September 12. If his history with SNL is any indication, however, Timberlake could take his MTV VMA presenter role to the next level with considerable wit and skill. Here’s hoping he gives us one of those sublime VMA moments we’ll be tweeting about the next day.
U for Usher : With three MTV Video Music Award nominations for hit video “OMG”, Usher should be in a good mood when he hits the MTV stage to perform on September 12. As MTV reports, Usher’s planning to make it worth our while: “”I can’t wait to perform for my fans all around the world who have helped to make this album a success and my being here possible. You never know what’s gonna happen on an MTV VMA stage. … I look forward to making it a night to remember.” Hopefully category S above will be part of it.
V for Videos : This may seem obvious, but MTV isn’t exactly all about videos these days. If nothing else, we should tune in to the VMAs to support the idea of music videos and encourage the artistry this year’s nominees have displayed.
W for Wigs : Marie Antoinette’s got nothing on the music crowd. After all, music is as much about spectacle now as it is about talent–unfortunately, sometimes more so. But if you’ve always loved the theatricality of our more flamboyant music stars, the MTV VMAs are the place to be. There’ll be outlandish costumes, impossibly high heels, and cartloads of bling. And whether you prefer tresses that sexily swing or those artistic creations that reach expressively for great heights, rest-assured there’ll be plenty of awesome hairdos the stars weren’t born with.
X for X-rated : Put together Controversy, Humor, Sex, and Swearing at the MTV VMAs, and there’s bound to be an X-rated moment or two. Hopefully your DVR will catch it before the censors do.
Y for Ne-Yo : Ne-Yo may be making the most of his MTV VMA presenter spot, since he tweeted his disappointment about being passed over for a performance slot: “”THIS JUST IN: MTV chose to go with a performance from Usher instead of me for the VMA’s. All good, he deserves it. GO GET EM’ USH!!!” Hopefully he won’t change his mind and pull a spotlight-grabbing Kanye move when Usher takes to the stage.
Z for Jay-Z : Hey, you never know, Jay-Z could contribute to an upset of VMA frontrunner Lady Gaga. Nominated in the Best Collaboration category with Alicia Keyes for the popular song “New York State of Mind”, Jay-Z also has a chance to nab the Best Cinematography Moonman for the striking black & white video.
So there you have it, 26 good reasons to tune in to the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, September 12 at 9/8c.