Some may be surprised to hear that music videos still exist. Back in the day, waking up and turning on MTV or VH1 before school to check out videos was a routine part of the day. Nowadays you’re more likely to run into one on social media or on YouTube rather than over the TV airwaves.
While MTV’s programming as a whole has shifted considerably over the last couple of decades, the MTV Video Music Awards are still going strong.
The VMAs started in 1984 with Madonna’s infamous performance of “Like a Virgin,” with other artists like David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper taking home some of the more prestigious awards that night. Last year’s show was dominated by Kendrick Lamar, who took home 6 awards, including Video of the Year for “Humble.” Pink was honored with the Video Vanguard Award, which is essentially the show’s lifetime achievement award.
Interest in the show seems to have waned over the years. Viewership for last year’s VMAs dipped to 5.4 million people after 6.5 million watched in 2016. The 2017 iteration was the lowest-rated VMAs since Nielsen began tracking such things in 1994.
Cardi B leads the way among 2018 nominees with 10 VMA nominations to her name. Jay-Z and Beyonce garnered 8 nominations, while Childish Gambino and Drake received 7 apiece. Who will take home the hardware on August 20? Let’s dive in.
Artist of the Year
- Cardi B -250
- Drake +300
- Ariana Grande +500
- Bruno Mars +2200
- Camila Cabello +2500
- Post Malone +2500
Cardi B is a heavy favorite here, and with good reason. The 25-year-old burst onto the scene this year after signing with Atlantic Records last year. She earned herself a pair of No. 1 singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with “I Like It” and “Bodak Yellow,” which made her the first female rapper since Lauryn Hill in 1998 to rise all the way to the top of the chart. Her debut record Invasion of Privacy also reached the top spot on the Billboard 200. Not a bad rookie year for Cardi B.
Bruno Mars and Ariana Grande, who both lost out to Ed Sheeran in this very category last year, are fairly distant long shots behind Cardi B. Bruno Mars picked up 6 nominations in all for his single “Finesse,” which happened to feature the aforementioned Cardi B. Bruno is no stranger to the VMAs, as he’s now received a total of 19 nominations in the past. 2 of those 19 nominations have been wins, and if he wins another this year it’s looking like Artist of the Year won’t be one of them.
Post Malone is an interesting long shot at +2500. The Syracuse native picked up a couple of nominations, the other being for Song of the Year for “rockstar,” which features 21 Savage. He rose all the way to the top of the Billboard Artist 100 earlier this year, becoming the seventh solo rapper to do so in 2018. Malone’s album “Beerbong,” released in May, debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 after earning the biggest streaming week ever for an album release, according to Nielsen. Incredibly, all 18 songs on his record were in the Billboard Top 100 all at the same time earlier this year. At one time, 9 of the album’s tracks ranked in the top-20.
If that doesn’t sound like Artist of the Year material, I don’t know what does. The odds say you should be betting on Cardi B here, but the value at -300 is minimal. I’d much rather punt on Post Malone at +2500 and aim for some profit potential here.
Best Dance Video
- “One Kiss” – Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa +100
- “Lonely Together” – Avicci ft. Rita Ora +150
- “Everybody Hates Me” – The Chainsmokers +600
- “Silence” – Marshmello ft. Khalid +700
- “Get Low” – Zedd & Liam Payne +2000
- “Flames” – David Guetta & Sia +2200
“One Kiss” by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa leads the way here in what looks to be a pretty wide open field. As someone that took the time to watch all of these videos, I can say with certainty that the “One Kiss” video is by far the most bizarre and trippy of the lot. I don’t really know what I was watching for the 3:43 duration of the song, but it was still fairly enjoyable.
Frankly, I’m not sure what goes into judging these videos. I’m sure it has something to do with a combination of artistic value plus entertainment value. “One Kiss” is a song that sounds like something you’d be hearing over the speakers as you’re mindlessly browsing Urban Outfitters. Meh.
There’s a clip of a guy smoking a cigarette in The Chainsmokers’ video, which seems on brand enough. The video also includes a guy playing drums with flaming drumsticks and they light an SUV on fire after dousing it in gasoline, both of which look like fun stunts. I much prefer the value on “Everybody Hates Me” at +700 to both “One Kiss” and “Lonely Together.”
The most entertainment value undoubtedly comes from David Guetta and Sia’s collaborative effort in “Flames,” which features 3 women using an array of Karate moves to defeat a bunch of sword-wielding ninjas. The video also includes a bunch of dramatic close-ups. Oh, and Danny Trejo is here.
The women eventually defeat Guetta, who can shoot flames out of his hands, in a fight after being inspired by the ghost of Trejo…or something. It’s wild. The fact that it’s the longest shot on the board here at +2500 is a travesty, because it’s clearly a deserving winner. A true masterpiece, indeed. The song is also a Certified Banger™, for whatever it’s worth.
If you’re the betting type, I’d go with “Everybody Hates Me” to win this award at +700. My personal favorite, “Flames,” would be the best value option on the board here for +2500.
Best Pop Video
- “No Tears Left to Cry” – Ariana Grande -250
- “Havana” – Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug +350
- “Sorry Not Sorry” – Demi Lovato +800
- “Perfect” – Ed Sheeran +800
- “What About Us” – Pink +2000
- “In My Blood” – Shawn Mendes +2000
Needless to say, there’s quite a bit more production value in Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry” video than there was in the aforementioned David Guetta/Sia video. Does that make it better? Absolutely not. It’s actually markedly worse. Does the added production value make it a more likely award-winner? Absolutely.
Grande and director Dave Meyers clearly put more than enough effort into making this video, and it’s actually wonderfully done. Grande spends most of the film wearing huge dresses and walking around on the ceiling. It’s all a little disorienting, but it plays well.
Interestingly enough, director Dave Meyers also directed Camila Cabello’s “Havana” featuring Young Thug. He’s competing against himself here. As you may expect, the video comes with plenty of Cuban flair and some nicely choreographed dance scenes. The song is also quite a bit more catchy than Ariana Grande’s effort, in the humble opinion of this writer.
Demi Lovato’s video is one big house party. Ed Sheeran’s video is a sentimental look at times spent with friends. Pink’s effort is your standard emotional Pink song that features he sporting several different outfits and hairstyles. Shawn Mendes’ video features him lying on his back as a bunch of special effects occur around him. Nothing special. If one of these were to win, I’d say Pink would be most likely.
I think “Havana” is your best bet here at +350 if you’re looking for profit potential. Ariana Grande seems most likely to win, but you’re not getting much in return at -250.
Song of the Year
- “Havana” – Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug +120
- “God’s Plan” – Drake +120
- “Finesse” – Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B +700
- “Perfect” – Ed Sheeran +700
- “New Rules” – Dua Lipa +2000
- “rockstar” – Post Malone ft. 21 Savage +2000
As mentioned previously, “Havana” is a worthy favorite here at +120. Drake’s “God’s Plan” has also gained plenty of momentum, but of the two favorites I would say Camila Cabello’s breakthrough hit is more likely to pay off at that price.
I love the value on “Finesse” here at +700. Everything Cardi B has touched this year has turned to gold, so you could certainly do worse than taking her collaborative, Fresh Prince-style effort with Bruno Mars as a flier bet.
Post Malone has also had quite the year but he continues to find himself a long shot. I’d rather take a chance on him to win Artist of the Year than Song of the Year at +2000.
“Havana” is your safe play, while “Finesse” is what you’re looking at if you want a little more return on investment.
Video of the Year
- “This is America” – Childish Gambino -300
- “No Tears Left to Cry” – Ariana Grande +600
- “God’s Plan” – Drake +600
- “Apesh*t” – Beyonce & Jay-Z +850
- “Finesse” – Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B +1500
- “Havana” – Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug +2000
“This is America” was the only music video I’d seen prior to beginning this post. That’s probably because it was a viral sensation immediately upon its release. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch it.
The video shows Childish Gambino (also known as Donald Glover) dancing his way through a bland warehouse parodying America’s gun culture and seemingly making allusions to racial oppression. It was also all captured in one continuing shot, which adds yet another element. The song and video were both massive successes, and it’s hard to imagine “This is America” going home empty-handed here. It feels like a lock at -300.
There probably isn’t much use in breaking down the rest of the contenders. If you want a value you can get an awesome price on “Havana” here at +2000, but the biggest award of the night is pretty clearly Childish Gambino’s to lose.