Call it “The Snub.”
Though MTV’s Video Music Awards are known for their surprises — from Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley’s “The Kiss” to Miley Cyrus’ “The Twerk Heard Round the World” — this year’s biggest surprise may have come before the show even starts.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” the most-watched video in YouTube history, streamed more than 3 billion times, didn’t receive any VMA nominations. Neither did the remix featuring Justin Bieber that has been No. 1 on the pop charts for the past 14 weeks. MTV told The Associated Press that the video wasn’t nominated because it wasn’t submitted for consideration, while Universal Music Latin Entertainment says it didn’t submit the video because MTV has never played “Despacito” and neither has MTV2.
Both explanations seem entirely logical. But both explanations also show where the VMAs — airing this year from The Forum in Inglewood, California — now fit in the cultural landscape.
The show is, no doubt, still an impressive, publicity-generating ceremony — an event capable of creating buzz, though no longer quite able to launch someone’s career to the next level by, say, rolling around on the floor in a wedding gown.
That’s OK, right? It’s a star-studded affair, with performances from Ed Sheeran, Lorde and Fifth Harmony sure to keep people talking.
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Katy Perry, as host and performer, will remind people that her “Witness” album still exists. MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award honoree P!nkcq/fdd will remind people how remarkably strong her entire career has been, from her R&B days up to and including her new single “What About Us” from her upcoming “Beautiful Trauma” album. And, if excellence still carries any sway, top nominee Kendrick Lamar will take home the most Moon Man — sorry, “Moon Person” — trophies for his stunning “Humble” video, which is nominated in eight categories. Look for “Humble” to do well in the professional categories — including best direction, best cinematography and best art direction — but since the bulk of the VMA awards are now decided by fans, the major ones are now even tougher to predict.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t try.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”
Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”
Alessia Cara, “Scars to Your Beautiful”
DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller, “Wild Thoughts”
The Weeknd, “Reminder”
SHOULD WIN “Humble.” The video is stunning and enhances the standout song’s best qualities with its inventive special effects.
WILL WIN “Wild Thoughts.” Between RiRi’s Navy and Khaled’s massive social media following, the votes will be piling up faster than you can say, “Wild-wild-wild.”
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
SHOULD WIN Lamar. His “Damn” album is one of the year’s best.
WILL WIN Grande. Between the tragedy of the terrorist attack on her Manchester concert and her emotional benefit for those injured, the Arianators are very motivated to bring this award home for their queen.
BEST NEW ARTIST
SHOULD WIN SZA. Her debut “Ctrl” is a neo-soul dream, with memorable singles like “Love Galore” and “Drew Barrymore.”
WILL WIN Cyrus. She may be just 17, but Miley’s younger sister knows how to make the most of her talents, which include getting attention as well as singing boldly.