Artist KAWS, designer of the 2013 Moonman, center, with Executive...

Artist KAWS, designer of the 2013 Moonman, center, with Executive Producers Dave Sirulnick and Jesse Ignjatovic at a press conference for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Aug. 22, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

MTV actually does name winners during the Video Music Awards, even if the buzzed-about performances don't necessarily correspond to them. This year, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Justin Timberlake lead the night with six nominations apiece. Look for the "Thrift Shop" duo to do well, along with Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop." But Timberlake is at least guaranteed one win -- the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for work throughout his career.

Here's a look at the top categories and which artists music fans will likely support in their quests to take home a prized Moonman trophy:


Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, "Thrift Shop"

Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"

Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"

Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"

WILL WIN "Blurred Lines." Um, in case you were wondering, sex still sells. Also, as the song of the summer, it has likely been racking up big votes for weeks.

SHOULD WIN "Thrift Shop." The video brings Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' indie-hip-hop vibe to life, showing off the non-bling lifestyle with hand-me-downs and "Grandpa style" clothes. Now that's keeping it real.


Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"

Daft Punk feat. Pharrell and Nile Rodgers, "Get Lucky"

Selena Gomez, "Come & Get It"

Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding, "I Need Your Love"

One Direction, "Best Song Ever"

Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"

WILL WIN "Best Song Ever." This may be the easiest pick of the night. With only one category for the legions of One Direction fans to focus on, they will do anything to ensure a victory for their heroes. And they will succeed.

SHOULD WIN "Blurred Lines." Even those who don't like the song have to concede that Thicke and pals have the song of this summer.


Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"

Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"

Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"

Ed Sheeran, "Lego House"

Kendrick Lamar, "Swimming Pools"

WILL WIN "Blurred Lines." In many ways, it's the ultimate in male videos -- bros hanging out together, ogling women and singing, "Hey, hey, hey."

SHOULD WIN "Mirrors." Justin Timberlake's cinematic video may be too artsy for its own good, but its ambitions far outpace the other clips.


Rihanna feat. Mikky Ekko, "Stay"

Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"

Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"

P!nk feat. Nate Ruess, "Just Give Me a Reason"

Demi Lovato, "Heart Attack"

WILL WIN "We Can't Stop." Miley Cyrus delivers a fantasy world for teenagers, full of fun and twerking and zero consequences, that is also visually stunning and distinctive at every turn. It's hard not to buy in.

SHOULD WIN "Just Give Me a Reason." It really boils down to a battle of the collaborations, with P!nk and Nate Ruess edging out Rihanna and Mikky Ekko thanks to the video's warm charm.


Twenty One Pilots, "Holding on to You"

Zedd feat. Foxes, "Clarity"

Austin Mahone, "What About Love"

The Weeknd, "Wicked Games"

Iggy Azalea, "Work"

WILL WIN Austin Mahone. The 17-year-old heartthrob is well on his way to becoming the next Justin Bieber, and his video for "What About Love" has set so many teenage girls' hearts aflutter and their fingers a-voting.

SHOULD WIN Zedd. The 23-year-old German producer is the real deal, as his high-energy live show proves and his famous fan (and new collaborator) Lady Gaga will attest. His song "Clarity" shows that dance songs can be lyrically complex while still keeping the beat.


Justin Timberlake feat. Jay Z, "Suit & Tie"

Pitbull feat. Christina Aguilera, "Feel This Moment"

Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding, "I Need Your Love"

Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"

P!nk feat. Nate Ruess, "Just Give Me a Reason"

WILL WIN "Blurred Lines." The secret weapon of the song is T.I., who provides Robin Thicke some needed street cred and some fancy rhymes.

SHOULD WIN "Just Give Me a Reason." The partnership between P!nk and Nate Ruess seems natural and heartfelt -- it feels organic, not forced.


Kelly Clarkson, "People Like Us"

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Same Love"

Snoop Lion, "No Guns Allowed"

Miguel, "Candles in the Sun"

Beyoncé, "I Was Here"

WILL WIN "Same Love." It's the strongest of messages in a strong field. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis take on stereotypes in hip-hop and in the LGBT community to stand for same-sex marriage, without worrying what that might mean for careers.

SHOULD WIN "Same Love." The video is as beautiful as its message.


Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"

Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"

fun., "Carry On"

Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"

Selena Gomez, "Come and Get It"

WILL WIN "We Can't Stop." Cyrus will roll with her new coalition of fans who have grown with her past the "Hannah Montana" years and the teens who now idolize her.

SHOULD WIN "Carry On." The fun. guys somehow manage to inspire themselves and everyone else with a poignant victory lap of a video that shows how far they have come.


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, "Can't Hold Us"

Drake, "Started From the Bottom"

Kendrick Lamar, "Swimming Pools"

A$AP Rocky feat. Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar, "---- Problems"

J. Cole feat. Miguel, "Power Trip"

WILL WIN "Can't Hold Us." Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' video is distinctly not very hip-hop, channeling bits of '80s videos from Duran Duran and U2, but it will likely get the lion's share of fan support.

SHOULD WIN "Can't Hold Us." Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools" is a better song, but Macklemore & Ryan Lewis show more ambition in their video.


Imagine Dragons, "Radioactive"

Fall Out Boy, "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)"

Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait"

30 Seconds To Mars, "Up in the Air"

Vampire Weekend, "Diane Young"

WILL WIN "Radioactive." Imagine Dragons have dominated rock radio all year with the song, and the powerful video only adds to the Las Vegas band's remarkable success story.

SHOULD WIN "Diane Young." Vampire Weekend's seize-the-day anthem has a seize-the-day video to match, filled with memorable images and a decision to play up the band's sense of humor.


The MTV Video Music Awards may be turning the big 3-0 Sunday, but don't expect lots of retrospectives and reminiscing.

With high-profile performers including Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, the VMAs will take over the Barclays Center to become the first major awards show held in Brooklyn, and, instead of getting lost in nostalgia, they plan to make new buzzed-about memories.

"Change is in the DNA of the VMAs," says Dave Sirulnick, MTV's executive vice president of news and production and the VMA's executive producer. "Change is in the DNA of MTV. . . . The form that we celebrate -- music video -- is always changing. Pop culture is always changing. The audience is always changing."

Perhaps changing even faster is the perception of the music video. Less than a decade ago, the music video was struggling -- yet another casualty of declining music sales, as belt-tightening major labels slashed budgets for promotional clips.

However, last year, Psy's "Gangnam Style" -- and, maybe more important, his follow-up, "Gentleman," which was only partly in English but still reached the Top 15 on the American charts this year -- made it clear that a great music video could launch a career today, just as it did for Duran Duran and Madonna more than 30 years ago. In February, Brooklyn producer Baauer landed a No. 1 hit with "Harlem Shake" on the strength of its video -- and the millions of parodies of it -- after Billboard changed the formulation of its charts to count YouTube views as part of its tally of a song's popularity. In April, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria launched what it called "the first museum exhibition to celebrate the art and history of the music video," collecting more than 300 influential music videos, as well as artifacts and props used in their creation.

"Music video, for decades, has been an art form, and, like any art form, it has its ebbs and flows," Sirulnick says. "I think we are currently in a high period creatively for music videos."


He credits changes in technology and in the availability of the tools needed to make music videos for the resurgence. "Right now, the odds are that you have a camera in your pocket that you can make a video with," Sirulnick says. "Making videos, visuals of all sorts, is part of what culture is about now. There are more and more people growing up with a different sense of what it means to express yourself through video."

Sirulnick uses Miley Cyrus' distinctive "We Can't Stop" video, up for four awards, as an example of how a new generation of artists is taking the art form to new levels.

"When someone like Miley Cyrus is launching this new phase of her career and launching this album, her music video choices are going to be informed by the fact that for years and years and years she's already been expressing herself through videos -- not considering her past as a TV star, just as a person," he says. "This one is so personal and expressive about her. She found images that stick out and that you have not seen in the prior 30 years of the Video Music Awards. That's pretty amazing."

The power of music videos these days has only added to the strength of the VMAs as the kind of cultural event that few can rival.

At a concert in Central Park last week for "Good Morning America," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who tied Justin Timberlake for the most VMA nominations this year, just shook their heads at the thought of performing their hit "Same Love" on the show.

"It feels crazy," says Lewis. "To perform on the VMAs is a privilege, so we're very, very excited. It's gonna be a special night, I think."

This year, Macklemore & Lewis are in the same position that everyone from Nirvana to Taylor Swift has been in before -- introducing themselves as performers in front of a roomful of music's biggest stars while the rest of the world looks on. "There is just something about the proving ground of the VMAs," Sirulnick says. "It could change the direction of their careers. It's their chance to show the world what they can do."


With such a big platform, it's no wonder superstars are lining up to use the show as the kickoff to promotional campaigns for their new or upcoming albums. Both Lady Gaga, who will open the show with "Applause," and Katy Perry will perform their new singles for the first time in public, while Kanye West is set to tie Madonna for the most performances on the show when he takes the VMA stage for the seventh time to do "Black Skinhead."

"The notion of having a lot of new music is one of the things that keeps the VMAs very fresh," Sirulnick says. "We're very much in the moment and looking forward."

He adds that having the show in Brooklyn adds to that feeling.

"Brooklyn has a rooted culture, but it has also embraced the new and changed thoroughly," says Sirulnick, who adds that he was born in the borough. "We've always had our eye on Brooklyn, but there wasn't ever the prized venue to house the Video Music Awards. It's quite a large show. When the Barclays Center was announced, it was something that we were really, really interested in."

In many ways, the VMAs' arrival in Brooklyn signifies the borough's arrival as well. "Brooklyn is a cultural mecca -- the hippest, coolest place for young people across the country, and has played a crucial role in the careers of some of 2013's biggest bands, like fun. and the Lumineers," Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said in a statement. "Now, it is only fitting that the first time Brooklyn will ever host a major awards show, we are welcoming the most exciting and talked-about spectacle in the music industry."

Sirulnick says the borough's influence in music is only part of the reason it was chosen to host the VMAs -- alongside Manhattan, Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas.

"We wanted to tap into the energy of Brooklyn and the deep legacy in the arts," he says. "With the entrepreneurial spirit that has been embraced in Brooklyn over the past decade or so, it just felt like it was a wonderful time to celebrate Brooklyn and have the spirit of Brooklyn really be our muse. It was something that we really wanted, and we're thrilled to be here."

WHAT MTV Video Music Awards featuring Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke and more

WHEN | WHERE 9 p.m. Sunday, MTV


Top Stories


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months