At first glance, the list of nominees for the [url id="http://www.mtv.com/ontv/vma/2010/"]2010 MTV Video Music Awards[/url] seems to tell us one thing: Lady Gaga rules the entire universe. Or Eminem, for that matter.
But dig a little deeper, and you'll notice that there's another theme running through the noms: In 2010, just about everyone was collaborating.
Gaga teamed up with Beyoncé (and scored nods in the Best Female and Pop Video categories, plus one for Video of the Year). B.o.B joined forces with Paramore's Hayley Williams (and Bruno Mars) and was rewarded with noms for not only Best Male, Hip Hop and Pop Video, but Video of the Year too. Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg got together on "California Gurls" and earned nominations for Best Female and Pop Video.
The list goes on and on. In fact, things were so collabo-riffic in 2010 that the VMAs brought back the Best Collaboration category (last seen in 2007 under the handle Most Earthshattering Collaboration) to mark the occasion. So why are so many superstars teaming up these days? Perhaps the better question to ask is: Why did it take them so long in the first place?
In 2010, with radio formats increasingly splintered — sure, there's Top 40, but can anyone really tell the difference between Mainstream Urban and Contemporary Urban? — there is no better way to assure your song will get exposure than by joining forces with another big-name star. Usher tapped Will.I.Am for his "OMG," and the song became a smash. The same can be said for Gaga and Beyoncé. And if your co-star happens to exist mainly in a different radio format, well, then that's even better. If you are, say, Katy Perry — a pop artist — and you're looking to cross over into urban radio, why not get Snoop for your song?
And, of course, there are factors like publishing rights (everyone's clamoring to get a piece of the action, and singing a hook on someone else's song is as good a way as any) or the fact that many of these songs are written by teams of folks, all of whom think they know the perfect guy or gal to put the tune over the top. But there are other (less calculated) reasons collaborations have become commonplace these days too — and the iPod has a lot to do with it.
Simply put, artists are listening to waaay more music these days, regardless of genre. It's not uncommon, say, for Hayley Williams and B.o.B to be fans of the same bands (or each other). Shoot, that's exactly what Williams told us back in April, when news first broke about appearing on "Airplanes."
"I'm a big B.o.B fan. Got everything of his that I've been able to get my hands on," she said. "Whether our fans know or not, I'm not sure, but [Paramore bassist] Jeremy [Davis] and I have always been really into hip-hop. It means a lot that I got to collaborate with a hip-hop artist who is from Atlanta. Not far from home. We Southern gals love us some Southern gentlemen."
Gaga was quick to praise Beyoncé when we spoke to her about "Video Phone" and "Telephone," calling B "a beautiful person" and saying she "adored" her music. Best Collaboration nominees 3OH!3 said they loved working with Ke$ha on "My First Kiss," championing her talents and calling her music "rad."
We could keep going, but we think the point is made: It's the iPod-ization of our culture, a phenomenon that has all but erased the idea of genres (unless you're talking radio) and made it OK to listen to whatever you want.
That brings up another point: If you had the opportunity, why wouldn't you want to work with someone you truly admire? It's one of the perks of being a major artist on a major label: You can basically get in contact with whomever you'd like. And while that may seem overly idealistic (the cynic in us keeps going back to the whole "radio crossover" thing), we're in a good mood today. After all, we just unveiled the 2010 VMA nominations. It's a celebration. Grab some friends and have a party. Who knows, you might score a Best Collaboration nod at next year's awards.
Why do you think collaborations are so big at this year's VMAs? Share your theories in the comments!
The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, September 12, at 9 p.m. ET.