One Direction, Frank Ocean Lead VMA New Class

Why this year's VMAs may also represent a changing of the guard, in Bigger Than the Sound.

Rihanna and Drake may lead the field of nominees for the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, but if anything, that’s an anomaly.

Because, unlike previous VMAs — like, say, last year’s show, when Katy Perry, Kanye and Adele combined to nab 23 nominations — there’s been an infusion of new names added to the list of noms, meaning that on September 6, you might not see the usual parade of Beyoncés, Katys and Biebers making their way to the podium; if anything, the 2012 VMAs could mark a changing of the guard.

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Take, for example, Frank Ocean, who’s nominated for three Moonmen, including Best Male Video and, of course, Best New Artist. One year ago, he was just another guy with a (very good) mixtape , and on the roster of the Odd Future collective, he ranked somewhere near the middle of the pack, outshined by the likes of Tyler, the Creator and the absent Earl Sweatshirt. Now, thanks to a pair of standout contributions to Jay and Kanye’s Watch The Throne, his brave revelations about his personal life, and a jaw-dropping proper album , he’s become one of the most-discussed artists on the planet. He’ll face off against established artists like Chris Brown and Drake in Best Male, and a win would not only be an upset, but would serve notice that he’s here to stay.

Joining him are a pair of chart-topping hitmakers — Fun. and Carly Rae Jepsen — who are also making their VMA debuts. They’re nominated for a combined three awards, and though Fun. face an uphill battle in the Best Pop Video category (they’re up against the likes of Bieber, Rihanna and Maroon 5), but thanks to the success of “We Are Young,” they’ve got a puncher’s chance of shocking the world. And though Jepsen is only competing for Best New Artist, we suspect that her fingerprints will be all over this year’s show, especially given the ubiquity of her smash “Call Me Maybe” (and the sure-fire success of its follow up, ““Good Time” ).

Oh, and speaking of ubiquity, let’s not forget Gotye, whose “Somebody That I Used to Know” was equally as inescapable as Jepsen’s “Maybe,” and, as a result, he earned a pair of nods, including one for the night’s biggest prize, Video of the Year.

This year’s nominations also reflect the recent boy-band resurgence, as One Direction and the Wanted landed a total of three VMA nods. They’ll go head-to-head for Best New Artist, and 1D are also in the running for Best Pop Video (and given that fans determine all the winners, we like their chances). And, in a nod to EDM’s growing influence, for the first time, the VMAs have dedicated a category to the genre: Best Electronic Dance Music Video, which showcases stars like Skrillex, Calvin Harris and Avicii.

And the changing face of hip-hop is on display in the likes of A$AP Rocky and Childish Gambino, each up for one award. Gambino is unquestionably the odd act out in the Best Hip-Hop Video category, going up against Lil Wayne, Drake, Kanye and Nicki Minaj. But like any otherVMA newbie, he’s got a chance to shock the world, and you can’t underestimate the power of the fan vote.

But will the 2012 Video Music Awards go down in history as the show where the underdogs broke through, or will the established acts once again hold serve? Given the sheer number of first-time nominees, I’m inclined to think it’s the former … music is changing, and the VMAs are changing right along with it. And in both cases, that change is for the better. Hey, at the very least, the battle between the old guard and the new is gonna make for one heck of a show; and the result of that battle may be felt for years to come.

The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards were a blast! Stick with MTV for all the VMA winners, fashion, and continued coverage of everything that happened onstage, backstage and behind-the-scenes.