Justin Bieber, Rihanna, One Direction ... 2012 VMA Winner Predictions

Our columnist takes his annual crack at picking Thursday's Video Music Award winners, in Bigger Than the Sound.

The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards are right around the corner — this Thursday at 8 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. CT live from Staples Center in Los Angeles! — and if you're like me (a heartbroken Orlando Magic fan), you probably can't wait to trip Dwight Howard on the red carpet ... oh, sorry, I mean can't wait to see who comes out on top in all the big categories!

And this year, well, it's anybody's guess who will walk away with a Moonman. The field of nominees is evenly spread — Drake and Rihanna lead with five a piece, followed by Katy Perry with four, and everyone else in the universe with three — and, judging by what our panel of VMA oddsmakers have to say, there really are no clear-cut favorites.

Then again, I'm not about to let a few experts deter me from making my picks ... after all, I possess an inflated sense of self. And I am addicted to gambling. So here, for your wagering pleasure, are my VMA winners (hint: I like Rihanna's and One Direction's chances a lot). As always, accuracy not guaranteed, parentheticals assured.

Video of the Year

» Drake feat. Rihanna, "Take Care"

» Gotye, "Somebody That I Used to Know"

» Katy Perry, "Wide Awake"

» M.I.A., "Bad Girls"

» Rihanna, "We Found Love"

My pick: Let's throw M.I.A. out right away ... cool video, but she's got no shot in this loaded category. The next to go is probably "Take Care," which despite featuring two of the biggest stars on the planet, is probably too arty to win VOTY (voters hate bison). Which leaves just three possible choices, each with a decent shot. Given that fans vote for the winners, I don't think Gotye's got the firepower to pull this one out, and Katy won last year (no one has ever taken home back-to-back VOTY awards) so ... let's give this one to Rihanna's "We Found Love," with a big assist from the Navy, of course.

Best New Artist

» Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"

» Frank Ocean, "Swim Good"

» Fun., "We Are Young"

» One Direction, "What Makes You Beautiful"

» The Wanted, "Glad You Came"

My Pick: Sure, Carly Rae and Fun. have the massive hits, and Frank Ocean's got the critical appeal (the Wanted have ... the pecs?), but One Direction have got the insane fans, and when it comes to the VMAs, never discount insanity. They'll win this one in a walk.

Best Male Video

» Chris Brown, "Turn Up the Music"

» Drake feat. Rihanna, "Take Care"

» Frank Ocean, "Swim Good"

» Justin Bieber, "Boyfriend"

» Usher, "Climax"

My Pick: This one boils down to a two-man race: Chris Brown versus Justin Bieber. Breezy's fans always show their support when it comes to awards shows, but I think that the true Beliebers, outraged by the events unfolding in the Most Share-Worthy Video category, will lift him to victory here. Of course, it doesn't hurt that JB's been cranking out shirtless photos like Mark Wahlberg on a beefcake bender, either.

Best Female Video

» Beyoncé, "Love on Top"

» Katy Perry, "Part of Me"

» Nicki Minaj, "Starships"

» Rihanna, "We Found Love"

» Selena Gomez and the Scene, "Love You Like a Love Song"

My Pick: The battle for Best Female might be the night's closest competition, and in any other year, Bey, Katy, Nicki or RiRi would probably win going away (Selena, on the other hand, wouldn't win ever). But in 2012, the fearsome foursome face off against each other, and it's anybody's guess who comes out on top. Mine? Well, again, I'm betting on the power of naval superiority, which means "We Found Love" edges out "Part of Me" for the win.

Best Pop Video

» Fun., "We Are Young"

» Justin Bieber, "Boyfriend"

» Maroon 5 feat. Wiz Khalifa, "Payphone"

» One Direction, "What Makes You Beautiful"

» Rihanna, "We Found Love"

My Pick: It was nice of the VMA folks to nominate three other artists, but in reality, Best Pop Video comes down to just two: Justin Bieber and One Direction. It'll be close, but I think 1D's fans out-crazy the Beliebers here, and guide them to the win. Sorry JB, but it seems the students have become the masters.

Best Hip-Hop Video

» Childish Gambino, "Heartbeat"

» Drake feat. Lil Wayne, "HYFR"

» Kanye West feat. Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz, "Mercy"

» Nicki Minaj feat. 2 Chainz, "Beez in the Trap"

» The Throne, "Paris"

My Pick: So far, I've played it safe with my picks, so why not go for the underdog here? Sure, Drake, Nicki, Kanye and Jay are massive stars, but I can't ditch the sneaking suspicion that Childish Gambino scores the upset, thanks to his fervent fanbase. And cue the Kanye outburst in 3, 2, 1 ...

Best Rock Video

» The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy"

» Coldplay, "Paradise"

» Imagine Dragons, "It's Time"

» Jack White, "Sixteen Saltines"

» Linkin Park, "BURN IT DOWN"

My Pick: Imagine Dragons. Just kidding, they probably won't even get past security. White's "Sixteen Saltines" is one of my favorite clips of the year, but I don't think his fans are even aware he's nominated for a VMA. Linkin Park have won this award three times before, but I don't see a fourth coming this year (people hate ALL CAPS). Coldplay? Maybe. But I think that, in the end, this one goes to the Black Keys, thanks entirely to the smooth moves of one Derrick T. Tuggle, who, hopefully, will get to make an acceptance speech. Or an acceptance dance.