Over the past three decades, there has been the odd installment of the MTV Video Music Awards where an underdog shocks the world by winning Video of the Year … think Panic! at the Disco in 2006, or Jamiroquai in 1997. Though it’s safe to say that won’t happen at this year’s show.
Mostly because there are no underdogs in the 2013 Video of the Year category. Instead, it’s five of the biggest names in the business going head-to-head for the ultimate prize. The guy with the year’s best-selling album? He’s in the running. The group with the year’s best-selling song? They’re here too. So is a guy with five #1 singles, the undisputed champion of the Summer Jam sweepstakes and the girl who had the biggest album debut in a decade.
Simply put, it’s superstars only. So who’s got the best shot at winning? Shoot, your guess is as good as ours (how can there be a favorite when they’re all favorites?!?) Here’s a look at the five nominees for Video of the Year … any of which could take home the hardware on Sunday night. And be sure to check out MTV’s VMA All Access Experience on vma.mtv.com where our experts will weigh in on the closely watched category.
Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”
Not only has he won 14 Moonmen over the course of his career, but JT is tied with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for the most nominations at this year’s show. Oh, and he’s getting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award , too. “Mirrors” made its premiere via a splashy prime-time TV special hosted by Ryan Seacrest, though for all the hype surrounding it, the clip is perhaps the most personal thing Timberlake has ever done. It’s dedicated to his grandparents, William (who passed away last year) and Sadie, and essentially showcases their relationship, from teenaged courtship to adult strife, old age and beyond. And when coupled to the stylish “Suit & Tie” (or the scandalous “Tunnel Vision” ), it not only stands apart, but showcases the scope of his musical output in 2013. All of that might make him the front-runner here … and when you consider The 20/20 Experience’s massive sales, a Video of the Year win would certainly put a cap on his comeback.
Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines”
It’s definitely made a bigger impact than any other video this year, racking up more than 150 million views between its two versions and spawning nearly as many parodies (and controversies ) in the process. But aside from all the hysteria “Blurred Lines” clip stirred up, the truest measure of its success lies in the fact that it took Thicke’s song all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 … and kept it there for a staggering ten weeks (and counting). It also gave the crooner the first #1 album of his ten-year career, earned him four VMA nominations … and had him seriously considering a name change . “Blurred Lines'” ubiquity definitely makes it a favorite to take home Video of the Year, though you get the feeling that, even if it doesn’t win, this is the kind of iconic clip we’ll be talking about for years to come. And once you reach that rarefied air, who needs awards?
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Thrift Shop”
The dynamic duo blasted from obscurity to the top of the Billboard charts in 2013, and they did it on their own terms. As independent artists, they had complete creative control over every aspect of their careers, and that’s more than evident in the over-the-top “Thrift Shop” clip, which not only features more out-there outfits than we can possibly count, but actually looks like it cost 99 cents to make. That authenticity obviously resonated with fans, as the clip has been watched more than 400 million times on Youtube, and propelled the song to #1 on the Hot 100 for two lengthy stints. Macklemore & Lewis found similar success with their follow-up video, “Can’t Hold Us,” proving that they’re more than just one-hit wonders. They’re up for six VMAs on Sunday — they’re the only artist to have three different videos nominated at the show — and we wouldn’t bet against them in Video of the Year … after all, a year ago, we didn’t even know who they were. The sky’s the limit now.
Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble”
Taylor promised that the “Trouble” would be a departure , and when it finally premiered in December , it turns out she was telling the truth. Working with director Anthony Mandler, she created a clip that was decidedly darker than anything she’s ever done … and this one was clearly a labor of love. After all, not only did Swift write the monologue that opens the video, but, as co-star Reeve Carney explained , she was going for greatness on par with the silver-screen bad-boy epics of the past. Oh, and she dyed part of her hair, too. A female has won this category every year since 2007, and it’ll be up to Taylor to continue that trend this year … though given that fan votes determine the Video of the Year winner, well, don’t underestimate the power of her Swifties. Just keep Kanye away from her if she does win.
Bruno Mars, “Locked Out Of Heaven”
Speaking to MTV News on the day he decided to premiere the “Heaven” video , Mars said that the clip’s lo-fi aesthetic was meant to conjure up memories of the VHS-era, a time when the tracking was always on the fritz and “you’d have to stand by the TV with, like, aluminum foil all over you.” It was just part of the plan behind his massive, masterful Unorthodox Jukebox album, a collection of songs meant to challenge the listener and, hopefully, take pop music back to simpler times … turns out, though he was looking to the past for inspiration, “Heaven” was a very contemporary hit, closing out 2012 as the #1 song in the country, then holding onto the top spot for the first five weeks of 2013, too. Mars made it back to #1 with another Jukebox song, “When I Was Your Man,” and the album’s third single is currently climbing the charts … but his revolution began with “Locked Out of Heaven,” which just shows you that, despite popular opinion, trying your hand at writing a Police tune is never a bad idea.
Who will take home Video of the Year? Find out at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, live on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT!