The MTV Video Music Awards have been around 30 years and counting, and the 31st annual MTV Video Music Awards air on Sunday, August 24. Naturally, music changes over time (only Weird Al remains fresh and palatable forever!), which means the awards change, too. From new wave to hair metal to rap to grunge to hip-hop to alternative to nu metal to emo to garage rock to EDM and everything else in between, the VMAs have celebrated it all. Let’s remember some of those discontinued categories and wonder if they’ll ever make a return. (Probably not.)
Best R&B Video (1993 – 2006)
Yes, believe it or not, R&B was once isolated as its own powerful genre.
First to Win: En Vogue — “Free Your Mind”
Last to Win: Beyoncé (featuring Slim Thug and Bun B) — “Check on It”
Personal Favorite: R. Kelly — “Ignition (Remix)”
Best Rap Video (1989 – 2006)
Somewhere in time, rap and hip-hop were considered two vastly different things. The differences between the two are probably best summed up by KRS-One, who famously said “Rap is something you do / Hip-hop is something you live” in his song “Hip-Hop Versus Rap.” While boh genres are as relevant as ever, the Best Rap Video category disappeared after 2006.
First to Win: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince — “Parents Just Don’t Understand”
Last to Win: Chamillionaire (featuring Krayzie Bone) — “Ridin’”
Personal Favorite: The Notorious B.I.G. — “Hypnotize”
Best Alternative Video (1991 – 1998)
“Alternative” was the word kids once used to describe post-punk music that deviated from the mainstream and generally involved an underground ethos, a guitar, at least one band member wearing jeans, and possibly some anger and/or sadness. Even if it was a love song, it was probably still sad.
First to Win: Jane’s Addiction — “Been Caught Stealing”
Last to Win: Green Day — “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
Personal Favorite: Nirvana — “In Bloom”
Best Video Game Soundtrack (2004 – 2006)
The VMAs thrice awarded a statue for a video game soundtrack. After three years, it made sense to eliminate the category and focus on music videos instead of video games. Besides, the soundtrack for most video games these days are your buddies dropping F-bombs into your headset after you launch a rocket at them.
2004: “Tony Hawk’s Underground”
2005: “Dance Dance Revolution Extreme”
2006: “Marc Eck’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure”
Best Artist Web Site (1999)
An award for a website at the VMAs? Yes. 1999 was a few years shy of social networking and a few years past chat rooms. It was the year Napster was redefining how people found music. So, you see, the Internet was all over the place. The one and only winner of this category was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Best Post-Modern Video (1989 – 1990)
The phrase “post-modern” makes us think of furniture or semiotics, but give credit to the VMAs. This was an honest attempt to look at videos outside the likes of mega-pop stars at the time, and this category paved the way for almost two decades worth of groundbreaking, envelope-pushing videos.
First to Win: R.E.M. – “Orange Crush”
Last to Win: Sinead O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Personal Favorite: Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Higher Ground” (a nominee that lost to Sinead)
Best Video From A Film (1987 – 2003)
Music + film = music video (duh!) But with the rise of the MTV Movie Awards and the fall of the “original motion picture soundtrack,” America — and the VMAs — were ready to move on from this category.
First to Win: Talking Heads – “Wild Wild Life”
Last to Win: Eminem – “Lose Yourself”
Personal Favorite: Honestly, there are too many to list. Instead, enjoy this picture of Prince as half-Batman, half-Joker (but all awesome) from his 1990 nominated video “Batdance”
Best Stage Performance In A Video (1984 – 1989)
What does this mean exactly? It means before artists were granted ridiculously large budgets for head-spinning videos that cost more than the GNP of a first-world country, they simply mounted a camera at one of their concerts and voila! Instant music video.
First to Win: Van Halen – “Jump”
Last to Win: Living Colour -”Cult of Personality”
Personal Favorite: Run-D.M.C. (featuring Aerosmith) – “Walk This Way”
Best Group Video (1984 – 2007)
As opposed to one artist or a duo or a collaboration, the VMAs handed out an award to a group. Nominees may have included R&B groups, rock groups, boy bands — really anything that constituted three or more people who went by one name instead of listing all their names separately.
First to Win: ZZ Top – “Legs”
Last to Win: The All-American Rejects – “Move Along” (although in ’07 an award was given to Fall Out Boy as a group and not for a video they made)
Personal Favorite: Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”