By Paul Cantor
Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber are at war ... sort of. They’re actually competing against Jason Derülo, Broken Bells and Ke$ha in the Best New Artist VMA category. To some people, though, it’s a two-horse race. Nicki’s nominated for “Massive Attack,” Justin for “Baby.” To an outsider, “Baby” was a much bigger hit than “Massive Attack,” but Best New Artist is voted on by the fans, so come Sunday, who’ll rep harder, the Barbies or the Beliebers?
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“[Nicki] has no chance at beating Bieber,” says Brendan Frederick, deputy editor at Complex. “ ‘Baby’ was a genuine hit for Bieber, a highlight of a huge year where he really proved himself as a pop phenomenon who makes surprisingly decent R&B music. Nicki has proven herself to the hip-hop community, but she's just starting to make her presence felt in the crossover pop world. This is definitely Bieber's year.”
But not everyone thinks he’s a shoo in. Some argue that Bieber isn’t exactly a new artist, and that he doesn’t really have any big hits besides “Baby.” “I think Nicki Minaj has a very strong chance of taking home the Best New Artist VMA,” says Kathy Iandoli, media director at HipHopDX. “Nicki may not be causing malls to shut down, but her presence has been felt on almost every important hip-hop track that has been released this year. The Biebs only had one real hit that most people are still ashamed of liking.”
There’s also a bit of history at work. Nicki and Justin previously went head to head in the Best New Artist category at the BET Awards this past June. Ms. Minaj edged out the teen pop star and took home the trophy. Now seems as appropriate time as ever for Justin to get some payback.
“That's not happening again,” says Honey magazine’s managing editor Erik Ramirez. “Bieber fans aren't having it. I think it will come down to the new Bieber fans that joined the cult after the remix of 'Runaway Love.’ They'll have to back up their guilty pleasure and come up to the plate.”
Again though, before you start polishing off the Moonman and getting ready to hand it to Bieber, consider what’s happened in the past. “Macy Gray beat out Christina Aguilera for Best New Artist in 2003, [so] anything can happen,” says Jeff Rosenthal, one half of the fraternal comedy duo It’s The Real. “[Justin] has a clear advantage in everything except for estrogen levels and height. [But] it would not be impossible, though, for [Nicki] to pull out a win. She's nominated for a reason.”
Still, it’s a bit of a stretch to think Nicki’s fanbase can overpower that of the Bieber machine. This is a fanbase that at any given moment can create a Twitter trending topic. In fact, a Twitter employee recently admitted that the company has racks of computer servers dedicated to the teen heartthrob, and that 3 percent of all tweets are about him.
“The chances of Nicki beating out Justin are slim mostly because JB's appeal is so much more widespread,” says Kozza Bamumba, the director of marketing and publicity at New York’s famed SOB's nightclub. “Justin represents a phenomenon and Nicki's journey pales in comparison.”
So it would seem like Nicki coming home victorious is almost impossible. Unthinkable even. Bamumba puts it best, “If Nicki Minaj beats Justin Bieber for Best New Artist I'll eat my own shoe ... with sauce.”
Who do you think will take home the Best New Artist category? Let us know in the comments!