The VMA Best Rock category is a complete breakfast this year, with the five nominees offering a healthy dose of the diverse modern definitions of rock — including everything from youth culture to legacy acts. You've got Coldplay representing rock's electro-dancey side, Twenty One Pilots on the punk-rap side (or whatever you call their amalgamation of goodness), Fall Out Boy representing the anthemic, stadium side, Green Day on the legendary pop-punk side, and Foo Fighters, who are probably the best examples of rock stars ever, tying everything together. Hey, uh, people who declared "Rock is dead" (ahem, Gene Simmons; ahem, Flea), take that!
The Best Rock category not only symbolizes a scrumptious dissection of the 2017 mainstream rock scene; it signifies a milestone specifically for the Foo Fighters, who, 20 years ago, were nominated in the exact same category. While other awards shows celebrate the best in the current pop-culture landscape, this year, Best Rock is recognizing the staying power of bands who have paved the way for younger acts while still maintaining relevancy.
In 1997, Foo Fighters were nominated for the Grohl-directed "Monkey Wrench" video from their The Colour and the Shape album, a hallmark of the late-grunge era. The clip finds the band — Grohl, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, and then-new drummer Taylor Hawkins — trying to break into an apartment, where, inside, a different version of them are performing (meta). When the band inside the room escapes through the window, the new Foo Fighters take their place. In the end, the camera pans out to find that another version of the Foos are peering through the peephole at them.
If you try to analyze the "Monkey Wrench" video, you might come to the conclusion that the Foos were trying to outdo themselves, that every version of their band would be better, that they could never be replaced.
Before Foo Fighters found out that they lost Best Rock Video to Aerosmith at the 1997 VMAs, they played atop the marquee at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. After MTV News' Kurt Loder introduced them, Smear announced his departure from the band on live television, passing the baton to new guitarist Franz Stahl. It's as if another version of Foo Fighters morphed right before our eyes, just as they did in the "Monkey Wrench" video.
Now, it's 20 years later, and Foo Fighters have assumed yet another model of themselves. This year, they're nominated for "Run," which Grohl also directed. With the help of pounds of prosthetic makeup, the band transformed into geriatric nursing home patients, bored with the end of life. When old-man Foo Fighters take the "stage" during the facility's rec hour, they lead a sort of rebellion — grandpas stage-dive, grandmas whip out their saggy boobs, and they all run for freedom.
The "Run" video is the Foos' way of saying that they're never to old to rock, and in fact, they're going to do it better than any other act — perhaps even better than the younger version of themselves. After they escape from the nursing home, the elderly gang are seen throwing young kids out of the car, ripping off a dude's man bun and stealing a vape pen — it's just as if Foo Fighters are tossing our "youth culture" aside, showing us they have just as much a place at spectacles like the VMAs as anyone else. If you call them "old," then hey, that might as well be a compliment.
"Run" also features the OG "Monkey Wrench" crew, cementing Smear as a central member after he returned in 2005. In 20 years, Foo Fighters have seen some new additions, too, with Chris Shiflett joining in '99 and Rami Jaffee entering more recently.
Perhaps at the 2037 VMAs, the Foos will return with another Best Rock-nominated video. Perhaps they'll look like their "Run" characters, even without the help of makeup. No matter the version, however, Foo Fighters have proven with their "Run" video that they will forever be at their best — no matter how old they get.