The 2019 VMAs kick off on August 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, and this year's list of nominees is, as usual, long and stellar. It's also a handy reminder of the songs and videos we've obsessed over this year — or as we like to call them, bops. In honor of the nominees (and all the explosive performances we're excited about), the MTV News team brings you a special VMA edition of Bop Shop, featuring nominees, performers, and in one case, a potential future nominee — we'll see what happens next year.
Get ready to revisit some of the biggest musical moments of the year ahead of the VMAs. The Bop Shop is now open for business.
5 Seconds of Summer: "Teeth"
The last we heard from Best Pop/Best Group nominees 5SOS, they were channeling Nine Inch Nails in a cave. Now, they're evoking New Order on the anesthetized "Teeth." After the quartet pivoted to technicolor pop on 2018's Youngblood, a song like "Teeth," all buzzing bass and relentless pounding, is alarmingly industrial. New Order themselves even get a songwriting credit here, likely for that descending chorus melody that echoes "Blue Monday" — the one Rihanna also utilized for "Shut Up and Drive." Simply put, "Teeth" is a real horror show — way more in line with the darkness of Billie Eilish than, say, the neighborhood revelry of influences Sum 41 — but so is the world, man. 5SOS smiles, and their shiny "Teeth" reflect back our everyday chaos. —Patrick Hosken
Taylor Swift: "London Boy"
Lover’s title track makes clear that after all the heartbreak, Taylor Swift (leading the 2019 VMA pack with 10 nods) has finally found her one great love. But “London Boy” probes even deeper into that relationship, proving that she fell for the man of her dreams and the city he hails from.
“I love high tea, stories from uni, and the west end,” she sings over a steady pop beat. “You can find me in the pub, we are watching rugby with your school friends.” And while it’s certainly a love song to her “London Boy,” it also serves as an ode to the city itself — from Camden and Soho to Brixton and the West End.
But don’t worry: Just because she’s made room in her heart for London doesn’t mean she forgot where she came from. “I love my hometown as much as Motown / I love SoCal,” she sings in the first verse. “And you know I love Springsteen / Faded blue jeans / Tennessee whiskey.” And while those things feel like home, make no mistake: Yes, she loves her home, but the definition of it has been blurred. “They say home is where the heart is,” she croons. "But God, I love the English.” —Jordyn Tilchen
Monsta X: "Carry On"
It may be nearly the end of August, but Best K-pop nominees Monsta X have blessed us with a new track that's a must for any summer playlist. Late Song of the Summer contender “Carry On” is an easy, breezy, beautiful bop and the latest single off the Korean group’s second Japanese album, Phenomenon. With Wonho in the driver’s seat, this song was made to be enjoyed in a top-down red convertible. (Obviously, your bias can take the wheel, too.) No matter what you're going through, Monsta X is there to remind you to not to waste all your energy on the past, but to live in the present and enjoy the possibilities the future holds. Honestly, this is unlike anything I’ve heard from Monsta X in the recent past — it’s pure pop reminiscent of a few tracks on their early mini-albums. Overflowing with lyrics of joy and positivity, “Carry On” is a love letter between Monsta X and Monbebe, and a welcome addition to this summer’s soundtrack. —Daniel Head
Lady Gaga: "Bloody Mary"
This is one song I've never gotten to hear two-time 2019 nominee Gaga perform live, and it seems as though it's just faded away into the background of her catalog, but that doesn't mean I love it any less. While I love every single song on Born This Way, everything about this track is dark, beautiful perfection. From the way she growls "fury" to the way she purrs her French later in the song, lamenting that she doesn't want to die alone, this is Gaga at her best. It's slinky electro-pop that you can't help but sing along to, and I'm hoping that for LG6, it's something she finds her roots in once more. I love Joanne with all my heart, but I'm ready for a sweeping return to form. —Brittany Vincent
2 Chainz ft. Ariana Grande: "Rule The World"
This story starts with a house. A pink house — specifically the one in Atlanta 2 Chainz used to drum up hype for his 2017 album, Pretty Girls Like Trap Music. It generated coverage for its various uses, from offering church services to HIV testing, and for a year, the pink trap house came to be synonymous with Best Rap nominee 2 Chainz himself. So when Ariana Grande released the video for "7 rings" this year — which featured her and her crew dancing in a similar-looking pink house — eyebrows were raised. 2 Chainz joked on Instagram that he would confront her. "It got further than I thought because her management called my management," he told radio host Angie Martinez earlier this year. "We set up just a meeting in a studio so we could have some dialogue."
That discussion birthed two new songs: a "7 rings" remix that quelled the whispers of beef, and "Rule the World," which appeared on 2 Chainz's follow-up, Rap Or Go to the League. Its massive, glitzy sound places it in loftier territory, as the contrast between 2 Chainz's southern drawl and Grande's feathery voice makes you melt. The production, reminiscent of Amerie's 2002 hit, "Why Don't We Fall in Love," is like heaven opening up for a grand celebration. These elements combine for a jovial and exciting celebration of a partner's love and fidelity that looks to a successful future — from the pink trap house to ruling the world. —Trey Alston
Ariana Grande: "Needy"
Ariana Grande has spent most of her thank u, next era being Bad Bitch Ari, whether she was flexing for the hell of it on “7 rings,” or stealing your man in “break up with your boyfriend, i’m bored.” And while we love that for her, we also love that she’s just as soft as the rest of us, and nowhere does that shine through as much as on “needy.”
With a few simple notes and choruses of finger snaps and vibrating vocals, Ariana (who's up for 10 trophies this year) twists her neediness into her strength. assuring her lover, “I know how good it feels to be needed.” She lists her flaws but asserts her power, admitting she’s “a little messed up” but she can “hide it when she’s all dressed up.” It’s a bop as finely attuned to meditative nights alone as it is to scream-crying in your car. Ari leads us into a melodic smash, building us up only to carefully lower us down. She hums, and it sounds like what it’s like to want to be wanted in your neediest moments. Ari gets it. —Carson Mlnarik
Beabadoobee: "She Plays Bass"
Why is Beabadoobee the future of the VMAs? Well, similar to fellow teen Billie Eilish, she has a very clear vision of what she wants her aesthetic to be and how it should compliment her music. And much like how Normani tapped into a love of the early 2000s for her "Motivation" video, Beabadoobee not only honors '90s bedroom pop with "She Plays Bass," but she uses it as a jumping-off point to invent something wholly original and forward-thinking. Watch out for Beabadoobee when the 2020 VMAs release their nominations! —Bob Marshall
Taylor Swift: "Style"
As I was recently going through my mental power rankings of my favorite Taylor Swift songs (because I have nothing better to do on my commute), I was surprised to realize that "I Knew You Were Trouble" no longer held the top spot on my list. In fact, it has been superseded by "Style," which mtvU has been playing in the lead-up to the VMAs.
What makes "Style" so great, outside of Max Martin and Shellback's propulsive and seductive '80s synth beat, is how well it showcases Taylor's songwriting and arrangement. In the verse, we quickly meet our two characters: lovers for whom things maybe aren't going so great. Then, as Taylor does so well, she uses the pre-chorus as a literal breakdown – in this case, using the pause to spell out that the real problem is that the relationship is toxic but addictive for both parties. Finally, the big climactic chorus cleansing hits, and it's Taylor summing up everything you heard in a chant-able, cathartic way. Then she does it all again starting with the second verse. It's basically using verse-pre-chorus-chorus as a three-act structure, and it's the coolness and simplicity of "Style" that sets it apart from her other songs that do the same thing.
Taylor's strength since her country days has been her ability to turn stories that hinge on familiar tropes into immediately memorable ear-worms for maximum emotional impact. With her new album out today, I can't wait for her to sing a few more stories, even if I already know how they end. —Bob Marshall
Find out who wins — and who tears up the stage — when the 2019 VMAs air live on Monday, August 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT!