The 2021 VMAs kick off on September 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MTV, 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 show we're excited about, the MTV News team brings you a special VMA edition of Bop Shop, featuring nominees and performers.
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.
Chlöe: "Have Mercy"
With her debut solo foray after years of making serene R&B cuts with her sister Halle Bailey, Chlöe has arrived. This song is a viciously sexy pop statement, and it’s all about the chorus, which features a sinfully repetitive call and response. Chlöe climbs the scales operatically like a stairway to heaven, as she sings about "all this ass up in my jeans." Lord, have mercy. —Coco Romack
Kacey Musgraves: “There Is a Light”
On Star-Crossed, VMA performer Kacey Musgraves sings about broken hearts, painful memories on her phone’s camera roll, and wishing to go back to simpler times like hanging at the local mall. However, the penultimate track on the album, “There is a Light” is a joyful celebration, a spiritual sequel to Golden Hour’s danciest track, “High Horse.” With the “Ventura Highway”-esque guitar intro, “There is a Light” sounds like a lost America song, one that will have you grooving along in your seat, especially when the whistling flute kicks in halfway through. Kacey sings, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel / There is a light inside of me,” a good reminder in these dark times that sometimes the brightest light can be found within. —Chris Rudolph
Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak): "Skate"
When eventual three-time VMA nominee "Leave the Door Open" dropped in March, shiny and lightly funky and soulful as hell, it literally opened the door (sorry) for the Silk Sonic superduo to follow up with something even more lush and symphonic a few months later. And they delivered! "Skate" is so perfectly cast in polyester that it might as well have been delivered in a time machine. Even if we have to wait a bit longer for the full Silk Sonic album, two songs that sound like this make the waiting part actually pretty easy. —Patrick Hosken
Lorde: “Secrets From a Girl (Who’s Seen It All)”
Solar Power, Lorde’s long-awaited third album, is no Melodrama, but that’s kind of the whole point. The reclusive Kiwi pop singer and Best Cinematography nominee has come of age, an inevitability she addresses directly in “Secrets From a Girl (Who’s Seen It All).” It’s a gentle, guitar-led cut addressed to Lorde’s teenage self, although she knows her advice will likely go unheeded (“You can take it if you want it, these are just / Secrets from a girl who’s seen it all”). Does the song tiptoe into cheesy territory? Definitely, but as a longtime Lorde fan and fellow 25-year-old who also “couldn’t wait to turn 15 / Then you blink and it’s been 10 years,” I’m here for it. Come for the tender introspection, and stay for the free therapy (“Everybody wants the best for you / But you gotta want it for yourself, my love”). —Sam Manzella
Pop the champagne — “Lalisa” is finally here! The solo debut by Lisa, one-quarter of VMA nominees Blackpink, is nothing short of explosive. This earworm of a track is an anthemic, “I’m a fucking badass, watch me shine” type of bop. And she isn’t wrong. I didn’t expect anything less, and yet she still surprised and impressed me. Lisa has already left an exciting mark on pop, and if you didn’t know who she is yet, you’re soon sure to remember and have "Lalisa, love me / Lalisa, love me" on loop. So “sip sip” and drink her up. I’m sure there will be more where this came from. —Daniel Head
Taylor Swift: “Ivy”
Between a record-breaking Grammy win and her plans for re-recording her first six albums, it’s been a busy year for Artist of the Year nominee Taylor Swift. The “Willow” singer has supplied us with so many tunes that it might be easy to overlook “Ivy,” a warm and folksy cut from last year’s Evermore. Over a charming rubber-bridge guitar lick, Swift weaves a bittersweet and tension-filled tale of a “magnificently cursed” affair: a blooming romance between an enchanting lover and a dreamer who’s set to marry someone else. It’s a slow build to an intoxicating bridge as the threat of changing seasons intertwines with a looming end: “Spring breaks loose, but so does fear / He’s gonna burn this house to the ground.” Swift finally issues an untimely ultimatum: “Tell me to run / Or dare to sit and watch what we’ll become / And drink my husband’s wine,” before twisting its addictive chorus into a final impassioned plea featuring, perhaps, the best use of the word “goddamn” modern music has ever seen. —Carson Mlnarik
Polo G & Lil Wayne: "Gang Gang"
Imagine getting to rap with your heroes. Best New Artist nominee Polo G has lived that reality for years; his three albums boast features from Nicki Minaj and Young Thug. But none are more essential to the story of the Chicago rapper's rise than Lil Wayne, with whom he shares the dynamic "Gang Gang." "Runnin' from the jakes, block hot like I'm Wayne," he repeats on the refrain before Tunechi himself shows up to take everything home. —Patrick Hosken
Girl in Red: “Hornylovesickmess”
Girl in Red is nominated for Push Performance of the Year for a candid rendition of “Serotonin” from her debut If I Could Make It Go Quiet, but it’s been self-deprecating and brutally honest album cut “Hornylovesickmess” that I can’t get out of my head. Over deceptively cheery piano chords, the Norwegian indie-pop singer reckons with changes in her life and the desperation that strikes late at night: “I don’t wanna be the type of person who calls you up / Every time I need to get off but / I guess that’s who I’m turning into.” Admitting to one’s less attractive facades is no easy feat, but with raw candor, she turns the feeling of “horny lovesick mess” into a mask that’s not only redeemable, but relatable. —Carson Mlnarik
Monsta X: “One Day”
First of all, I’d just like to have some very strong words with whoever broke Monsta X’s hearts? Like, I want to fight. Anyway, “One Day,” the latest English release from the K-pop sextet explores the complicated feelings with a breakup everyone knew was the best choice for you — except you. It’s a somber reflection on coming to terms that it wasn’t the right fit. It’s also emo AF. “They say hindsight's 20/20,” the boys croon, and even though it's over and everyone’s moving on, it’s still OK to feel sad sometimes. Maybe “one day, one day” you’ll see them again. And when that day comes, I think it will all feel just right, boys. —Daniel Head
Foo Fighters: "Floaty"
When's the last time you listened to Dave Grohl's 1995 self-titled debut as Foo Fighters, the one on which he played every instrument? If it's been a while, you gotta put it on, man — not just in their honor, as the 2021 VMA Global Icon recipients, but because it simply rules. Take "Floaty," a strummy alt near-classic that captures everything that's made Grohl an icon for decades: the patented growl, a liftoff chorus, never-ending urgency. It's no "Everlong" (what could be?), but for a few minutes, it feels pretty, well, floaty. —Patrick Hosken