Unpacking the MTV VMAs Nominations

There’s a lot going on with this year’s VMA nominations. Here’s the gist of it.

This year’s MTV VMAs is practically going to be run by four artists alone. Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift racked in a massive 10 nominations, while Billie Eilish trailed just behind with nine and Lil Nas X with eight.

After a notably less-astonishing 2018 VMAs experience—recall that #VMAsAreOverParty outcry when Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” wasn’t nominated for best video—Swift has once risen from the ashes. The pop star received recognition for her imaginative “ME!” visuals, as well as her more recent “You Need to Calm Down.”

Grande, who sits atop her throne for best-selling album of the year, joins Swift at the helm. The recently anointed face of Givenchy was largely recognized for her star-studded, nostalgia-packed “thank u, next” music video. She also received nods for “God is a woman” and “7 rings.”

The newcomer and dark-pop teen idol, Eilish, snagged nominations for both “bad guy,” “when the party’s over” and her 2017 EP track “hostage.” Eilish joins Grande in the coveted Artist of the Year category, from which Swift is noticeably absent—and always has been—despite her 10 nominations. The artist-wide recognition doesn’t stop there for Eilish, who is also slotted as a contender for the Best New Artist and Push Artist of the Year awards, the first of which touts a shameless sponsorship from Taco Bell. Something tells us Billie would like to win that one for the corporate tie, alone.

Lil Nas is also up for the Taco Bell-sponsored category, while all of his other nominations are for his Area-51-themed music video for “Old Town Road (Remix)” with Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug and Mason Ramsey.

The 2019 awards also see the introduction of new and familiar categories. K-Pop made its debut with a category of its own recognizing artists within that particular genre. Suspense for who will win the award is minimal, with the wildly successful group BTS up for its hit track “Boy With Luv” featuring Halsey.

The genre’s addition, however, was met with backlash. K-Pop fandoms expressed their dismay with the category, deriding it as an attempt to pigeonhole K-Pop artists in order to reserve the heavier-weight categories—Video of the Year, Best New Artist, Song of the Year—for western acts. Lizzo, H.E.R., the Jonas Brothers, Cardi B and Drake are each nominated for one such category.

MTV’s R&B award received a warmer welcome. The genre’s division has finally been revived after a far-too-long, 12-year absence. In that time, R&B has found its way back into the mainstream through artists like Anderson .Paak, Childish Gambino and Alicia Keys, all of whom received a nomination.

The VMAs will break ground at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, for the first time on August 26. Fans have until then to cast their vote.

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