Everything You Need To Know About The 2021 VMA 'Video Of The Year' Nominees

Which artist will dominate at this year's MTV Video Music Awards?

After what can only be described as a torrid 18 months, it finally seems that the world is nudging toward some form of normality. As vaccines start to work their magic and nature begins to heal, award ceremonies are making their return all around the globe, and there's no bigger bash to kick off the 2021 season than the MTV Video Music Awards.

Returning to a crowd-facing event on September 12 (that’s the 13th in Australia), this year's VMAs sees Justin Bieber and Megan Thee Stallion lead the nominees with seven and six nods a piece (including back-to-back Artist of the Year nominations), while Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, BTS, Drake and Machine Gun Kelly also gunning to add to their trophy cabinets on the night. Our host for the evening, Doja Cat, is also up for a slew of awards.

As any awards night enthusiast will know, there's no VMAs gong more coveted than Video Of The Year, and there's some absolute heat sitting among this year's nominees.

While there's a few major artists who just missed out on a nomination – like Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo – the 2021 Video of the Year award is still shaping up to be a showdown of the giants, with Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat & SZA, DJ Khaled & Drake, Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd and Lil Nas X all bagging nominations for their respective works.

Before it all goes down at the Barclays Centre on September 12, let's take a closer look at all of this year's Video of the Year nominees to remember why they're up for the biggest prize of the night.

Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion – “WAP”

Honestly, what more needs to be said about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s "WAP"? It's arguably one of the most important hip-hop songs to drop this decade, and the hot-and-heavy music video just takes it all up another level. It's horny as hell and unapologetically so, with its themes of sexual liberation and empowerment asserting its status as an era-defining piece of pop culture ephemera.

Considering its seismic impact over the past year, it should come as no surprise that “WAP” has been honoured with four nominations at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards: Video of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Collaboration and Best Hip-Hop.

Save for some kind of upset, my guess is that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion could obviously have this one in the bag for Video of the Year. If not, don't sweat it: Megan's still up for another five nominations, including Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Collaboration and two entries in the Best Hip-Hop category, so I reckon it’s likely she'll walk home a winner.

DJ Khaled ft. Drake – "Popstar (starring Justin Bieber)"

Love him or hate him, there's no denying DJ Khaled is one of the best marketing minds in music today: he's got his roll-out strategy down to a science, and understands the importance of going viral better than anybody. While far from being the pair's best collaboration, “Popstar” is nonetheless another seminal contribution to the DJ Khaled ft. Drake canon, but it's the accompanying music video with Justin Bieber that ices the cake of this summer smash.

A witty, tongue-in-cheek visual that's crammed with easter eggs and celebrity cameos, “Popstar (starring Justin Bieber)” sees an exasperated Drizzy call a favour from his fellow Canadian after a persistent DJ Khaled blows up his phone with requests to shoot a music video. It's all very meta and sees Justin Bieber play with some hilariously clichéd Hollywood braggadocio, and Drake's all-too-real anti-Khaled rant at the start is just simply genius.

Directed by Director X, DJ Khaled ft. Drake Popstar' (starring Justin Bieber) is up for two nominations at MTV's 2021 Video Music Awards: Video of the Year, and Best Direction. Shame they couldn't have created a best acting category for Champagne Papi, he really does deserve something for this one.

Doja Cat ft. SZA – “Kiss Me More”

A dreamy, sensual space odyssey directed by music video auteur Warren Fu, Doja Cat ft. SZA – “Kiss Me More” sees both artists assume the role of seductive aliens on the fictional Planet Her; a sci-fi paradise world with pastel skies, tropical gardens and cherry blossoms galore. It's slightly less surreal than some of Doja Cat's other works but still proves just as playful, with the spritely visual effects and celestial motifs complementing the sugar-sweet sounds of one of the year's best R&B tracks.

“Kiss Me More” is nominated for both Video of the Year and Best Collaboration, and probably narrowly missed out on nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects. However, considering that Doja Cat is already up for a staggering five awards (including Artist of the Year) and hosting this year's event, there’s no harm done should she miss out on Video Of The Year.

That being said, Doja Cat still stands a chance of winning Best Art Direction through her appearance on Saweetie's 'Best Friend', while her Weeknd team-up “You Right” is also nominated for Best Visual Effects. Regardless of what happens on the night, she'll always be a star in my eyes.

Ed Sheeran – “Bad Habits”

Not many artists can pull off the vampire aesthetic in 2021, but if there's any man up to the task, it's Ed Sheeran. “Bad Habits”, the UK singer-songwriter's first single from his forthcoming record , is an acoustic dance-pop romp with a big budget video that sees Sheeran don a hot pink suit and fly around London, terrorising panicked pedestrians as he soars overhead.

Although it's not the most groundbreaking concept (in my opinion), what “Bad Habits” lacks in originality it certainly makes up for in spectacle, with the rubbery visual effects and immersive art direction proving to be a major highlight of the song's music video.

As well as being up for Video of The Year, Ed Sheeran – 'Bad Habits' is also nominated for Best Choreography (Natricia Bernard) and Best Art Direction (Alison Dominitz) at this year's VMAs, and even if he walks home empty-handed this year, you almost know for certain that Ed will make up for it at next year's ceremony.

Lil Nas X – “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”

It's hard to believe that people once considered Lil Nas X as a one-hit wonder. The 2019 Song of the Year winner's viral hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” made quite the splash when it's outrageous music video arrived in March, and reasonably so – after all, it's not everyday that you get to witness your favourite artist pole dance his way to hell to give the devil a lap dance.

Packed with crisp visual effects and oozing with unabashed queerness, the confidence displayed by Lil Nas X throughout the video inevitably sent conservative factions of the internet into total meltdown, with their fury only exacerbated further when the song inevitably debuted on top of the Billboard Hot 100 a week later.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Montero” is up for an impressive five nominations at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year, Video for Good, Best Direction, Best Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects. He's up against Billie Eilish for Video for Good and Best Direction and is facing stiff competition in the Video of the Year category. My take? If anyone can pull a trick out of his hat, it's Lil Nas X.

The Weeknd – “Save Your Tears”

Does Abel ever miss? While certainly not as confronting as its preceding visuals, “Save Your Tears” is yet another quality piece of content from The Weeknd, drawing influence from Eyes Wide Shut and Joker to draw the curtain on his After Hours album arc.

After being gruesomely beheaded in “In Your Eyes” and savagely reconstructed in “Too Late”, “Save Your Tears” sees Abel revived and back on his feet, but there's a catch: he now bears a grotesquely disproportionate face, courtesy of some incredibly clever prosthetics from makeup designer Mike Marino. As well as featuring some stunning cinematography and visual effects, “Save Your Tears” is also loaded with secret messages and finite detailing, with viewers noting several moments that seem to  reference The Weeknd's 2021 Grammys snubbing.

It's worth remembering that The Weeknd also snagged Video of the Year at last year's MTV Video Music Awards for “Blinding Lights”, and given the run that's he's having, he could very well go back-to-back at this year's awards.

Get across this year's Artist of the Year nominees here, and make sure to catch the 2021 MTV Music Video Awards live on Monday, September 13 from 8.30am AEST.

This is an opinion piece written by Will Brewster, a Melbourne-based writer and producer. Follow him on Twitter @_willbrewster.

More good VMAs stuff:

Who's Performing At The 2021 VMAs? 

Everything To Know About The 2021 VMA 'Artist Of The Year' Nominees

Here’s How To Watch The 2021 VMAs For Free In Australia

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