The VMAs are this Sunday, and while we tend to look forward to the crazy moments that go down more than the awards themselves, it’s still fun to consider the actual reason for this event: Giving out awards to music videos. The VMAs have been going on since 1984, and in that time, the voters have made some questionable decisions. With that in mind, we’re looking at seven times the most deserving candidate for the Video of the Year wound up on the losing side. These are the moments when a Kanye bum rush would’ve been more than welcome.
7. Aerosmith’s “Cryin'” Beats The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”
In fairness to VMA Voters, this was a crowded year, with a lot of good choices (fittingly, it was the same year that Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption lost to Forrest Gump at the Oscars). Still… how could anything — even a video featuring a young Alicia Silverstone — beat “Sabotage?” It’s one of the most iconic videos of the ’90s, and it perfectly captures the humor and energy of the song itself. Aerosmith had some enjoyable videos in the ’90s, but there’s no denying that the Beasties got robbed here.
6. Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon Of Choice” Loses To The “Lady Marmalade” Remake
I get it. A big, expensive remake of “Lady Marmalade” featuring some of the biggest pop stars of the day is the exact kind of thing that VMA voters go for. And hey, it honestly is a pretty fun video. Still, the antics of Christopher Walken in the “Weapon of Choice” video are utterly delightful, and 15 years later, it feels like an absolute classic. Conversely, the “Lady Marmalade” video just makes you think “Oh right, that’s what happened in 2001.”
5. Korn’s “Freak On A Leash” Loses To Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)”
I fully expect this to be the most controversial pick on the list — saying a nu-metal band deserved to beat Lauryn Hill?! Hear me out. Remember, we’re just going based on the video, and while both videos were cool, I just can’t abide by “Freak on a Leash” being passed up, if only because the animated portion of it is so awesome. Oh, and the part where the bullet goes through the coffee machine! Come on, the “Freak on a Leash” video was brilliant, and I don’t believe it’s any disrespect to Hill to say it should have taken home top honors here.
4. The White Stripes’ “Fell In Love With A Girl” Loses To Eminem’s “Without Me”
This a clear-cut case of a great video losing to a good video. The “Without Me” clip certainly has its charms, but Eminem had already won two years earlier for “The Real Slim Shady,” so it was a bit redundant to give him another win for the sequel, especially when “Fell in Love with a Girl” was such an innovative clip. Really, the White Stripes had brilliant videos throughout their career, but they never took home Video of the Year honors, which is such a shame. This was almost certainly their best chance.
3. Kendrick Lamar Loses To Taylor Swift….And Himself (2015)
The good news was that Kendrick Lamar earned well-deserved VOTY honors in 2015, the bad news was that it was for the wrong song. Rather than a victory for his own “Alright,” which effectively became the soundtrack of the Black Lives Matter movement, the win went to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” which Lamar has a guest verse on. While the “Bad Blood” video was certainly entertaining, it was disappointing to see such a well-made video with such an important message lose to something that was extremely lightweight in comparison. Also: Protect Katy Perry at all costs.
2. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Loses To Van Hagar (1992)
The fact that the song that defined a generation (and also had a pretty sweet video) lost here is a surprise in its own right, but the really brutal thing is what it lost to: A super corny “message” video from Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen. “Right Now” and its horribly preachy video were the exact kind of edgeless schmaltz that Kurt Cobain was railing against. Plus, it’s a virtual guarantee that no one has thought about the “Right Now” video since it came out way back in 1992.
1. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” Loses To “You Might Think” By The Cars (1984)
Alright, look, I’ll defend The Cars any day of the week. I’ll even defend “You Might Think,” even though it was after they got a little too pop-friendly. Still, this song beating the freaking ‘Thriller’ video is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice of all-time. One shudders to think at what would be happening on Twitter if this were to take place now. In all fairness, the “You Might Think” video has some effects that likely seemed pretty cool for their time, but they seem pretty cheesy now, while the “Thriller” video only gets more awesome.