Who Else Deserves a Video Vanguard Award from MTV?

In Music, TV by ThisDummy0 Comments

Tonight at the MTV Video Music Awards Beyoncé took home the show’s highest honor: the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.  In the show’s 30 year history the award has only been handed out 20 times which means there have been some missed opportunities.  Let’s take a stroll down VMA memory lane and address those lapses in judgment.


  • The 1993 VMA’s are notable for the fact that En Vogue were the most nominated act with 8 nods for their apocalyptic runway themed video for “Free Your Mind,” directed by future MJ Vanguard Award honoree Mark Romanek, and for a sassy exchange between RuPaul and Milton Berle.   It’s also the first year they didn’t hand out a Video Vanguard Award since they started doing it in 1984.  This is a mistake.  The award that year should have gone to David Fincher who by that time had directed most of the most important videos of the late 80s and early 90s including clips for Aerosmith, Paula Abdul, George Michael and Madonna.  If you can remember MTV in the early 90s at all, it’s because of David Fincher.  
  • The 1996 awards were held at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and hosted by Dennis Miller.  Van Halen reunited on stage for the first time in a decade and wouldn’t do it again for another decade.  None of that is interesting.  What matters is that somehow Coolio walked away with 3 awards, but they forgot to give the Vanguard Award to Björk for making some of the best videos you have ever seen.  Still.
  • The 1999 MTV Video Music Awards were a big freakin’ deal.  J.Lo and P.Diddy were still can’t stop won’t stopping, Pam and Tommy Lee were proving to everybody that your sexuality can be an expression of mental illness and we were all fat from extra helpings of Korn and Limp Bizkit.  However, there was no Video Vanguard Award handed out, which is a shame because the VMA’s at the New York Metropolitan Opera House would have been the perfect time and place to bestow the honor to either Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry – two of the 90s most visionary directors.
  • Eminem was the most nominated artist of the 2002 VMAs.  It makes sense that the class clown of rap dominated that year considering that was also the year the show punk’d Michael Jackson with an imaginary Artist of the Millennium award for his birthday.  Eminem’s videos have always been an underrated blend of sincere rage and comedy that could very well merit a Video Vanguard Award.  I mean, they gave one to Tom Petty and he’s not particularly funny or angry.
  • In 2004 they took the show to the American Airline Theatre in Miami Florida but they didn’t take a host.  The result was pretty much a jumbled, unmemorable mess.  Jay Z was the most nominated artist of the night for his “99 Problems” video followed by Usher, Beyoncé and No Doubt with 5 nominations each for videos you probably don’t recall.  A weak argument could be made for No Doubt getting the MJ Video Vanguard Award… but, it’s not that compelling.
  • The VMA’s went back to Miami in 2005 and just to make sure that nonsense didn’t happen again after that Mother Nature sent a message in the form of Hurricane Katrina.  Most of the pre-show ended up being canceled due to weather, but the show did go on.  Diddy hosted, Green Day took home the most awards and Missy Elliott should have received the Video Vanguard Award.  And that is the end of the damn conversation.
  • The 2007 MTV Video Music Awards was one of the smallest productions in the show’s history.  The most memorable thing about the show was Britney Spears’ probably premature comeback (definitely wobbly) performance of her single “Gimme More.”  Nobody took home the Vanguard Award, but maybe it should have gone to veteran music video director Dave Meyers if only for the sheer quantity of videos he’s directed.  With 150+ music video credits to his name for artists ranging from everyone (Janet, Britney, Missy) to everyone else (Korn, Creed, Hilary Duff), he’s definitely put in the work so just give him one already. 
  • In 2008 the awards came to Hollywood by way of the backlot at Paramount Studios.  The entire ceremony was clearly an apology letter and a muffin basket to Britney Spears for the trauma and humiliation of the year before.  What’s not clear is if she realized it.  She probably still thinks she deserved to win 3 awards including video of the year for “Piece of Me.”  If they had handed out a Video Vanguard Award that year it probably would have gone to Britney as well even though it would have been a perfect time to hand it to a very deserving music video turned hot shot feature film director named Francis Lawrence.
  • The details of the 2009 VMAs can be found scrawled in gel pen on the tear stained pages of Taylor Swift’s diary.  That, of course, was the year of the stage crash where Kanye appeared out of nowhere to snatch the mic from Swifty mid-acceptance speech and Lil’ Mama wandered nomadically on stage in the middle of Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ performance of “Empire State of Mind.”  Beyoncé was nominated for everything thanks to “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” which is why the vid’s director, Jake Nava, should have taken home the Vanguard Award.  From “Crazy in Love” to “Single Ladies” and a bunch of excellent videos for people who aren’t Beyoncé (like Lindsay Lohan) he’s one of the most prominent directors of the 2000s.
  • 2010 was a pretty historic year for the VMA’s. Besides Chelsea Handler serving as the first female host since Roseanne (sixteen years earlier), Lady Gaga made history by nabbing 13 nominations and having two videos nominated for video of the year, neither of which have been done before or since.  It only makes sense that she should have also taken home the MJ Video Vanguard Award for reviving pop music and pushing the music video envelope everyday since the first day of her career.
  • 2012 was not an exceptional year for the Video Music Awards.  One Direction were the biggest winners of the night which is grounds for a mulligan.  Something that would have given the show some meaning is Rihanna taking home the Video Vanguard Award.  Maybe it’s a little early in her career, but ever since she cut her hair and stopped giving a flip about being anybody’s good girl her music video game has been on point.  

Leave a Reply