The 2018 MTV Video Music Awards airs Sunday, August 20. The award ceremony has been a long-hailed hallmark, celebrating arguably the second-best part of the music landscape, the accompanying visuals. This year’s award ceremony sees some of today’s most popular leading the pack with nominations: Cardi B with 10, the Carters (Beyoncé and Jay-Z) with 8, and Childish Gambino and Drake both with 8 each. While these accolades are without a doubt well-deserved (I mean, is there anyone more deserving of praise than breakout superstar Cardi B or Childish Gambino who has established himself as one of 2018’s most important artists?), every year it feels something is missing.
There are clear snubs to be griped about and artists who are continually overlooked. In the vein of the latter, the 2018 VMAs all too often disregards the memorable visual efforts of lesser known and rising artists. Outside of the “Push Artist of the Year” category, which sees some notable mentions in Grace Vanderwaal, Sigrid, Jessie Reyez, and Hayley Kiyoko, budding artists rarely have a place to shine. So, ahead of the VMAs, we chronicle ten visual feats of the last year that have had an lasting effect on us.
A$AP Rocky – “A$AP Forever”
While far beyond the scope of a typical Ones To Watch artist, this particular snub cannot be overlooked. The New York-bred rapper has always shown a penchant for the experimental, but his video for “A$AP Forever” sees A$AP Rocky taking this inclination to new hypnotic heights. Rapping over Moby’s classic hit “Porcelain,” A$AP Rocky places the ethereal backing soundtrack to his native New York. Constantly cycling through varying backdrops in dizzying fashion with A$AP Rocky always at the epicenter, the entire video exists in a world all its own–art house meets the streets of rap.
The Blaze – “Heaven”
This is not the first time we have nor will it be the last time we will praise The Blaze’s undeniable talent for the cinematic. The French duo comprised of cousins Guillaume and Jonathan Alric, both music producers and film directors, make full use of their skill set to deliver exceptionally human works of sonic and visual art. “Heaven” sees The Blaze celebrating themes of human connection, celebration, and dance in four of the most empathic moments of this year.
half•alive – “still feel.”
Seemingly shot in one brilliant long take, half•alive’s “still feel.” is currently taking the internet by storm. The technical prowess that underlies “still feel.” is deserving of recognition and admiration in and of itself, but that is only one facet of the surreal dreamscape that half•alive bring to life. The changing color backdrops and sparse use of space give “still feel.” an undercurrent of something sinister without sacrificing its infectiousness.
Nostalgia is in. Bedroom pop sensation clairo and UK producer SG Lewis capitalize on this sentiment in their nostalgia-ridden video for their joint single “better.” Yet more than simply capitalizing on this generation’s fondness of the past, the video is an accurate homage to music videos of the late ‘90s and early aughts–opening music credits and all. it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine SG Lewis and clairo going home with a VMA for this a couple of decades ago.
The Marías – “Only In My Dreams”
Los Angeles’ sexiest band The Marías has been steadily making a name for themselves with their unique sound that exists outside of a single genre or fixed point in time. Their video “Only In My Dreams,” which was released at the tail end of last year, sees the Los Angeles band delivering the perfect visual accompaniment for their cinematic sound. Slowly tracking principle members María and Josh Conway through captivating landscapes, each and every still from “Only In My Dreams” looks as if it could have been ripped from a cinematic masterpiece.
Aries – “SAYONARA”
There is little that is known about growing internet sensation Aries but if there is one thing that is for certain it’s that he has an excellent grasp on how to make something both sonic and visually appealing. The internet enigma’s video for “SAYONARA” is the manifestation of Internet culture. Filled with clever editing, eccentric dance moves, Pokémon textboxes, and 8-bit video game graphics if there was an award for embodying today’s culture it would hands down go to Aries.
Tessa Violet – “Crush”
Tessa Violet originally found her start as YouTube vlogger, and in fitting fashion, she currently has a viral YouTube hit on her hands with the release of her music video for “Crush.” The quirky, upbeat pop song gets an apt visual accompaniment in the entrancingly edited music video. Despite the video consisting solely of Tessa Violet dancing around a grocery store, the perfectly in-time editing details brings the song to new repeat-worthy heights.
Yellow Days – “The Way Things Change”
UK-based artist George van den Broek, more popular known by the moniker of Yellow Days, is the 18-year-old prodigy whose cult-like following seems to build more and more with each passing day. “The Way Things Change,” a soulful take on indie rock, received an aptly fitting visual accompaniment that begs that question of where a music video begins and ends. A “moving poster,” the video is comprised of over 6000 frames, 400 of which were printed to make one-of-a-kind posters. Equal parts psychedelic trip and brilliant merchandising, “The Way Things Change” is a sight to behold.
HONNE – “Me & You ◑”
The British downtempo R&B duo has shown a fascination with Asian culture since their inception; their namesake translates to the idea of true feelings and desires in Japanese, which also serves as a fitting description of their music. For their video of “Me & You ◑,” HONNE enlisted South Korean dance group INTRO Dance Studios. The result is a beautifully choreographed number and equally gorgeous tour of South Korea.
Kim Petras – “Heart to Break”
Not too long ago, before hip-hop reigned supreme, pop ruled over the over the VMAs, and every award ceremony for that matter. Kim Petras’ brand of unapologetic pop feels like a return to form. The music video for her bubblegum pop single “Heart to Break” finds the perfect middle ground between the futuristic, synthetic pop of today and the over-the-top visual set design of the early aughts. The effect is an effervescent blast into the future of pop with a slight tinge of nostalgia.