Well! It’s the Best Male Video category at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, which is something of a misnomer, since only men are nominated for any awards this year (where all my ladies at?), but hey! Let’s give those dudes some more congratulations for their dude-videos, shall we? Definitely.
It’s a diverse crew nominated this year: There’s a rapper (Kendrick Lamar), a blue-eyed-soul crooner (Robin Thicke), an R&B pop superstar (Justin Timberlake), a spare singer-songwriter (Ed Sheeran) and a retro-pop champion (Bruno Mars). But they have one thing in common: They’re all bros, and they’re all doin’ it for themselves.
Let’s give this thing a whirl.
THOUGHTS ON THE NOMINEES:
Let’s start with the ones that aren’t likely to win at all. Can I be so bold as to say that Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” hasn’t earned its place on this list? There’s no denying that the song is superb — gorgeously rendered retro flavor, all that Police-referencing new wave bounce — but the video is strictly utilitarian, a functional visual accompaniment that’s adequately nostalgic but doesn’t command attention. His fans will defend it, but it’s nowhere near as compelling as the other entrants on this list.
There’s a similar issue with Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drank)” video, which is perfectly serviceable but ultimately pedestrian. Given the sensitive subject matter in which Lamar trades on the song, there was an opportunity to create something with a monster emotional impact; “Pools” falls short. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to toss those two, fond as I am as both of those songs.
Among the true contenders: Ed Sheeran’s video is irresistibly clever in its concept, although it’s far from iconic. I assume I have to explain the concept, since it only has 250,000 views on YouTube (for context, “Mirrors” has over 90 million); starring Rupert Grint (yes, of Harry Potter fame) as a fan obsessed with Sheeran who stalks the singer while impersonating him, the narrative and execution are pitch-perfect, but it’s a small video, narrow in scale and vision, and epics tend to resonate more at an awards show.
“Blurred Lines” is the only video nominated that’s truly epoch-defining; Robin Thicke‘s sexy, smutty Diane Martel-directed mini-masterpiece had everyone talking all summer long, even as the song’s popularity began to (understandably) dwindle. It sparked a conversation about feminism (whether it was virulently anti-feminist or passionately pro-feminist in its relationship to exposed flesh). It’s the only clip on this list with real cultural importance.
Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” is a moving, stirring epic, a paean to how love changes and evolves over time that pays tribute to Timberlake’s grandparents; there’s a story that’s clearly defined, visuals that are poetically symbolic, and it goes with the overall mood of the song in a way that’s hugely appealing. It’s also, in my opinion, a little soft, a little indulgent. There’s something nice and lean about a video like “Blurred Lines” that I rather prefer.
WILL WIN: “Mirrors.” I think the emotional texture of that song’s narratively sophisticated clip will outweigh the slick sex appeal of “Blurred Lines,” and Timberlake has more goodwill in the industry than just about anyone. He’s the golden boy — it’s his to lose.
SHOULD WIN: “Blurred Lines.” It’s one of my least favorite songs of the summer, but this is about the video more so than the music — and nothing captured the gluttonous ethos of the summer better than that clip.
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