MTV Video Music Awards: 23 electronic music nominees from 1990 to present
Over the years, MTV’s Video Music Awards has provided some of the music world’s most controversial moments and entertaining shock value. But aside from all the pop star antics and accolades, electronic dance music has remained a pulsating soundtrack in the award show’s history since its inception in 1984. Whether you’re into Depeche Mode, Calvin Harris or Fatboy Slim, here is a look back on some of the VMA’s best electronic/dance music video nominees — past and present — ahead of this Sunday’s show.
Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris – “We Found Love” (2012)
Before his mega-fame days of topping Forbes’ Electronic Cash Kings list, Calvin Harris was known to his growing fan base by records like “The Girls,” “Flashback” and “You Used to Hold Me.” The 31-year-old Scotland native’s career took a turn for superstardom in 2011 after teaming with pop legend Rihanna for their infectious collaboration “We Found Love,” which became one of the best-selling singles of all time. The accompanying music video garnered over half a billion views to date and went on to receive three VMA nominations in 2012 taking home the show’s highest honor: Video of the Year.
Depeche Mode – “Personal Jesus” (1990)
English electronic band Depeche Mode’s classic hit “Personal Jesus” was not only a VMA nominee for Best Post-Modern Video in 1990 but also ranked as one of Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Crystal Waters – “100% Pure Love” (1994)
Nominated for Best Dance Video at the 1994 VMAs, this soulful house hit ruled the Billboard dance charts and earned Waters the title of “Top-Selling Hot Dance Music Club Play Single.” The video’s latex coats and choreography epitomized early ’90s club culture. (Fun fact: Actor Michael K. Williams, aka Omar Little from HBO’s The Wire, was the video’s choreographer.)
Avicii – “Levels” (2012)
As one of the pioneers of the modern EDM movement, Avicii quickly rose to prominence with dance radio singles “Seek Bromance,” “Blessed,” and “Fade Into Darkness.” When he dropped the game-changing smash “Levels” in 2011 — which sampled Etta James’ R&B record “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” from 1962 — his mainstream career skyrocketed with the single going multi-platinum in over 10 countries, earning him VMA nominations for Best Electronic Dance Music Video and Best Choreography in 2012. He was also nominated last year for Best Pop Video for “Wake Me Up” featuring Aloe Blacc, becoming the first dance/electronic song to sell over 4 million copies in the US.
The Prodigy – “Smack My Bitch Up” (1998)
The British big beat trio drew loads of controversy with this music video as feminist groups criticized it for misogyny and violence against women. The video was actually banned from television in the US and UK but, after high demand from fans, MTV decided to show it on their network but only after midnight. It still went on to win Best Dance and Breakthrough Video at the 1998 VMAs with the uncensored video being released in 2002.
Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (2015)
Experimental producer Flying Lotus, real name Steven Ellison, is no stranger to innovating musical and visual concepts which is why his video for “Never Catch Me” is nominated for Best Choreography and Best Cinematography at this year’s awards show. He recently made his national TV debut as the in-studio DJ on Comedy Central’s Why? with Hannibal Buress.
Skrillex – “First of the Year (Equinox)” (2012)
As the lead single off his third EP, More Monsters and Sprites, “First of the Year (Equinox)” garnered Sonny a Grammy nomination for Best Short Form Music Video as well as a Best Electronic Dance Music Video nod and a moon man for Best Visual Effects at the 2012 VMAs.
David Guetta feat. Akon – “Sexy Chick” (2010)
As one of Top 40 radio’s first major EDM hits, “Sexy Chick” not only went triple platinum in the US but also catapulted Guetta into the upper echelons of major dance-pop collaborations. He and Akon received a Best Dance Music Video nomination in 2010 but lost to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”
Justice – “D.A.N.C.E.” (2007)
Coming in at number four on Rolling Stone‘s 100 Best Songs of 2007, this Justice masterpiece was influenced by a milieu of Michael Jackson records including “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” and “Black or White.” Shot in a pop art style, the music video was nominated for Video of the Year and was sampled two years later on Jay-Z’s “On to the Next One” from his Blueprint 3 album.
Moby feat. Gwen Stefani – “South Side” (2001)
Moby enlisted Gwen Stefani for a duet on his most successful single to date and his only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. With the music video taking home the moon man in 2001 for Best Male Video, Moby said its prominent message was to address the desensitization of the youth to violence and their surrounding stimuli.
Passion Pit – “The Reeling” (2009)
This electropop record was nominated for a VMA in 2009 in the Breakthrough Video category portraying a carefree night on the town with torn paper visual effects used as a transitional element. Major Lazer’s “Hold the Line” video was also a nominee but both were ultimately beat out by Matt and Kim’s “Lessons Learned.”
The Chemical Brothers – “Go” (2015)
Grammy-winning dance duo, The Chemical Brothers, are nominated this year for Best Art Direction for their video “Go,” competing with Jack U and Justin Bieber’s “Where Are U Now.” Tom and Ed were also nominated for Best Dance Video at the 1997 VMAs for “Block Rockin’ Beats” but lost to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” video.
Sia – “Elastic Heart” (2015)
With dance prodigy Maddie Ziegler and actor Shia LaBeouf as the video’s lead interpretive dancers, Sia’s “Elastic Heart” music video embodies her artistic ambiguity that has captured the imagination of about 400 million YouTube viewers. Produced by Diplo and featuring The Weeknd on the original record, it is a VMA nominee this year for Best Female Video.
Fatboy Slim – “Weapon of Choice” (2001)
Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” is undoubtedly one of the greatest music videos of all time. Legendary actor Christopher Walken joyously dances, hops and flies through what appears to be an abandoned hotel lobby dressed in an oversized work suit. The music video won six out of its eight VMA nominations in 2001, including Breakthrough Video, Best Direction, Best Choreography, Best Art Direction, Best Editing and Best Cinematography. It lost Video of the Year to Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Fatboy Slim won three moon men prior in 1999 for “Praise You.”
La Bouche – “Be My Lover” (1996)
This hip hop-meets-dance anthem made its way into the soundtracks of classic ’90s films like A Night at the Roxbury and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and nabbed a VMA nomination for Best Dance Video in 1996. It reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Daft Punk – “Da Funk” (1997)
Sporting a dog head, the music video’s protagonist (presumably representing Daft Punk) faces a constant stream of rejection, humiliation and awkwardness from casual interactions with everyday people. While he may not fit in with those in the video, the MTV VMAs certainly liked the weirdness because they nominated it for Breakthrough Video in 1997. The helmeted duo also received a Best Song of the Summer nomination in 2013 for “Get Lucky” alongside Pharrell.
Diplo, Skrillex & Justin Bieber – “Where Are U Now” (2015)
Undoubtedly the biggest dance record of 2015, Jack U and the Biebs scored four nominations at this year’s gathering for Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction, Best Editing and Song of the Summer. With over 100 million YouTube views in just a month and lauded as Justin Bieber’s big comeback, the music video’s pop art inspiration is sure to take home some moon men.
Chet Faker – “Gold” (2015)
Who wears short shorts? Apparently the rollerskating chicks in Chet Faker’s “Gold” music video. The Australian electronic artist’s video is up for a VMA nomination this year for Best Choreography. He has some stiff competition with Flying Lotus’ “Never Catch Me” however.
Aphex Twin – “Come To Daddy” (1998)
Aphex Twin’s dark and demented visuals in the “Come To Daddy” music video are definitely on the sleep-with-one-eye-open end of the spectrum. Images of homelessness, despair and physical violence play out over their aggressive big beat which the MTV VMAs obviously thought was good enough for a Best Special Effects nomination in 1998.
Dirty Vegas – “Days Go By” (2002)
“Days Go By” was essentially the only true electronic/dance record nominated in 2002 for Best Dance Video as the other nominees included pop stars Shakira, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears and Pink who won for her hit “Get the Party Started.”
Zedd feat. Foxes – “Clarity” (2013)
Known in the early stages of his career for collaborations with musicians like Skrillex, Matthew Koma, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, Zedd hit it big with the breakout hit “Clarity” featuring singer Foxes. The song won the Grammy for Best Dance Recording and subsequently landed him an Artist to Watch nomination at the 2013 VMAs. Although he lost to Austin Mahone, he has gone on to produce countless other smashes like “Stay The Night” with Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Ariana Grande’s “Break Free,” and recently “I Want You To Know” with Selena Gomez. Zedd is now embarking on his second headlining tour in support of his newest album, True Colors.
Gesaffelstein – “Hate or Glory” (2014)
As one of electronica’s sonically and visually brilliant artists, French techno producer Gesaffelstein’s “Hate or Glory” music video scored a 2014 VMA nomination for Best Cinematography but somehow lost to Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts.” (Kanye, sit.) Good news is we are less than 2 weeks away from a mysterious new announcement according to the countdown on his website.
C+C Music Factory feat. Freedom Williams – “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” (1991)
The worlds of dance and hip hop collided for this gem that is guaranteed to have everybody on the dance floor even today. Nominated for a whopping seven VMA categories in 1991 including Video of the Year, this anthemic classic took home the awards for Best Dance Video and Best Choreography. The song went on to be featured in numerous films like Sister Act, Space Jam, Chicken Little and Old School.
Miley Cyrus will host the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards which airs live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 30 at 9pm ET on MTV.