If I Picked The 2011 Video Music Awards


The lead up to the Video Music Awards on MTV is always a time of personal reflection — not only on how removed I’ve become from the popular music of the day (snob), but also on what videos I might pick for the various awards that are up for grabs, if in some Bizarro universe someone actually gave a shit about my opinion. The only rules I followed were that videos must have been posted within a year of the VMA date of 28 August 2011 (easy), official music videos only (easier), and no videos currently nominated by MTV (easiest). After much consideration and spending the past few nights taking hazy tours through various favorites lists, I give you my personal picks for the 2011 Video Music Awards.

Video of the Year

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOMe-8Tf1Y0&w=575&h=390]

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for Angola. It’s my only postcolonial interest on the entire continent of Africa aside from Liberia (which is interesting like watching a grown man shit out his own skeleton is interesting), primarily because the culture is saturated with one of the most fascinating musical histories in the world — a history that includes the ravey Kuduro movement, which Portuguese group Buraka Som Sistema helped popularize. While the music may sound slightly repetitive to your highly-trained ear, keep in mind that these kids didn’t have rich white parents to buy them a drum sampler that now sits on the shelf collecting dust; the roots of this style were found in cellphone ringtones and other rudimentary instruments afforded to third world countries like Angola. Filmed during a recent tour stop, the “Hangover” video is like dropping acid and taking a stroll through a favela — a breathtaking and otherwise inaccessible window into a beautiful but impoverished nation that is literally held together by music.

Best Video with a Message

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbW9JqM7vho&w=575&h=390]

Also from (South) Africa, Die Antwoord is the half-tongue-in-cheek vessel of Watkin Tudor Jones and my secret crush, Yolandi Visser, who are just about the only people who have the, um, balls to pull this video off. What at first seems to take the cake for the Most Freudian award is actually a scathing critique of the Xhosa tribe’s highly controversial circumcision ritual — a practice that guest rapper Wanga refused to partake in, thus dubbing him an “evil boy” and permanent outcast from Xhosa manhood. Much of the set is designed by the same people who worked on the film District 9, and almost everything, including the huge Tokoloshe monster, is symbolic. Steeped in the culture, mythology, and slang of South Africa and its unique Zef counter-culture movement, “Evil Boy” is an erect, throbbing fuck you to both homophobia and a system we in the West can never fully comprehend.

Best New Artist

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oVsdiPTsv8&w=575&h=390]

Hands down, the best new artist on the scene is Lord Huron, a group that originally hails from my home state of Michigan. Frontman Ben Schneider admits that his childhood jaunts on Michigan’s Lake Huron influence his songwriting, which clearly shows; Lord Huron’s music is like being suspended in a hazy, not unpleasant but slightly ominous dream state. The video for “The Stranger” captures that feverish quality in a haunting and engrossing story of the conflict of Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Self, and Man vs Man with a fucking shotgun.

Best Hip-Hop Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSMD4G3szw8&w=575&h=390]

Many of this year’s hip-hop videos have been dominated by images of bizarre, anti-social behavior, from Tyler the Creator’s climactic suicide in “Yonkers” to Kanye West’s inexplicable murder and mutilation of various women in his “Monster” video. But, not only was this done before, it was also done better by Fat Tony, a Nigerian rapper whose philanthropic efforts include paying Houston schoolchildren to promote literacy. His video for “Nigga U Ain’t Fat” is a day in the life of a dude who is seriously hungry. The playful nature of the video lulls you into a false sense of security before the horrific, abrupt ending that will have you running screaming the next time your mom bakes you cupcakes.

Best Collaboration

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eogS6W9Dus&w=575&h=390]

This video features three of my favorite things: silly yet highly danceable music, folk master flex Will Oldham (aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy), and a fat guy wearing a t-shirt with funny animals on it. Hot Chip’s original video for “I Feel Better” was already nothing short of high art, and making a remix with the enigmatic stylings of the Bonnie Prince is an unholy combination of awesome forces beyond the depths of what anyone thought was physically possible, kind of like a liger, or a really good seafood taco.

Best Male Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ye18aMVD7Q&w=575&h=390]

This was admittedly the hardest category for me, as it threw me into a deep meditation on semantics, so I believe my runner-up deserves an honorable mention. The video for Zoo Kid’s “Out Getting Ribs” probably best seriously fits this category, since it’s a commendable solo male effort from an amazingly talented young man; however, I also considered that the darkwave stylings of a pre-pubescent Rick Astley lookalike might not be as interesting to anyone else as it is to me. That is why, while the former is worth a watch, I award this category to London natives The Chap’s video for “We’ll See to Your Breakdown,” which really needs no explanation as to why it is the best video of, well, a male.

Best Female Video


I know picking the video “Robot Hands” by Starkey is cheating, since he technically has a penis; nevertheless, he’s wearing a dress in the video, so we’ll let it slide. The video only seems to be available on Pitchfork, since the asshole who uploaded it to YouTube obviously didn’t understand the sine qua non of the images synching to the music. This visual assault of a video illustrates a recurring nightmare of mine in which I take a heroic dose of dissociatives and come to in the middle of a Pentecostal church on a Sunday morning.

Best Pop Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9qhv-XY4Ig&w=575&h=390]

The indie-pop stylings of Australian group Architecture in Helsinki are featured in this video of a debonair Paul Allen-y gentleman who slowly succumbs to the effects of candy-flipping in his ultramodern man cave, which begs the question of how to pronounce the Swedish word for “futon with retractable hands in my crotch” the next time I’m at IKEA.

Best Rock Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-sT-fUnxiI&w=575&h=390]

And finally, Mississippi garage-rockers Bass Drum of Death bring you lost video footage from that night you can’t remember. This video is everything that was great about college, unless you were the dumbass who volunteered his house for the party, in which case it was the beginning of your estrangement from your most cherished loved ones. If this doesn’t evoke some sense of youthful nostalgia, I feel sorry for you. And if it does, then you can kiss your plan to run for congress goodbye.

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