This year, MTV appears to be course-correcting. Cardi is the year's most-nominated artist, including nods for both artist of the year and best new artist, as well as video of the year, song of the year and best collaboration for her Bruno Mars team-up "Finesse (Remix)." She's also nominated in both the best hip-hop (the 21 Savage-featuring "Bartier Cardi") and the best Latin (the Jennifer Lopez and DJ Khaled collab "Dinero") categories, insuring that her presence will be all over the VMAs this August. (Whether she's performing or not is yet to be seen, but if she does, she'll certainly have a wide array of hits to choose from.)
Beyoncé still reigns supreme. Mark it now four years out of the past five that Queen Bey has been nominated for video of the year -- including her second win, in 2016 for "Formation" -- with her and husband JAY-Z's nod in the marquee category for their "APESHIT" video (under the collective duo name of The Carters). It's one of eight nominations for "APESHIT" -- making the Louvre-set clip the most nominated video of the year -- and Bey's seventh nomination for video of the year, unofficially breaking her tie with Eminem to make her the most nominated artist in the category's history. (JAY is a three-time nominee and one-time winner himself, the latter as a featured artist on Rihanna's "Umbrella.")
New artists now have two categories to themselves -- but not much presence elsewhere. The best new artist category, whose existence dates back to the very first VMAs in 1984, has now been joined by the more inscrutable "Push artist of the year" -- named after the monthly distinction awarded by MTV to artists on the rise. The category, which has existed at the MTV Europe Music Awards since 2009, has 15 nominees, ranging from boy bands PRETTYMUCH and Why Don't We to ascendant rappers Tee Grizzley Lil Xan and alt-pop favorites Hayley Kiyoko and Jessie Reyez, offering recognition to a wide variety of up-and-coming artists.
Which is good, because those artists don't see much recognition elsewhere across the list of nominees. Aside from Cardi B and Khalid (the nominated Push artist for July 2017), none of the artists nominated for either best new artist or Push artist of the year are nominated in any of the non-technical video categories. Looking across the lists of nominees in the genre categories, it's basically a who's who of the biggest-name artists of the past decade, with little room made for more recent breakouts.
That's predictable in a category like best rock, where the VMAs have long struggled to identify newer artists worth recognizing, but it's more surprising in best hip-hop, where Cardi B is the lone newish face among familiar stars like Drake, J. Cole, Migos and Nicki Minaj -- with no nod to the past year's surfeit of SoundCloud breakout stars (and their often arresting, frequently Cole Bennett-directed visuals). Even best dance has begun to skew conservative, mostly recognizing veteran DJs like David Guetta, Calvin Harris and the late Avicii, with the already well-established Marshmello being the sole rep for the newer generation. For all the efforts the VMAs have made in recent years to contemporize with their updated tone and categories, some of these nominees are starting to feel a little trad.
A handful of veteran stars are also MIA. It's not just the newbies who'll find themselves snubbed at this year's Video Music Awards, however. Longtime pop star Justin Timberlake, a video of the year winner (and Michael Jackson vanguard award recipient) in 2013, is nowhere to be found among the major categories for his Man of the Woods videos, only nominated for his "Say Something" in the best direction category and for "Filthy" in best choreography. Kendrick Lamar, last year's winner of top honors for his "Humble" clip, is similarly absent for both his DAMN. clips for "Love" and "Loyalty," as well as his visuals for collaborative Black Panther soundtrack singles "King's Dead" and "All the Stars," with the latter earning him his lone recognition, in the best visual effects category.
But the most conspicuously missing name is that of Taylor Swift. Despite having several of the year's most ambitious and most hyped music videos, for Reputation singles "Delicate," "End Game," "...Ready for It?" and "Look What You Made Me Do" (the latter of which even premiered at last year's ceremonies), Swift's name only appears among the 2018 nominations in a trio of technical nominations for "Look": best art direction, best visual effects and best editing. Given Swift's major presence as a personality, performer and nominee at VMAs past -- including a 2015 video of the year win for "Bad Blood," and of course a central role in the most legendary on-stage controversy in show history in 2009 -- her exclusion among the major categories here is fairly noteworthy, and likely indicates that she'll probably be watching the ceremonies from home this year, if at all.
Latin is finally being recognized for its music video presence. A year after MTV controversially decided not to include the global Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee smash "Despacito," whose video quickly became the most-viewed clip in YouTube history, among its initial VMA nominees -- the channel claimed the video was not submitted for consideration, and eventually nominated "Despacito" in its song of the summer category -- it's introduced a new "best Latin" category. The best Latin nominees recognize longtime genre icons like Shakira ("Chantaje") and Jennifer Lopez ("Dinero"), as well as more recent stars J Balvin ("Mi Gente") and Maluma ("Felices los 4," as well as a feature appearance on "Chantaje"), and even both "Despacito" performers (Fonsi for Demi Lovato collab "Échame La Culpa," and Yankee for his solo "Dura").
The category's debut may or may not absolve the "Despacito" snub for all -- and outside of this category, Latin performers are largely absent from the nominees, aside from Reyez's presence in Push artist -- but it shows that MTV is taking steps to acknowledge the ever-growing worldwide presence of Latin music, which at time of posting accounted for six of the top ten spots on Billboard's YouTube Songs chart.