MTV plans to announce the nominations for the network’s annual Video Music Awards tomorrow, and sure as ever, there’ll be a number of glaring snubs. In order to cut off the ensuing outrage, SPIN staffers have decided to highlight five of the year’s best videos that’ll surely be overlooked during tomorrow’s nominations, but deserve their chance to shine nonetheless. Put them on a pedestal, they’ll never disappoint you.
Best Video With a Social Message — Boys Noize, “Cerebral”
The Best Video With a Social Message tends to go to schmaltzy clips that put their sociopolitical lessons right at the foreground, but it’d be a better world if Boys Noize & Pilo’s nigh-inscrutable, dystopian “Cerebral” video had a shot at that mantle. The LIL INTERNET-directed clip is a jumpy collage of surveillance footage documenting the modern world’s endless calamity (police brutality, plane crashes, and animal attacks, just to name a few). The message here is that everything sucks, and based on a shadowy authority figure that looms in the visual’s only original material, there may not be all that much you can do about it. — COLIN JOYCE
Best Rock Video — Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian At Best”
Look, it’s not to say that successful indie-rock personalities can’t transition from niche “underground” fandom to collecting trophies at a Top 40-pushing juggernaut award show (one word: Nirvana) — it’s just that, well, MTV rarely welcomes them into the fold anymore. These days, if an “alternative” artist does somehow manage to force their way in, they’ll get a few seconds of song placement in Teen Wolf. Or, in Courtney Barnett’s case, a frivolous lyric quiz. (Whatever keeps the kids tapping their iPhones under their desks, right?) But if we held any sway at the flailing cable network, we’d award a Moonman to the “Pedestrian At Best” visuals, a simultaneously funny and sad narrative in which a moping, clown-faced Barnett tries — and fails — to entertain a carnival crowd. Because who hasn’t, at one point or another, gotten sick of being the best versions of themselves? — RACHEL BRODSKY
Best Art Direction — Dan Deacon, “When I Was Done Dying”
What do you get when you combine Dan Deacon’s psychedelic composition and the innate weirdness of anything related to Adult Swim? The music video for “When I Was Done Dying,” a fittingly bizarre illustration of Deacon’s rebirth/reincarnation tale, drawing upon the talents of nine animators who took on different sections of the track. Despite wildly varying styles, the visuals and their bright color palate remain cohesive even as they reinvent themselves in imaginative styles, including that of a minimalist fairy-tale and a CGI assembly line nestled right in the uncanny valley.
— JAMES GREBEY
Best Female Video — Zara Larsson, “Lush Life”
The greatest “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” lyrical kiss-off since Britney’s breathy original, Sweden’s Zara Larsson splices together a series of slow-but-sure cuts as she dances, skips, rips off jewelry, poses, and prances for the camera, treating it like a mirror. There’s been no better, simpler, cleaner music video by someone so young this year, and it doesn’t hurt that the clip signals the arrival of a clever, promising pop star waiting patiently for her turn in the spotlight. — BRENNAN CARLEY
Video of the Year — Tame Impala, “Cause I’m a Man”
When your listeners are taking the lyrics “‘Cause I’m a man, woman / Don’t speak before I do” too seriously, just use muppets. At least, that may have been Tame Impala’s train of thought when dreaming of the music video for “‘Cause I’m a Man,” in support of their SPIN Essential and Album of the Week, Currents. It’s impossible to not be amused by the fuzzy felt creatures, who open and shut their Pac Man mouths with pencil-drawn mustaches, bulbous noses, and floppy yarn hair — all while staring out with eyes vacant enough to match their audience’s equally hazy mindsets. — HARLEY BROWN