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The nominations for the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards have just been announced and, surprise-surprise, it looks like a two-horse race between Adele and the Queen Bee herself, Beyoncé (who racked up a jaw-dropping 11 nominations for Lemonade). There’s little doubt that these two influential artists wholly deserved their thumbs-up from the Starbucks of pop-culture television, but, given MTV’s emphasis on popular appeal, we figured there were just as many deserving artists who might have been overlooked for their chance to join the heralding ranks of MTV VMA nominees. The past year has yielded some impressive, and out-of-fuck-knows-where video releases, and below is a list of the artists we believe unfairly got the short-straw of “popular credibility” in their respective fields.

  • Words: Vincent Dwyer

01. MIA - 'Borders' (Video of the Year)

Nobody puts as much effort into their visuals as MIA. And this isn’t for the sake of flaunting finances and success, put to utilise her platform for social necessity. ‘Borders”’ addresses the tragic plight of the refugee in the 21st century in way that demands both audio and visual cooperation. By themselves, the two flail but together “Borders” becomes a cinematic odyssey into the spirit of human endurance when the world wants to shun you into obscurity. Breathtaking and eye-opening, ‘Borders’ highlights MIA as more than a musician, but an artist with reality as her canvas.

02. Little Simz - 'Gratitude' (Best Female Video)

That London MC, Little Simz, still operates on the fringes of rap is a damn shame and a bloody crime. Not only can she spit a nose-breaking bar or two, or lay some teeth-chattering beats, she can also capture the dissent of the common man through video. She wouldn’t be the first to do this, but on ‘Gratitude’ Simz gets on ground-level with the people of South Africa fighting tirelessly for individual liberties. Balancing socio-political heartbreak with the power of joy and self-belief, ‘Gratitude’ is an eye-opening vision of the world from an artist who deserves more cred than she gets.

03. Blood Orange - 'Augustine' (Best Male Video)

Dev Hynes ain’t fuckin’ around with his gloriously catchy, throwback jams; he wants them to translate visually as well. ‘Augustine’ gets one of the most enjoyable video works of the year, showcasing Hynes’ breadth of character, and flamboyant nature. Paris is Burning may instantly spring to mind when watching this video, and that’s not far off. But not only does Hynes own a beautiful voice, but he’s also got an effortless knack for capturing candid visuals of individual sexuality and empowerment.

04. Vic Mensa/Skrillex - 'No Chill' (Best Collaboration)

Chicago MC and current ACCLAIM cover star, Vic Mensa, has been trying to outdo himself ever since releasing his jaw-droppingly amazing visuals for ‘U Mad’ last year, and ‘No Chill’ is about the closest he’s come since. It’s a bang-on collaboration that features some of Vic’s best bars and Skrillex’s brain-scrambling beats. However, best to ignore the unashamedly white-boy dance techniques of Skrillex, and just appreciate this visual concept of individualism amidst the neon-drenched backdrop of 21st century Tokyo.

05. The Underachievers - 'Play That Way' (Best Hip Hop Video)

Even if their latest mixtape It Happened in Flatbush was disappointing at best, at least the Brooklyn duo’s keen eye for trippy af visuals didn’t waver. No, your computer isn’t glitching itself half-to-death, that’s just the psychedelic, jumpy visuals for the duo’s track “Play That Way”. In terms of flare, this video has got it all, from AK dressed to-the-nines in a neo-80’s floral get-up, and Issa Gold travelling through space in personal hyper-speed. It mightn’t be best to enjoy whilst psychologically impaired, but then again, what would the Underachievers do?

06. Grimes - 'Kill v Maim' (Best Pop Video)

The video for ‘Kill v Maim’ is yet another prime example of Grimes’ own eccentric tastes and accumulative style. Here she finds herself as a… um… vampire? Well, she’s wearing fangs and she’s dancing in blood, so, hey, put two and two together. The Montreal singer/songwriter’s evolution from dark ambience, to bubbly, K-pop inspired bangers is perhaps best characterised in this number, as is her wonderfully curious knack for sampling a smorgasbord of fringe styles and aesthetics.

07. Radiohead - 'Daydreaming' (Best Rock Video)

How the seminal Oxford quintet failed to score a nomination, I do not know. Not they could care less I presume, but their tranquil, six-minute survey of emotion in the visuals for ‘Daydreaming’ would set anyone’s capacity for existential pondering off like a roman candle. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson, these visuals see lead singer, Thom Yorke, wandering in and out of the arbitrary, banal moments of people’s everyday lives. Who’s to say what he’s looking for, but like anything with Radiohead’s name to it, the journey is always more rewarding than the giveaway.  

08. Neon Indian - 'Slumlord Rising' (Best Electronic Video)

Alan Palomo, and his wonderfully oddball chillwave project, Neon Indian gave their eight-and-a-half-minute dancefloor filler, ‘Slumlord Rising’ the charming, psychedelic visuals it wholeheartedly deserved. Set outside, and inside, a midnight disco, ‘Slumlord Rising’ follows a group of eccentric characters who get caught up in the crime spree of the cutthroat figure known as ‘Slumlord’. The heavily filtered neon hues and quasi-futuristic production design make these visuals seem like the distant cousin to such golden-age anime classics as Akira or Ghost in the Shell.

09. FKA Twigs- M3L155X (Breakthrough Long Form Video)

MTV just announced this as a brand new category for the 2016 awards (most likely because Lemonade hadn’t already received enough cred), but it is so, sooooo hard to go past FKA Twigs’ mind-bending visual odyssey for her 2015 EP, M3LL155X. The London singer/songwriter has always been an effortless syndicator of the beautiful and the downright odd. This 18-minute running length of visuals captures everything Twigs’ is heralded for; her excellent dance choreography, entrancing production and her gripping, often disturbing, conceptual storytelling.

010. Vince Staples (Best New Artist)

The Long Beach MC got snubbed in an immense way. Having released one of the most ground-breaking hip hop records of 2015, accompanied by a string of thought-provoking visual releases, that Vince had to give space to the likes of Lukas Graham and Desiigner is sure to have every hip-hop purist feeling some type of way for weeks to come. Just watch these visuals for ‘Lift Me Up’ to see Vince’s flair in both aesthetic and substance.