The MTV Video Music Awards take over L.A. Live in Los Angeles, California on August 30, 2015. This year marks the 32nd year of the biggest night on the MTV calendar and over the years, and in that time, a wide array of categories has graced the field. Some categories have disappeared over the years (Best R&B Video, Best Group Video, Viewer’s Choice) while a number of them have managed to survive for the long haul. Two awards that have been a staple of the show since it’s inception in 1984 are the coveted Best New Artist and Video of the Year awards. And over the next two weeks, I will take a look at the previous winners in these two categories and spotlight my Top 10 favorites. This week, it’s Best New Artist, or as it’s referred to now, Artist to Watch. Rock bands, boy bands, girl groups, pop icons, rap phenoms, soul sisters, teenage rebels; they’ve all taken home the Best New Artist/Artist to Watch award, but which of these artists have the best music or have had the most lasting legacy? Let’s look to this week’s edition of the Tuesday Top 10 to find out!
#10. Guns N’ Roses 
Guns N’ Roses busted into the mainstream with a loud and aggressive bang courtesy of their music video for “Welcome to the Jungle” in an era where hair metal reigned supreme. And it worked for them, allowing their iconic video for “Welcome to the Jungle” to defeat forgotten artists The Godfathers, Buster Poindexter, Swing Out Sister, and Jody Watley for the BNA prize. GNR would go on to have a fruitfully successful career, but things would eventually go South, putting things nicely. Today, the only original member left is controversial lead singer Axl Rose while other members (Slash, in-particular) would establish careers of their own. But for a period in the late-80s to early-90s, GNR was one of the biggest bands around.
Much like Guns N’ Roses, 50 Cent was a very successful musician for a while before completely slipping from the mainstream conscious for his music and becoming more well known for the drama that seemed to follow him. But for a time in the 2000’s, Fiddy was the biggest rapper in the mainstream and his party anthem “In Da Club” kick-started it all. The video was able to defeat videos from All-American Rejects, Sean Paul, Simple Plan, and a couple of my favorite artists in Evanescence and Kelly Clarkson for the Best New Artist moonman. His second album The Massacre went platinum in a week and kept his momentum rolling. It really wasn’t until after his 3rd album Curtis that the story of 50 Cent as a musical superstar began to fade. But at the time, 50 was a star (still is, just in a different lane) and had numerous bangers to his name.
#8. Maroon 5 
If it were up to me, either rapper Kanye West or then-teen R&B singer JoJo would’ve left the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards with the Best New Artist trophy [Hey, their nominated videos “All Falls Down” and “Leave (Get Out)” were and still are jams!]. However, Maroon 5 were just as worthy of it; in a category that included the aforementioned West and JoJo, as well as The Darkness, Jet, and Yellowcard, Maroon 5 were a powerful force to be reckoned with due to how massive their video and song “This Love” was. The song still receives play today, which is not a surprise seeing as Maroon 5 is one of the biggest names in music in 2015. Personally, I prefer their music from the 2000’s music compared to their newer, more poppy material, but regardless, Adam and the gang have given us numerous catchy jams that’ll be remembered for a long time.
#7. Lady GaGa 
It was incredibly easy to see that Lady GaGa was gonna win this award right from the jump; her competition in the category was two artists who are remembered as novelty footnotes in mainstream music history (Asher Roth and 3OH!3) and a couple of rappers we had yet to see the full potential of (Drake and Kid Cudi). Right from the jump, GaGa’s potential as a future superstar in popular music was evident; she took over the radio and video channels in 2009 and has continued to be a critical and commercial force in music. She’s now one of the VMA’s biggest winners of all time and even though she took a break from the pop world recently to release jazz records with Tony Bennett, you know she could come back into the pop fold any day and have music listeners in the palm of her hand.
#6. Avenged Sevenfold 
It’ll probably shock some people to find out that now-R&B/pop megastars Rihanna and Chris Brown actually lost the Best New Artist VMA in 2006. Nominated alongside alternative bands Panic! At The Disco and Angels & Airwaves, as well as British import James Blunt, they all bowed at the feet of heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. “Bat Country” wasn’t from their debut album, but it proved popular enough to break them onto the MTV airwaves (TRL especially) to win them the prize as a breakthrough act. These days, A7X probably aren’t likely to received Top 40 radio play due to Top 40 radio being primarily dance-driven now, but in the rock world, they’re still extremely popular. Even after losing their drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan in 2009, they kept on truckin’ and continue to produce badass hard rock jams for the masses.
#5. Avril Lavigne 
Beating out formerly-popular R&B performers Ashanti and B2K, rockers Puddle of Mudd, and acoustic playboy John Mayer in 2002 was a teenaged Anti-Britney with some catchy-yet-angsty jams to unleash on the world. The song “Complicated” took over the airwaves and became the breakout hit for the Canadian cutie, and she kept the momentum going with other classics such as “Sk8er Boi”, “I’m With You”, ”My Happy Ending”, and the polarizing “Girlfriend”. And though she’s not as popular in the mainstream as she was a decade ago, she continues to release music, sometimes to point of inciting some sort of controversy. And through it all, her Blackstar army are still by her side, rocking out to her music from before and even recently.
#4. Gym Class Heroes 
In 2007, Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen made the cross over to America, American Idol star Carrie Underwood made the cross over with a bona fide country-pop smash, and Peter Bjorn and John whistled their way to the Indie scene’s hearts. However, none of that was enough to topple the Fueled By Ramen hip-hop/rock-hybrid collective of Gym Class Heroes. In a field full of talented performers, Travie and the gang were able to snag the award of the back of their catchy and memorable (and Katy Perry-cameo’d) “Cupid’s Chokehold” video, as well as the catchy clip for “Clothes Off”. Like most acts, Gym Class Heroes’ mainstream light has diminished; in fact, they’re been on a number of hiatuses and allowed Travie the opportunity to establish a career as a solo artist. But they did manage to notch a few more hits and their mixture of genres makes them one of the best BNA winners ever in my opinion.
#3. Alicia Keys 
In 2001, Alicia Keys was the breakout R&B/soul sweetheart of music; an immensely talented singer, songwriter, and pianist writing some of the deepest, most meaningful music the mainstream had to offer at the time. She was big in the pop world as well as the R&B world, and the success was paid off with a boatload of awards, including Grammy Awards and the prestigious Best New Artist MTV Award. Defeating Sum 41, Nikki Costa, David Grey, and another future huge name in Coldplay for the award, Alicia Keys was set for a bright future in the music world and she’d live up to that by becoming one of the biggest R&B stars of the decade. As someone who was a huge Alicia Keys fan then and can still rock with her music now, she definitely earned that trophy.
#2. Nirvana 
What can I say about Nirvana and their impact on music that hasn’t already been expressed through numerous career retrospectives, VH1 specials, books, magazine features, internet articles, and all that other buzz? “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blasted it’s way into America’s conscious and has continued to live in infamy. They also just happened to defeat Tori Amos, Arrested Development, and Cracker for the Best New Artist moonman along the way. Nirvana would go on to win more moonmen before lead singer Kurt Cobain unfortunately took his own life and Dave Grohl would form his own just-as-successful band. Their music lives on and remains some of the most iconic and influential music ever released more than two decades later.
#1. Eminem 
Like Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses, Eminem was a huge game-changer when he stepped on the scene. The difference, however, was that Eminem was perhaps the most controversial as his lyrics offended pretty much every group of people. And apparently, that’s a habit he still can’t shake off even in his evolved years of artistry. However, the appeal of Eminem is that he was fun, he was in-your-face, he was fearless, he was raw, and he was also pretty much the most talented white guy to step in the rap game maybe ever. In other words, the controversy worked in his favor and has allowed him to release classic record after classic record after classic record. (And even a few joints he admits were duds, too.) His video “My Name Is” winning Best New Artist over Jennifer Lopez, Orgy, and Kid Rock was definitely a sign of things to come in a Shady-run music world.
This X-Factor girl group won Best New Artist over Charli XCX, Schoolboy Q, Sam Smith, and 5 Seconds of Summer. The 5SOS fans were disappointed (to say the least) after the loss, but even though I haven’t exactly loved every song 5H have released to date, they have potential for R&B/pop greatness and are legitimately talented singers (I’ve taken a liking to Lauren Jauregui in-particular).
In the 90’s, rock music was still able to thrive in the mainstream and Stone Temple Pilots were a highly successful band with “Plush” being one of their biggest hits. They can brag about defeating Tasmin Archer, Belly, and Porno for Pyros for Best New Artist; good luck remembering any of those three acts, though.
You remember Fiona Apple, right? She was the teenage girl who’s video “Sleep to Dream” defeated videos by Hanson, Meredith Brooks, Jamiroquai, and The Wallflowers for Best New Artist in 1997, and she then proceeded to put this “bullsh*t” world on blast in her acceptance speech. Remember? Ah, good times; good times.
Counting Crows were a huge adult alternative band for a while; I know “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Accidentally in Love” ring some bells. Hopefully “Mr. Jones” does too, because that was the video they defeated Beck, Björk, Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, and one of my favorite bands in Green Day with to win Best New Artist in 1994.
Alanis Morissette is a former child star who successfully re-invented herself as an angsty alternative rocker in the 2000s and she was rewarded with a Best New Artist victory over Tracy Bonham, Garbage, and Jewel. It was for “Ironic”, but don’t lie: you know you know the words to her biggest hit “You Oughta Know”!
The outspoken Tyler, The Creator was certainly an unexpected choice for Best New Artist as he defeated three other rappers (Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, and Kreayshawn) and an Indie band (Foster The People). While I don’t listen to him as much as the choices that made the list, he’s certainly unique and that counts for something.
Not gonna lie, this band is here almost entirely off the power of “Cult of Personality”, or as wrestling fans know it as, former WWE Superstar CM Punk‘s entrance music. This song was big enough for them to take down Paula Abdul, Nenah Cherry, and Edie Brickell & New Bohemians for the prize.