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If YouTube is throwing a Music Awards show, we’re gonna handicap it

indie label memo youtube music service awards

So here’s a scenario I’m sure you’re familiar with: Someone in accounting – let’s call her ‘Marci – comes to work on casual Friday sporting a Metallica T-shirt. When that loser Brad snickers about it behind her back, she tells him, loud enough for the whole office to hear, “Suck it, Brad!” And just like that, you’re in love, but you have no idea how to win Marci’s affections.

Well, never fear. I’m a sucker for a few things, including good coffee, fine scotch, sandwiches, and, of course, love, so I’m here to help. Because there are few ways to an officemate’s heart more direct than… wait for it… winning an office pool. And I know you’re thinking, “But the Oscars and the Super Bowl are months away!” Well, someone hasn’t been paying attention, because on Sunday, the good folks at YouTube will throw an awards show together, and now that they’ve announced the nominees, I’m here to help you crush. That. Office pool.

Breakthrough Artist of the Year

Let’s start with the category for nominees that have experienced “the biggest growth in views and subscribers”:

  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • Passenger
  • Naughty Boy
  • Rudimental

While Passenger’s brand of catchy acoustic folk-rock is, I’m sure, a big hit at the Starbucks, I’m not sure all the moms that fell in love with them will be voting here. Rudimental and Naughty Boy have creative videos, but they don’t have much name recognition – and considering that the voting for the awards ensures that this is an even bigger popularity contest than the VMAs, that’s going to hurt them both. That leaves Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, both very successful hip hop artists. While Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ songs about shopping at a thrift store are quite catchy, Kendrick Lamar is (in my humble opinion) the best rapper out there now. There’s no one else close. So it’ll be Macklemore & Ryan Lewis! The best guy never wins.

Artist of the Year

This next category is for the most watched, shared, liked, and subscribed-to artists on YouTube:

  • Eminem
  • Justin Bieber
  • Katy Perry
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • Taylor Swift
  • Rihanna
  • Nicki Minaj
  • One Direction
  • Epic Rap Battles of History
  • PSY

That’s a lot of big names, but it doesn’t matter in the least since Taylor Swift will win this one hands down. First, all the Swifties (not to be confused with Swiffers) will use the fact that her ex-boyfriend is in the same category as a rallying cry to vote their girl Taylor to victory. Second, Taylor Swift is part of a five person council – including Oprah, Andy Cohen, Brett Favre, and Papa John – that controls every aspect of our world. The sooner you recognize this fact and accept it, the more likely you’ll be safe in our dystopian near future.

Response of the Year

The first category that’s unique to YouTube’s platform highlights the top “unofficial” fan videos based on views, shares and other activity:

  • Boyce Avenue, featuring Fifth Harmony doing “Mirrors”
  • Jayesslee doing “Gangnam Style”
  • Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix doing “Radioactive”
  • ThePianoGuys doing “Titanium/Pavane”
  • Walk Off the Earth, featuring KRNFX doing “I Knew You Were Trouble”

It’s kind of lame that many of these videos are well-produced, sleek, and professional-looking – shouldn’t this category be dominated by enthusiastic amateurs? The two exceptions are Walk Off the Earth and Jayesslee; both have great voices, but only one has an instrument (Jayesslee). Attention all a cappella groups: Just because Glee was popular doesn’t mean you don’t need a backing band. I’m going with Jayesslee.

YouTube Phenomenon

Another award that is unique to YouTube, this one showcases the videos that you couldn’t escape this year, the videos that inspired the most fan covers, responses, and parodies:

  • “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • “Diamonds” by Rihanna
  • “Gangnam Style” by PSY
  • “Harlem Shake” Original Army Edition
  • “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift

While “Thrift Shop” and “Diamonds” were certainly popular, I’m not sure I’d call them a phenomenon like “Gangnam Style,” which for some unexplained reason is still included in the nominees for the past 12 months despite being published in July of 2012. Maybe they count like dog years. Or maybe they count it because the video is still technically on YouTube. If that’s the case can I put my vote in for “Thriller” for “Video of the Year” for this year and next? The one true phenomenon this year was “Harlem Shake” and if there is true justice in the world and a God in heaven, it will win this category. Well, there is! But unfortunately for the Norwegian Army, that God’s name is Taylor Swift and she’s in this category, too. Congratulations Taylor! I believe in you! I do! Don’t hurt me please.

Innovation of the Year

This is the category I was personally most excited to see; it celebrates the most unique and creative videos on YouTube:

  • “Endless Fantasy” by Anamanaguchi
  • “Ingenue” by Atoms For Peace
  • “Lilies” by Bat For Lashes
  • “See Me Standing” by DeStorm
  • “Say That” by Toro Y Moi

When MTV stopped playing music videos 73 years ago, it didn’t just mean reality shows like “16 and Pregnant” would pollute the airways and be a sign of apocalypse; it meant that creative, experimental filmmaking lost its biggest platform. Before Spike Jonze made this, he made this and this. All of these nominees are amazing, and if I could be sincere for a minute I’d like to point out how inspiring it is that artistry of this level is still being created around music and we should all take a few moments to celebrate this.

Having said that, I’m picking Toro Y Moi, because this video looks like someone ran Tiger Woods through a Williamsburg hipster filter and filmed him singing in the woods, which is sort of hilarious.

Video of the Year

That leaves us with just the final award, the crème de la crème, the big Kahuna. Video of the Year nominees are “the most loved, watched, and shared videos on YouTube over the last 12 months”:

  • “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert
  • “Heart Attack” by Demi Lovato
  • “Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney” by Epic Rap Battles Of History
  • “I Got A Boy” by Girls’ Generation
  • “Beauty And A Beat” by Justinn Bieber, featuring Nicki Minaj
  • “Applause” by Lady Gaga
  • “Best Song Ever” by One Direction
  • “Gentlemen” by PSY
  • “Come and Get It” by Selena Gomez
  • “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus

This one’s tough to break down. The nomination includes half of the past election year, so do I pick “Obama vs. Romney”? Demi Lovato is a person, right? Maybe she could win. PSY? Wait, he had another song? Just go away. Maybe it’s One Direction? You know, call me crazy, but I don’t think “Best Song Ever” is the best song ever. This is tough…

Okay, I think I got it. After some careful consideration, there’s only one video in this bunch that became a cultural phenomenon; only one video that was parodied on Saturday Night Live. Yes, I’m speaking of the artist that everyone loves to hate, and also pretends to be offended by. This was Miley Cyrus’ year, good or bad, tongue or … well, more tongue and the YouTube Music Awards is going to be her party, so she can do what she wants.

Look, I’m not happy about it either, but it’s obvious from the nomination list that YouTube is less interested in innovating the concept of a music awards show and making it native to a non-linear platform than it is in creating some sort of popularity-driven traffic success. And we all know that Miley Cyrus isn’t just traffic gold, she’s traffic platinum.

Besides, this isn’t about who should win or lose, this is about Marci in accounting. Now go set up your office YouTube Music Awards pool so you can crush it this weekend and win Marci’s heart.

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