MTV’s VMA Video Of The Year: A Look Back At The 1980s

Sep 8th, 2010 // 2 Comments

The 2010 MTV VMAs are just days away, and with them comes the excitement of the knowing who will claim the most prestigious honor of all: Video Of The Year. As we try to calculate who will take home the silver Moon Man, we find it’s helpful to look back—so we’re starting this retrospective in the ’80s. Take the jump to see the surprising winners and losers from 1984-1989, and guess which category Michael Jackson falls under.

Some of MTV’s selections we completely agree with, while others made us wish Kanye had been around in the 80s to interject and say what we’re all thinking. Where’s that guy when you really need him? Perhaps MTV has just always wanted to keep pop stars on their toes so that no artist—no matter how great his or her music video—ever feels that it’s “in the bag”.

1984: The Cars — “You Might Think”


If there is one word to describe this video it’s “classic”. That said, we almost fell off our chairs when we realized that “You Might Think” had beat out “Thriller”—undoubtedly one of the greatest music videos of all time. Decades later, Filipino prisoners weren’t learning how to reenact “You Might Think” they were learning Michael Jackson’s spellbinding choreography, no offense Ric Ocasek.

1985: Don Henley — “Boys of Summer”


We actually had no recollection of what the “Boys of Summer” video was until we tracked it down for this list. Clearly, we’re not alone in this, out of all the 80s VMA Video Of The Year winners, Don Henley’s has the lowest number of YouTube views. Whereas fellow 1988 nominee Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ video “Don’t Come Around Here No More” has been burned in our brain for all eternity. How could anyone forget the homage to Alice In Wonderland with a twist (she turns into a cake and gets eaten!)? Other noms that year included David Lee Roth’s “California Girls” and “Just A Gigalo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”, great but understandably not award worthy. But (gasp!) U.S.A. For Africa’s “We Are The World”, did MTV really snub the King Of Pop again—along with virtually ever other major recording artist of the decade? We guess so.

1986: Dire Straits — “Money for Nothing”


How could MTV not give Video Of The Year to the band that turned the channel’s slogan into an anthem—and a great video at that. However, we still feel that A-Ha’s “Take On Me” deserved to at least tie for first place.  While Dire Straits got a Weird Al parody back in the 80s, A-Ha is still relevant enough today to become one of the first Literal Music Videos ever created—thus becoming a video sensation twice over.

1987: Peter Gabriel — “Sledgehammer”


Video Of The Year—more like Video Of The Century! Why even bother nominating anything else (Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love”? C’mon!)? This Peter Gabriel stop animation vid holds the record for most MTV Video Music Awards as of 2010.

1988: INXS — “Need You Tonight/Mediate”


An oversight perhaps? U2′s “Where The Streets Have No Name” won a Grammy Award for Best Performance Music Video for their Beatles-inspired rooftop performance, but lost out to INXS. Who got it right?

1989: Neil Young — “This Note’s For You”


Not to knock Neil Young’s brilliant jab at musical artists shilling for Coke and Pepsi, nor its incredibly irreverent music video, but to did it really warrant a win over Madonna’s uber-controversial “Like A Prayer” video (which, talk about a statement, ultimately cost her a her $5 million ad campaign with Pepsi)?

What do you think of MTV’s choices for Video Of The Year for the 1980′s? Were there some videos you think deserve to have been nominated? Comment at us below.

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  1. chris

    I always figured that they thought rewarding Michael Jackson, who was then credited for revolutionizing the ‘artform’, would have been too predictable and given his accolades elsewhere opted to attempt to recognise others.

    SLEDGEHAMMER is still pretty much the best choice of the decade. It wowed me when I first saw the vid in ’86 and wows me to this day. The others (I’m an 80s kid) didn’t.

  2. Sapphire

    Another thing about Jackson in ’84 was that he did win 3 VMAs for “Thriller” anyway — Viewer’s Choice, Overall Production, and Choreography. He also *lost* two other awards — Concept Video to Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”, and Male Video to David Bowie’s “China Girl”, a pair of brilliant videos in their own right. In fact, Bowie was the first solo performer to win the Video Vanguard award that very year (the honor was also given to The Beatles and Richard Lester, with regards to their influential films in the 1960s). Obviously the VMAs weren’t totally a slave to Jackson-hype.

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