MTV’s VMA Video Of The Year: A Look Back At The 1990s

Erika Brooks Adickman | September 9, 2010 3:40 pm

With MTV’s VMAs just three days away, we’ve almost cracked the code on our predictions for who will take home the title of 2010’s Video Of The Year. As our VMA retrospective moves on to the 1990s, we’ve noticed that while some vids received the recognition they deserved, others were over looked thanks in large part to Will Smith. Jump below for another surprising look at the winners and losers from ’90-’99—do you remember who beat out Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 1992? 1990: Sinead O’ Connor — “Nothing Compares 2 U” While it’s undoubtedly one of the best music videos of the decade, we couldn’t believe that Sinead managed to beat out Madonna’s “Vogue”— a vid that had more nominations than any other music video that year! 1991: R.E.M. — “Losing My Religion” This seems like the obvious choice over C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)”, Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart”, Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” and The Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself”. Good job MTV! 1992: Van Halen — “Right Now”

“Right Now” still stands as one of our favorite music videos ever, but watching it almost 20 years later it feels dated. Where as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”(also nominated for Video Of The Year) seems to somehow capture an entire movement—grunge—with one five-minute video. It’s less like a time capsule and more like time traveling all the way back to 1992. 1993: Pearl Jam — “Jeremy”
“Jeremy” was awarded four MTV Video Music Awards that year for the disturbing tale of a troubled child. Aerosmith’s “Livin’ On The Edge” and En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” (which won three VMAs that year including Best R&B Video and Best Dance Video) just couldn’t compete with Pearl Jam. But Aerosmith’s time would come the following year. 1994: Aerosmith — “Cryin'”
Sorry Spike Jonze (who lost for the Beastie Boys’ “Sabatoge”), but nothing was ever going to beat Alicia Silverstone getting her belly pierced and then bungee jumping off of a bridge. 1995: TLC — “Waterfalls”
We have no idea how MTV was able to come to a decision on video of the year when TLC’s competitors were Green Day’s “Basket Case”, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s “Scream” and Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”. Poor Spike Jonze was snubbed again! 1996: The Smashing Pumpkins — “Tonight, Tonight”
There was some stiff competition in 1996 with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony “Tha Crossroads”, Foo Fighters’ hilarious Mentos commercial parody “Big Me”, Alanis Morissette’s classic, simple “Ironic”—which we named one of the best music videos of the 90s. Still, nothing could top the Smashing Pumpkins’ homage to Georges Méliès’s silent film A Trip to the Moon. 1997: Jamiroquai — “Virtual Insanity”
We can see how easy it must have been for MTV vote Jamiroquai’s mind-bending, futuristic video that made us all say, “How’d they do that?!” over Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me”. However, figuring out how to decide between “Virtual Insanity”,  Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug” and No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak”, yikes! We’re glad that job wasn’t left up to us or we would still be deliberating some 13 years later. 1998: Madonna — “Ray Of Light” Here’s where MTV started to get confused between a great music video, and one that had been voted up the ranks on TRL. Take for example Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine”, did it deserve a nom for Video Of The Year over Foo Fighters’ “Everlong” or Bjork’s “Bachelorette”—both directed by the irreverent Michel Gondry? And we won’t even bring up the fact that both “Karma Police” and Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” were overlooked for Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”. 1999: Lauryn Hill — “Doo Wop (That Thing)”
Like the song, Lauryn Hill’s vid for “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was the perfect blend of retro and current. As for the other nominees Lauryn was up against that year, all we can say is that ’99 was not a good year for music videos. MTV really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to fill out the rest of this category. Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”? Will Smith w/ Dru Hill & Kool Moe Dee’s “Wild Wild West”? “Livin’ La Vida Loca”?! MTV you so crazy! Do these selections make you want to whip your hair back and forth? Tell us what you think below.