Nominees for Best Collaboration: Beyonce and Jay Z. Photo: AFP
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Sydney filmmaker Daniel Askill, who directed Sia's much-talked about Chandelier music clip, has taken a playful swipe at her competition for the main prize at Monday's MTV Video Music Awards.
Askill said while he was proud of the clip, which stands out as the edgiest and most filmic of the nominations for video of the year, he hinted he didn't expect to win and added Sia wouldn't even be at the ceremony.
Australian band 5 Seconds of Summer is our critics' pick to win 'Artist to Watch'. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
"The VMAs are a lot of fun but they are more about the artists themselves and the songs than the video," Askill said.
"Once upon a time the VMAs were more about craftsmanship of videos but as they have evolved they've become much more artist-centric which is understandable."
While Sia's clip, which featured tween dancer Maddie Ziegler balletically leaping through a run-down apartment building in a skin-coloured leotard while wearing Sia's now iconic platinum wig, generated 130 million YouTube views and plenty of debate. But it wasn't as much of a pop culture phenomenon as its rivals. Miley Cyrus's infamous (and let's be frank, completely over-the-top) Wrecking Ball clip has cracked the top 10 most-viewed clips of all-time. It has been watched nearly 700 million times.
Iggy Azalea: nominated for Best Female Video against Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Beyonce and Lorde. Photo: Getty Images
The most popular winners would be the Fancy, Iggy Azalea's Clueless parody (and the biggest song of the year so far in the US) or Pharrell's feelgood clip Happy, which has been watched 400 million times but also sparked a DIY viral trend of people around the world making their own version.
The other nomination was the smouldering Drunk in Love by pop titans Bey-Z. "People turn on their TV to watch Beyonce, not the person who directed her video," Askill said.
Askill defended criticism that Chandelier sexualises Ziegler, 11 and a former reality TV star in the US, saying such observations were more about critics' own preoccupations than the actual clip.
"We didn't want it to be unsettling but we were aware it was left of centre. People have commented but it was not our intention to sexualise Maddie in any way. I can see why they say that, it's young girl in a video thats had some adult themes. But that was never premeditated.
Askill said the clip is a marriage of reality TV and an arthouse aesthetic. "Tracking through these dark moody rooms the last thing you expect to find is a little girl dancing.
"Sia and I feel like we made something that for us had a lot of integrity and we are very proud.
"She is truly a force of nature, she's channelling something very special. She is always finely crafting what she wants to do ... it's very inspiring to see a friend being so clear and focused about their creative vision."
Chandelier is also a strong contender for the best choreography award. Ziegler's graceful but manic dancing was choreographed by Ryan Heffington.
The 2014 VMAs hold much more interest for Australia than usual, with three homegrown acts - Iggy Azalea, Sia and 5 Seconds of Summer - receiving 11 nominations. Our best chances are in the main category, video of the year, where Iggy Azalea (with the monster hit Fancy) and Sia (with Chandelier) are both nominated, and artist to watch, in which Sydney band 5 Seconds of Summer (with She Looks So Perfect) must be favoured.
Azalea has seven nominations, one less than Beyonce, who will receive the night's video vanguard award - a career achievement award of sorts.
In the lead up to Monday's event, our experts have made their predictions across 10 key categories.
But we all know actual awards for musical prowess are not really the point at the VMAs: this is an awards ceremony at which just about anything can - and has - happened. Last year's twerkaholic Miley Cyrus gyrated all over Robin Thicke while poking out her tongue. We could barely watch, but we couldn't look away either.
In 2010 Lady Gaga wore a dress made out of meat, really. The year before Kanye West grabbed the microphone from Best Female video winner Taylor Swift to proclaim Beyonce should have won instead. In 2003, Madonna and Britney Spears kissed live on camera.
So what might happen this year to shock audiences? What will the VMA OMG moment be?
Could celeb Queen Kim Kardashian truly test the devotion of her husband, Kanye, by dumping a full bucket of ice on his often grumpy head live on global television? Of all the people to cop a surprise drenching, Kanye's reaction would surely be a delight to behold.
Shortlist editor and celebrity writer Louise Rugendyke wonders if Bey-Z might dramatise their rumoured split.
"In 2011, Beyonce ended her performance of Love on Top with a mic drop and baby bump reveal. Could this year's rendition of her nominated Partition end with Bey taking it literally and dividing her things with Jay Z?"
Music critic Bernard Zuel daydreamed that Adelaide's one-time sensational singing nun, Sister Janet Mead - who had a top 10 hit in the US with The Lord's Prayer in 1974 - might join Iggy Azalea for an "all Australian mash-up of Fancy Our Father". Go on, it's not a sin to imagine it.
If only this year's VMA OMG moment would be so clever. It's more likely that Sia will shock by actually showing her face in public, or that Nicki Minaj - who is clearly in the mood to shake her money-maker after the release of her latest single Anaconda - will show us the real meaning of twerk when she opens the awards with Bang Bang.
And given that sneak previews of the seating plan for Monday shows Nicki Minaj will be seated next to Miley Cyrus, well, that could spell trouble.
OUR CRITICS' PICKS
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Beyoncé ft. Jay Z, Drunk In Love; Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX, Fancy; Miley Cyrus, Wrecking Ball; Pharrell Williams, Happy; Sia, Chandelier.
Last year's winner: Justin Timberlake, Mirrors.
Who should win: Miley Cyrus. Come on, everyone's still talking about it. Or imitating it.
Who should not win: Pharrell Williams. We are not that happy.
Who probably will win: Beyonce and Jay Z, because who doesn't like celebrity soft porn?
- Bernard Zuel
BEST MALE VIDEO
Nominees: Ed Sheeran ft. Pharrell Williams, Sing; Eminem ft. Rihanna, The Monster; John Legend, All of Me; Pharrell Williams, Happy; Sam Smith, Stay With Me.
Last year's winner: Bruno Mars, Locked Out Of Heaven.
Who should win: Ed Sheeran for defying all logic on male redheads.
Who should not win: Eminem for not finding a new character.
Who probably will win: Pharrell Williams as apparently we wish we were that happy.
- Bernard Zuel
BEST FEMALE VIDEO
Nominees: Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea, Problem; Beyonce, Partition; Iggy Azalea ft. Charli xcx, Fancy; Katy Perry ft. Juicy J, Dark Horse; Lorde, Royals.
Last year's winner: Taylor Swift, I knew You Were Trouble.
Who should win: Lorde. The lo-fi, stripped back video proves that sometimes it's okay to let your talent speak for itself.
Who should not win: Katy Perry. She may be dressed as Cleopatra and flanked by dancing cats, but even that can't distract from the truly tinny awfulness that is Dark Horse.
Who probably will win: Beyonce. Yes, it's explicit, but would you say no to the Queen B if she greeted you in the driveway wearing what could politely be described as dental floss?
- Louise Rugendyke
BEST POP VIDEO
Nominees: Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea, Problem; Avicii feat. Aloe Blacc, Wake Me Up; Iggy Azalea ft. Charli xcx, Fancy; Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz, Talk Dirty; Pharrell Williams, Happy.
Last year's winner: Selena Gomez, Come and Get It.
Who should win: Pharrell Williams. Happy is still catchy as hell and what's not to love about a man in knee-length shorts and a large hat?
Who shouldn't win: Jason Derulo. With lines such as "sold out arenas, you can suck my ..." Derulo should be banned on taste grounds alone. Talk dirty? I just wish he'd shut up.
Who probably will win: Iggy Azalea can do no wrong this year and Fancy is catchy pop hip-hop. Bonus points for the homage to Clueless in the clip.
- Louise Rugendyke
BEST HIP-HOP VIDEO
Nominees: Childish Gambino, 3005; Drake ft. Majid Jordan, Hold On (We're Going Home); Eminem, Berzerk; Kanye West, Black Skinhead; Wiz Khalifa, We Dem Boyz.
Last year's winner: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (featuring Ray Dalton), Can't Hold Us.
Who should win: Childish Gambino – for making some of the freshest, most out-there hip-hop in recent memory.
Who should not win: Kanye West – you saw what he did when Taylor Swift beat Beyonce that time. Imagine the reaction if he loses ...
Who probably will win: Drake – he didn't win last year and Americans especially love the guy.
- George Palathingal
BEST ROCK VIDEO
Nominees: Arctic Monkeys, Do I Wanna Know? Black Keys, Fever; Imagine Dragons, Demons; Linkin Park, Until It's Gone; Lorde, Royals.
Last year's winner: Thirty Seconds to Mars, Up in the Air.
Who should win: Arctic Monkeys – for a seething beast of a tune from a band on fire.
Who should not win: Lorde – she's amazing and all but seriously, best rock video?
Who probably will win: Lorde – even if they got the genre wrong those crazy VMA voters will probably give it to her.
- George Palathingal
ARTIST TO WATCH
Nominees: Charli xcx, Boom Clap; 5 Seconds of Summer, She Looks So Perfect; Sam Smith, Stay With Me; Schoolboy q, Man of the Year; Fifth Harmony, Miss Movin On.
Last year's winner: Austin Mahone, What About Love?
Who should win? Sam Smith - voices like that don't come along often. Reward him!
Who shouldn't win: Schoolboy q, for his lyrics: "Titty, ass, hands in air, it's a party over here. Shake it for the man of the year!". More like loser of the decade.
Who probably will win: 5 Seconds of Summer - with so much chart success, there's no stopping their momentum.
- Peter Vincent
BEST VIDEO WITH A SOCIAL MESSAGE
Nominees: Angel Haze ft. Sia, Battle Cry; Avicii ft. Dan Tyminski, Hey Brother; Beyoncé, Pretty Hurts; David Guetta ft. Mikky Ekko, One Voice; J. Cole, Crooked Smile; Kelly Rowland, Dirty Laundry.
Last year's winner: Macklemore and Lewis, Same Love.
Who should win? Angel Haze's song is terrific (and features our Sia), but J. Cole's message about inappropriate police action is so timely and dedicated to a seven-year-old girl who died after being shot in a drug raid.
Who shouldn't win: Avicii or David Guetta, because the songs are so hokey.
Who probably will win: Avicii or David Guetta, because the songs are so hokey.
- Peter Vincent
MTV CLUBLAND AWARD
Nominees: Calvin Harris, Summer; Disclosure, Grab Her; DJ Snake and Lil Jon, Turn Down for What; Martin Garrix, Animals, Zedd ft. Hayley Williams,Stay the Night.
Who should win: DJ Snake and Lil Jon. Theirs is a hilariously busy clip amounting to three minutes of chaos and what could be wrong with that?
Who should not win: Calvin Harris. Girls in high cut shorts dancing around cars? What decade are we in?
Who probably will win: Disclosure. Because dancing like an idiot is just as acceptable as your best moves.
- Tom Decent
Nominees: Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea, Problem; Beyonce ft. Jay Z, Drunk in Love; Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne & Tyga, Loyal; Eminem ft. Rihanna, The Monster; Katy Perry ft, Juicy J, Dark Horse; Pitbull ft. Kesha, Timber.
Who should win: Ariana with Iggy. Girl power at its best.
Who should not win: Pitbull. I forgot all about his phoney talent and B-Grade acting skills (and those pants from the World Cup) until I looked at the nominees.
Who probably will win: Beyonce ft Jay Z. Just because it's Beyonce and Jay Z!
- Tom Decent