13 Best New Artist VMA Noms We’re Not Ashamed To Still Enjoy

1997 MTV Video Music Awards
Credit: Getty Images

People like to toss around the phrase “guilty pleasure,” but is there a song that you would never, ever, EVER admit to liking in front of your friends, relatives or girlfriend? We’d like to think not, ’cause despite the guilt attached, it is not a crime to own up to the joy.

As we begin the countdown to the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, we’re looking back at some of the classic nominees for Best New Artist. And we can’t help nodding our head, even if we’re occasionally looking around the room to make sure no one else is there.

Sade — “Smooth Operator” (1985)

We can tell your eyebrows are already scrunched up at us. We ain’t gonna explain ourselves, though. Try, just try, not singing the chorus of this song after scoring digits. Cornball theme song at first, but “Smooth Operator” will quickly become your go-to jam when you’re stroking your chin in the mirror before your next date.

a-ha — “Take On Me” (1986)

At any given time in America, at least 50 bars will be throwing an ’80s night party. This song is guaranteed to be included in the DJ’s playlist. A groundbreaking video for its animation, the song is fun to drunkenly jump around to with your girlfriend. By the time you two make it to the multiple synthesizer solo, you’ll be back-to-back playing the air keyboard like champs.

Bruce Hornsby & The Range — “The Way It Is” (1987)

This is the kind of song you blast at the end of a long road of bulls**t. It’s no wonder 2Pac‘s crew decided to sample it after he passed away. Life gets tough. Listen to this and move forward.

Beck — “Loser” (1994)

Is Beck the world’s first modern hipster? This video is all the proof we need, because it’s a spiraling tornado of one strangely ironic image after another. That doesn’t change how we’ve come to bob our heads to Beck’s MC skills. Plus, that breakbeat is killer!

Fiona Apple — “Sleep to Dream” (1997)

So, basically, this is Fiona Apple writhing around on the ground and throwing down an attitude that could melt the faces off some of today’s pop stars. Yep, we’re sold.

Jamiroquai — “Virtual Insanity” (1997)

HOLY CRAP!! EVERYTHING IS MOVING!! HOW IN THE WORLD ARE THEY DOING THAT??? Well, by now, we know. But it doesn’t make this video any less cool. Plus, the song is a bass-twanged earworm that gets stuck in our heads for days.

Chumbawamba — “Tubthumping” (1998)

Speaking of songs we can’t get of our heads, 15 years later Chumbawamba is still inspiring us to piss the night away while pretending we’re in some pub in Leeds.

Kid Rock – “Bawitdaba” (1999)

This video glorified the sort of redneck culture that became widely embraced the following decade. Yeah, we just said Kid Rock was ahead of his time.

Sisqo — “Thong Song” (2000)

In 2000, the Internet was not the beast it is today, so who knows if this would’ve made it further than the “Harlem Shake” did. Regardless, it’s chicks in thongs and a weirdo with waaaay too much silver on himself. What’s not to like?

Avril Lavigne — “Complicated” (2002)

We made ourselves perfectly clear at the beginning of this post: It is not a crime to enjoy these songs. So, we KNOW you’re gonna play this video when you’re alone. And y’know what? Good frikkin’ luck trying not to sing this in the shower for the next two weeks.

Ke$ha — “Tik Tok” (2010)

Ke$ha embodies the suburban-white-girl-loves-to-party vibe in this video. Aside from making her mom drop an entire plate of pancakes, we’re entirely on board. Go get yours, Ke$ha! You’re only young once, and the clubs in the ‘burbs close at midnight!

Foster the People — “Pumped Up Kicks” (2011)

Quick! We need a song to bounce our heads to while waiting in line at Starbucks! Yes, we like this song from Foster the People, despite having no idea what fostering people means or how to do it. These dudes seem to really be enjoying themselves.

fun. — “We Are Young” (2012)

It’s a year later and we haven’t had enough fun. fun. is fun. We like fun. Who doesn’t like fun.? This video is all fun. Seriously, though, we can’t help snapping along to the fun chaos of…fun.

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RG Daniels (@RGDaniels) is a comedian and writer in Brooklyn, NY.