When the inaugural YouTube Music Awards went live across millions of screens in 2013, the production was a splendid mess.
Between a weeping Gaga, crying babies and burying one winner’s envelope in a cake, the ceremony was either a left field sendup of the traditional award show or a train wreck, depending on whom you asked. The show did, however, prove YouTube’s ambitions -- and earned a staggering 54 million views.
For the show’s return on Monday, YouTube went back to the drawing board.
Big-name acts still led the field of winners, each of whom was selected by number of views. Beyonce, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Drake and Kendrick Lamar all won awards, along with Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Sam Smith and other chart favorites.
But instead of a conventional event with trophies and over-the-top production numbers, YouTube took a simple approach, making the music awards actually about music.
For this year’s “ceremony,” the site premiered more than a dozen music videos from acts such as Ed Sheeran, Charli XCX, FKA Twigs, Action Bronson and Martin Garrix.
Viewers can peruse videos at their leisure or take in the full “show,” which is a curated playlist of clips alongside looks into their creation with commentary from YouTube star Tyler Oakley, who serves as a sort of host.
Charli XCX offered a satire of the selfie generation on “Famous,” and accompanying behind-the-scenes footage revealed that its director, Eric Wareheim of TV’s “Tim & Eric,” oversaw the shoot via Skype.
Sheeran tapped Ray Liotta to star as a boozy, washed-up rocker in the cinematic video for his new single, “Bloodstream,” which was remixed by Rudimental for the release. Garrix’s Usher-assisted “Don’t Look Down” took a Wes Anderson-esqe approach to showcasing Country Club reverly.
FKA Twigs went deep into the woods for an epic vogue battle in the self-directed clip for “Glass & Patron,” and Action Bronson found inspiration in Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America” for his Chance the Rapper-assisted single “Baby Blue”
But the real winners here were emerging acts.
Artists who have launched themselves on the site, including Lindsey Stirling, Megan Nicole and Cahoots (composed of three popular YouTubers from different countries), are showcased alongside rising talents.
Pop singer-songwriter Max Schneider shed his Nickelodeon image with the dark, dance-heavy clip for his single “Gibberish,” and Kygo’s “Stole the Show” featured an outlandish twist on a costume party.
Atlanta hip-hop trio Migos debuted the trippy video for its bouncy cut “One Time” and R&B-dance singer Shamir, whose distinctive countertenor is garnering him music blog buzz, churned out one of show’s the standouts with the Muppet-inspired visual for his infectious “Call It Off.”
Watch the 2015 YouTube Music Awards here. The videos are all over the genre map and certainly more fun to watch than arguing over who won album of the year at the Grammys.
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