Can We Talk About…? How Janet Jackson Has Never Won Video of the Year

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The list of the greatest music video artists is short, and we all know who belongs on there: Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Janet Jackson, more or less in that order. The MTV Video Music Awards are coming up on Monday, and once again a handful of artists are up for the top prize, Video of the Year. Whether some of them deserve it or not is up for debate, but in VMA history, and among that triad of pop royalty, only Madge has won a Video of the Year award. And only one, at that—for 1998’s “Ray of Light.”

It’s shocking that noted pop icon apparently too big to cancel Michael Jackson, for whom the Video Vanguard Award is named, never won Video of the Year, but it’s also pretty unbelievable that his unproblematic fave of a sis, Janet, never has either.

Now, I could get into “Thriller” losing out Video of the Year at the inaugural VMAs to The Cars’ “You Might Think,” which seems not only wrong but offensive, but I’ve always been a bigger Janet fan, and she hasn’t left a lingering and irreparable stain on our collective consciousness, so…

First, the facts: Janet has been nominated for Video of the Year twice. The first time for 1995’s “Scream,” a duet with her older brother that’s still one of the best videos ever, though it lost out to TLC’s “Waterfalls.” I mean, fair, I guess.

Though Janet’s smokey eye from “Scream” deserves an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Peabody just by itself.

The second and last time she got a nod was for 2001’s “All for You,” a bop for the ages with a vibrant, imaginative video that nonetheless lost to…”Lady Marmalade.”

“Lady goddamn Marmalade.” Don’t get me wrong, as a homosexual I did stan for that remake, while loudly and openly acknowledging my preference for the original. It was a moment in time: Christina Aguilera’s runs have rarely been more epic, and Moulin Rouge is still the best thing Baz Luhrmann has or will ever do. But Video of the Year? Honestly, Missy Elliott shoulda won that year for “Get Ur Freak On,” even though she was technically a winner as part of the “Lady Marmalade” contingent. But I digress.

“All for You” doesn’t even rank in the top 10 or 15 of Janet’s greatest videos (though it does feature one of her best dance breaks).

The woman is nearly unrivaled when it comes to groundbreaking, beautiful, bold, and brilliant music videos. Where were the noms for “Nasty” or “Rhythm Nation” or “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” or “That’s the Way Love Goes” or “Together Again“?

I mean, mom won the Video Vanguard Award four years after her first videos from Control landed on TV, but was never recognized with the top prize. This is even more perplexing considering the number of truly forgettable videos that have been nominated and won Video of the Year—David Lee Roth was nominated for two, yes, two, VoYs in 1985, for videos that were, to put it bluntly, lame AF. And don’t even get me started on “Havana.”

But punditry aside, Janet Jackson easily deserves, like, half a dozen Video of the Year nominations. I doubt she cares because legends have bigger concerns, but for Janet fans and for fans of great music videos in general, where’s the justice? She’s given us so much, but what have we done for her lately?

So do yourself and Miss Jackson a favor and check out some of her most iconic moments. Personal faves include “If,” “Got ’Til It’s Gone,” “Miss You Much,” and “Rock With U.”

But, of course, they’re all great.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat