What West didn’t know is the VMAs have a long history of giving a secondary award to one artist & then giving the top award to another.
It's one of the most famous and controversial episodes in the history of MTVs Video Music Awards — the moment on Sept. 13, 2009, when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for best female video. West, you will remember, felt that Beyoncé deserved the award for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" — and wanted everyone to know where he stood.
"Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time."
The moment defined West as either rude and obnoxious (to his detractors) or an unvarnished truth-teller (to his fans). It made Swift a sympathetic figure — and may even have helped her win the Grammy for album of the year just four months later. (President Obama, in an unguarded moment before a TV interview, took Swift's side: "The young lady seems like perfectly nice person. She's getting her award. What's he doing up there?" A crew member asks, "Why would he do that?" Obama's response: "He's a jackass.")
What West apparently didn't know is the VMAs had (and still have) a long history of giving a secondary award to one artist and then turning around and giving the top award, video of the year, to another. That's just how the game is played. The artist who is going home with the top prize probably won't mind (too much) losing out in a lesser category. And the artist who wins in the lesser category at least won something. Everybody wins.
Six years before this drama unfolded, Beyoncé was on the other side of the awards-show hokey-pokey. In 2003, she won best female video for her first solo smash, "Crazy in Love" (featuring Jay-Z). She beat Missy Elliott's "Work It." But later in the evening, "Work It" took video of the year.
Since the VMAs went on the air in 1984, something like this has happened more often than not: 19 times in all. With the 36th annual VMAs set for Aug. 29 at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, here are all the times a video lost in a key secondary category but nonetheless went on to win video of the year.
1984: Herbie Hancock's innovative "Rockit" beat The Cars' "You Might Think" in four categories, including best concept video. Their fortunes were reversed in video of the year.
1985: Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" beat Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" for best male video. "The Boys of Summer" also lost best concept video to "Smuggler's Blues" by Glenn Frey, Henley's then-former bandmate in Eagles. "The Boys of Summer" still took video of the year.
1986: a-ha's "Take on Me" beat Dire Strait's "Money for Nothing" in five categories, including best concept video. Nonetheless, Dire Straits beat a-ha for best group video and video of the year.
1988: Pink Floyd's "Learning to Fly" won best concept video, beating INXS' "Need You Tonight"/"Mediate." That didn't keep INXS from winning video of the year.
1991: Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing" took best alternative video, beating R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion." But R.E.M. took video of the year.
1992: U2's "Even Better Than the Real Thing" won best group video, beating Van Halen's "Right Now." "Right Now" also lost best metal/hard rock video to Metallica's "Enter Sandman." But "Right Now" won video of the year.
1994: Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" won best metal/hard rock video, beating Aerosmith's "Cryin'." But Aerosmith took video of the year.
1997: Fiona Apple's "Sleep to Dream" won best new artist in a video, beating Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity." But Jamiroquai took breakthrough video and the big one, video of the year.
1998: The Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" won best dance video, beating Madonna's "Ray of Light." But "Ray of Light" took video of the year.
1999: Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" won best hip-hop video, beating Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)." But Hill's smash took best R&B video and video of the year.
2000: Dr. Dre's "Forgot about Dre" (featuring Eminem) won best rap video, beating Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady." But "The Real Slim Shady" took video of the year.
2001: *NSYNC's "Pop" won best pop video and best dance video, beating a star-studded remake of "Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and P!nk (featuring Missy Elliott) in both categories. But "Lady Marmalade" took video of the year.
2003: Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" (featuring Jay-Z) won best female video, beating Elliott's "Work It." But "Work It" took video of the year.
2006: The All-American Rejects' "Move Along" won best group video, beating Panic! at the Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." Panic! also lost best rock video to AFI's "Miss Murder." But Panic! prevailed in the end, winning video of the year.
2009: As noted above, Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" won best female video, beating Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." Beyoncé's video also lost best pop video to Britney Spears' "Womanizer." But we know who won in the end.
2011: Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" won best female video, beating Katy Perry's "Firework." But "Firework" won the big one.
2012: Nicki Minaj's "Starships" beat Rihanna's "We Found Love" (featuring Calvin Harris) for best female video. "We Found Love" also lost best pop video to One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful." Nonetheless, "We Found Love" took video of the year.
2013: Bruno Mars' "Locked out of Heaven" beat Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors" for best male video. "Mirrors" also lost best pop video to Selena Gomez's "Come & Get It." Nonetheless, "Mirrors" won the top award.
2018: Ariana Grande's "No Tears Left to Cry" beat Camila Cabello's "Havana" (featuring Young Thug) for best pop. But it was the other way around for video of the year.