It’s safe to say that the MTV Video Music Awards 2023 was a momentous, on air occasion for the music industry this year. From Taylor Swift winning a total of nine awards to NSYNC making a surprise comeback, the VMAs had the shock value and musical talent to boot.
To celebrate the VMAs, I chose to spotlight a non-exhaustive list of stand-out artists, in no particular order, who continue to elevate their careers through their transnational diversity, powerful music messages, and industry potential. These artists are successful because of their reflective storytelling and inspiring passion for music.
Best K-Pop: Stray Kids – “S-Class”
The K-pop boy group, Stray Kids, celebrated a huge milestone in the U.S. and South Korean music industry by winning the Best K-Pop award. Since debuting in 2018, Stray Kids grew in popularity alongside famous groups like BTS and Seventeen. Their song, “S-Class,” released earlier in June, its lyrics depicting the group’s successes after years of intense training and honing their talents in music and dance. Their performance of “S-Class” at the VMAs demonstrated their rapid-fire rap beats, steady vocals, and polished dance movements.
PUSH Performance of the Year: TOMORROW X TOGETHER – “Sugar Rush Ride”
K-pop boy group, TOMORROW X TOGETHER, won the PUSH Performance of the Year, proving that the group maintains a strong trajectory as young artists. They performed their latest song, “Back for More” ft. Brazilian singer Annita, who won the Best Latin award. TOMORROW X TOGETHER along with Stray Kids are part of the rise of Asian music artists, breaking cultural and language barriers through music.
Best Afrobeats: Rema and Selena Gomez – “Calm Down”
Rema, Nigerian singer and rapper, won the Best Afrobeats award for his song, “Calm Down” ft. Selena Gomez, which reached over a billion streams on Spotify. Rema’s achievement helped bring global attention to the afrobeats genre and the cultural significance it has within the transnational range of West African music. He is accompanied by artists, like Libianca, who amplify their stories of culture and identity through this genre.
Best R&B: SZA – “Shirt”
SZA is a force to be reckoned with in the R&B world. She won the Best R&B award for her song, “Shirt,” from her popular 2022 album, “SOS.” “Shirt” details the struggles of attaining love but also hints at a self-reflection of one’s worth. Her unique set of vocals and beats shine through all her songs alongside her lyrics of vulnerability and growth. “Kill Bill” trended on TikTok, but music listeners should not miss out on this golden song.
Song of the Summer: Jung Kook ft. Latto – “Seven”
Performing as a solo artist, Jung Kook of the worldwide K-pop group BTS won the Song of the Summer award for his song, “Seven” ft. Latto, released in July. Jung Kook’s song encompasses everything needed for a hit summer single: catchy lyrics, danceable melody, and impressive vocals and dance, of course. His smooth vocals and dance moves prove he is capable of standing on his own as a solo artist.
Video for Good: Dove Cameron “Breakfast”
Dove Cameron won the Video for Good award for her song, “Breakfast,” sharing a message of women’s rights and independence against the patriarchal restrictions of society. “Breakfast” became a global hit, uplifting women during an ongoing period of gender equality and identity. Cameron stands out for her evolving music career since her Disney Channel days and confidence in herself as an artist and woman