(VEVO)Just because MTV designates a music video the "Video of the Year" doesn't mean it was actually the best of its time. Case in point: Michael Jackson never won. Ever. But there have been some pretty spectacular, rightful winners — and they're near the top half of this completely subjective list.
Here are all the Video of the Year VMA winners since 1984, ranked and ranked hard.
1. Peter Gabriel, "Sledgehammer"
Sorry Kanye: Peter Gabriel had the best music video of ALL TIME — or, at the very least, the most innovative. Directed by Stephen R. Johnson, the wildly colorful animated clip picked up a record 9 awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards.
2. "Single Ladies," Beyoncé
Okay, so Kanye was on to something here. "Single Ladies" is arguably the first iconic music video of the Internet age, spawning countless parody imitations and a pantslessness craze.
3. "Jeremy," Pearl Jam
Mark Pellington's cutting visual accompaniment to Pearl Jam's song about a classroom suicide proved so popular, the band chose not to create another music video for five years out of fear that their music might be overshadowed.
4. "Hey Ya!" Outkast
Just try not to love all eight André 3000s. Outkast, everyone misses you. Come back. Come back right now.
5. "Money for Nothing," Dire Straits
This video might seem spectacularly dated now, but consider for a moment what computers were like back in 1985. The meatheads depicted below are aong the first CGI humans ever created.
6. "Right Now," Van Halen
Say what you want about the Van Halen's Sammy Hagar years: This is the best music video the band ever produced, and certainly the most powerful (although their political message was weakened a bit when the band allowed the concept and song to be used in a Pepsi campaign).
7. "Losing My Religion," R.E.M.
The heartbreaking video for "Losing My Religion" played a huge role in making this mandolin-driven song an international hit. Director Tarsem Singh incorporated Indian influences and religious iconography to create something unlike anything ever before aired on MTV.
8. "Tonight, Tonight," Smashing Pumpkins
Inspired by the surreal cover of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, husband-and-wife directorial team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris paid homage to Georges Méliès's silent film A Trip to the Moon with this stunning video, easily the most popular of the Smashing Pumpkins' career.
9. "Bad Romance," Lady Gaga
Even Lady Gaga's detractors have trouble denying the brilliance of this Francis Lawrence-directed clip, an expert meld of horror, fantasy, and fashion.
10. "The Real Slim Shady," Eminem
Eminem made fun of just about anyone and everyone in his clip for "The Real Slim Shady," but did so with such cartoonish brilliance that people celebrated it.
11. "Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinéad O'Connor
Sometimes all you need to prove a point is a shaved head and a single tear. Watch here.
12. "Cryin'," Aerosmith
This video ushered in the age of Alicia Silverstone, which also brought us Clueless and, arguably, Liv Tyler. Let's be thankful. Watch here.
13. "Virtual Insanity," Jamiroquai
Sure, Jamiroquai has yet to score a follow-up hit here in the United States, but we'll always have this one-shot special effects wonder... and lead singer Jay Kay's stupid furry hat. Watch here.
14. "Ray of Light," Madonna
Incomprehensibly, this is the only of Madonna's videos ever to win Video of the Year. It's not her best, but it captured 1998 pretty well. Watch here.
15. "Waterfalls," TLC
TLC's F. Gary Gray-directed video for "Waterfalls" gets embarrassingly literal at times, but that's how things went in the mid-90s. Watch here.
16. "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies," Panic! at the Disco
This brilliant, colorful depiction of a terrifying circus wedding is a classic example of a video that's better than the song it accompanies. Watch here.
17. "We Found Love," Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
Rihanna's best-ever music video is also her most brutal, a dizzying exploration of love, violence, and self-destruction that includes a scene in which she barfs ribbons. Watch here.
18. "Without Me," Eminem
This cartoonish video would be higher on the list were it not essentially a rehash of "The Real Slim Shady," but with more porn star cameos. Watch here.
19. "Doo Wop (That Thing)," Lauryn Hill
Lauryn paid homage to her hit single's '60s sound with an ingenious split screen video filmed in New York City (Washington Heights, represent!). Watch here.
20. "Umbrella," Rihanna
This was Rihanna's breakout hit, but let's be real: It wasn't her strongest video, even if she did look super hot in it. Watch here.
21. "This Note's for You," Neil Young
Chances are you don't remember this video, which parodies pop stars like Madonna and Michael Jackson. It's fine, but there's no way it was better than 1989 nominee "Like a Prayer." COME ON. Watch here.
22. "Work It," Missy Elliott
In 2003, Missy Elliott won the VMA she really deserved for her 1997 video for "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)." It did make excellent use of the supremely talented Alyson Stoner, however. Watch here.
23. "Piece of Me," Britney Spears
It took almost a decade for Britney Spears to win her first Video Music Award, so it's mighty strange that it went to this unmemorable clip instead of, say, "Toxic," "Baby... One More Time," "I'm a Slave 4 U," or pretty much any other Britney video ever. Watch here.
24. "Boys of Summer," Don Henley
The song is iconic, but the video... do you really remember the video? Refresh your memory here.
25. "I Need You Tonight," INXS
This video is not nearly as sexy as the song, even with all that man cleavage singer Michael Hutchence was sporting. Watch here.
26. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Green Day
This was a massive and inescapable radio hit, but there was nothing particularly exciting about the video of the band members looking sad in the desert. Watch here.
27. "Lady Marmalade," Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil Kim, Mya
What do you get when you strip a bunch of very talented women down to their egos and their lingerie? This mess. Christina Aguilera's Dee Snyder makeover is the only redeeming factor. Watch here.
28. "Firework," Katy Perry
Katy Perry may consider this her best-ever work, but that doesn't mean it's her best-ever video. The saccharine "bittersweet vignettes" thing has been done to death, y'all. This thing makes me feel like a plastic bag, for reals. Watch here.