VMA Nominees 2013: Which 'Artist To Watch' Should We Actually Watch?

Each year, the MTV Video Music Awards give us a glossy overview of a year in Top 40 music. We await the results of a futile nomination race in which anyone who thinks they'll best One Direction is a candidate for the loony bin and prepare to be revolted and intrigued by at least one off-the-wall wardrobe choice. We also get a dose of the future with a category formerly known as Best New Artist: Artist to Watch.

Apparently, too many people were confusing the Grammy award with the Moon Man, but as it turns out, MTV's silly little award might have a better track record than the Grammys. Last year, One Direction won and they're already drowning in over five million votes for a sure-fire "Best Song of the Summer" VMA victory. Perhaps we should take a look at the candidates for 2013, because one of them is going to join Maroon 5, Alicia Keys, and Lady Gaga in the one VMA category that sort of matters.

"The Second Coming of Aaron Carter," a.k.a. Austin Mahone

It's no wonder this sideways hat-loving kid is already garnering comparisons to the younger Carter sibling. He basically sounds like the "Aaron's Party" singer/rapper (it hurts me to type that word next to his name) if he'd discovered dub-step and dance moves that involve more than arm-waving and complaining about one's parents. But is this guy the next One Direction? Can he really capture hearts the way Biebs and Harry Styles have? I've been wrong before, but Mahone's style is just a little too derivative of the biggest boy wonders in music to nab my vote.

Iggy Azalea Wants To Be a Big-Time Lady Rapper — Werk, Girl

To be honest, Azalea's single "Work" may not be different enough from much of the hip-hip music saturating the market to merit the "Artist to Watch" win. Add the fact that she's already upset a slew of her contemporaries, including established rapper Azealia Banks, with a seemingly racist lyric, and the girl's not exactly likely to stroll right into a victory. She is, however, an interesting artist and selfishly, I relish any opportunity to add more women to the face of modern hip-hop.

So, We're Just Now Starting to Watch Zedd?

Zedd's nomination for his song "Clarity" featuring Foxes is almost a bit insulting once you peer inside a few album inserts (if you can find them, that is). Anton "Zedd" Zabloski is a Russian-German DJ and electronic music producer. While Clarity and its accompanying single mark his first effort to emerge as a bigger artist, he's responsible for some pop music we've already come to love. He's the guy behind album-approved remixes of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and "Marry the Night," plus he produced Justin Bieber's "Beauty and the Beat" as well as a number of tracks on Gaga's upcoming album. So sure, he's an artist to watch if you haven't been paying that much attention.

Twenty One Pilots, One Nomination

The band that originated in Ohio earned the term "schizoid pop" for marrying a myriad of genres in their music. It's a feat that so often goes wildly wrong, but for Twenty One Pilots, it works. While the lead singer has tones that hearken back to the music scene of the mid 2000s (the fact that the band is touring with Fall Out Boy right now isn't helping, by the way), the band's ability to try something so daring and make it work is certainly worth watching... and potentially rewarding.

You Should Be Looking Forward to The Weeknd

The most worthy musician vying for the fan-voted Artist to Watch award is The Weeknd, but considering these awards are determined by very young kids with too much time on their hands, it's anyone's game. The Weeknd's sultry brand of alternative R&B turned heads with his first appearance at Coachella in 2012, and now his full-length studio album Kiss Land is continuing the charge. A single listen to his song "Wicked Games" should be enough to convince voters that he's an artist we truly need to keep our eyes on. And if that doesn't work, just think on this: We're in need of a new smooth-singing hero after Miguel kicked that poor girl in the head.