NEW YORK - MTV has rid itself of gender-specific categories as the network revealed nominees Tuesday for this year's Video Music Awards, in which rapper Kendrick Lamar is in the lead.
In the age of President Donald Trump and the fierce backlash he has generated among cultural leaders, MTV also announced a new category of "Best Fight Against the System" to recognise activist music.
The awards will air worldwide from Los Angeles on August 27.
Reflecting its social media push, the music and youth culture network announced the nominations through posts by well-followed figures on Instagram.
Lamar, one of the most acclaimed figures in hip-hop, received the most nominations at eight, including Video of the Year for "HUMBLE." - an ironic look at fame in which he appears clad as the pope and as Jesus in "The Last Supper."
Tied for second with five nominations are Katy Perry for her sci-fi amusement park fantasy "Chained to the Rhythm" and The Weeknd for his star-studded "Reminder."
The Video Music Awards for the first time will not divide by gender with a new Artist of the Year prize incorporating the top male and female categories.
The network said in a statement that it was out to "break barriers" and had a positive response when it eliminated gender groups at this year's MTV Movie and TV Awards.
Nominees for Artist of the Year include four men - Lamar and The Weeknd, along with Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran - and two women, Ariana Grande and Lorde.
Virtually all major US awards including the Grammys and Oscars have separate male and female categories.
The rare awards that mix male and female nominees include the Mercury Prize - which, with an arthouse sensibility, recognises the top British or Irish album each year - and the Juno Awards for Canadian artists.
Serious notes for gala party
Winners in the major categories are determined by voting by fans through the awards' website, vma.mtv.com.
The Video Music Awards have usually been more about the spectacle than the ultimate winners, with the network gladly offering a global platform to celebrities.
Pop culture moments of past galas have included Lady Gaga wearing a dress of raw meat, Madonna making out on stage with Britney Spears and Beyonce showing off a baby bump for her first child with Jay-Z.
But taking a serious turn, MTV announced the new "Best Fight Against the System" award to celebrate videos "that inspire viewers to stand up and fight injustice."
The nominees include John Legend's "Surefire," whose video dramatizes anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, and the celebratory "Immigrants: We Get the Job Done" from the blockbuster musical "Hamilton."
Other nominees are the diversity-hailing "Black SpiderMan" by biracial rapper Logic, Big Sean's "Light" about overcoming adversity including racial discrimination and Alessia Cara's "Scars to Your Beautiful" about body image.
Also in the running is "Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL," a hip-hop anthem led by Black Eyed Peas' Taboo to rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe on environmental and cultural grounds.
Nominees for Best New Artist - often a sign of fast-rising stardom - were R&B singers SZA and Khalid, rappers Kodak Black and Young M.A., pop songwriter Julia Michaels and Noah Cyrus, the 17-year-old actress and sister of Miley Cyrus who is readying her debut album.