- 'Black Panther' actor Chadwick Boseman also honoured at the Video Music Awards, which were streamed online because of the coronavirus pandemic
- Canadian singer The Weeknd won video of the year and best R&B song for 'Blinding Lights'
Lady Gaga scooped up the most prizes at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, while Canadian singer The Weeknd won the top prize, as both pop stars sent critical messages to their fans about the state of the world today: “Wear a mask” and “Justice for Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor”.
Gaga won five honours Sunday, most of them for her No 1 hit with Ariana Grande, Rain on Me, which the pop stars performed live for the first time.
“Wear a mask. It’s a sign of respect,” Gaga said during one of her several appearances onstage as she accepted awards like artist of the year, song of the year and the MTV Tricon award.
With an electronic mask, Lady Gaga performed a medley of her songs, including Stupid Love, Chromatica II and 911. She and Ariana Grande were joined by a number of background dancers all wearing masks.
The Weeknd, the first performer of the night, paid tribute to Blake and Taylor – two Black people who were shot by police officers in the US – after winning video of the year and best R&B for Blinding Lights.
“It’s really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment, so I’m just going to say: justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said.
The VMAs kicked off with another touching moment, as host Keke Palmer told viewers the show was dedicated to Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther star who died of cancer on Friday at age 43.
“We dedicate tonight’s show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He’s a true hero, not just on-screen,” Palmer said. “His impact lives forever.”
The show also took moments to honour Juice WRLD and Pop Smoke, rappers who died in recent months though their current albums continue to dominate the pop charts and streaming services.
The Black Eyed Peas, who closed the two-hour-plus show with Nicky Jam and Tyga, ended their set by saying, “Black Lives Matter.“ And R&B star H.E.R. won the video for good award for her protest anthem about police brutality and systemic racism, I Can’t Breathe.
But most of the show was dedicated to fun performances – some pre-taped, some filmed in various locations in New York City, though the performance locations weren’t always clear. The VMAs were originally supposed to be held at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, but plans changed because of the pandemic.
K-pop all-stars BTS, who won four awards including best pop and best group, performed from South Korea. They were top-notch during the pre-taped performance, which featured their signature, skilled choreography. The seven band members danced and sang in sharp suits, at some points with the backdrop of Times Square behind them. Colombian singer and best Latin winner Maluma sang from Brooklyn, while The Weeknd performed from Manhattan.
DaBaby, backed by the dance crew Jabbawockeez, ran through several of his hits, including Rock Star. During the latter track, he rapped while jumping on top of a police car, with a burning city as his backdrop. And Doja Cat, who was named Push best new artist, gave a futuristic performance of her hits Say So and Like That.
Other performers included Latin boy band CNCO and Miley Cyrus, who ended her performance of Midnight Sky by sitting on top of a large disco ball, replicating her viral Wrecking Ball clip from 2013.
As for top honours, Grande tied BTS with four wins. Her No. 1 duet with Justin Bieber, Stuck with U, won best music video from home – one of two new awards MTV established as artists have made shifts because of the pandemic. CNCO won best quarantine performance for MTV Unplugged at Home.
Megan Thee Stallion won best hip-hop for Savage and Taylor Swift won best direction for The Man.