MTV’s 2020 Video Music Awards (VMA) might have looked a little different this year without a live audience, but the night of many firsts did not disappoint.
The awards show, dedicated to the unexpected death of actor Chadwick Boseman, known for his inspirational role as Black Panther, has always taken pride in the fact that music brings people together.
The host of the evening, Keke Palmer, took a moment at the beginning of the show to say “enough is enough” in response to the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The 27-year-old actress and singer is the second youngest person and the first woman of color to ever host the VMAs alone.
“We must continue the fight to end systemic racism,” Palmer said. “The leaders of that movement are you, us, the people watching tonight. It’s our time to be the change we want to see. We need to come together. And music has that power. Music can help us heal. It’s all love and that is what tonight is about.”
The Weeknd kicked off the evening with a blinding performance of his hit song “Blinding Lights” on the Edge Sky Deck at Hudson Yards in Manhattan, New York. After winning Video of the Year and Best R&B, the singer also used his speech to speak up for racial injustice.
“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 Weeknd wasn’t the only artist who used his stage time to deliver a political message to the audience.
Rapper DaBaby teamed up with hip-hop dance crew, the Jabbawockeez, for his VMA performance debut that made a statement about police brutality in the United States. The act ended with DaBaby standing on a cop car in front of an image of New York City in flames. Next to him was a sign that read “Stop Killing Us.”
On the same note, actress Sofia Carson, presented H.E.R. with the Video for Good award. The 23-year-old R&B singer-songwriter won for her “I Can’t Breathe” music video, which highlights police brutality in the United States. Sponsored by Pepsi, the company announced their $100,000 donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in support of the cause.
The annual awards show, which was supposed to take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, was filmed in various parts of New York City as safety concerns grew amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
MTV also created two new award categories as a result of quarantine restrictions. Madison Beer presented the award for Best Music Video From Home, which she accepted on behalf of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande for their single, “Stuck With U.” CNCO won Best Quarantine Performance for their MTV Unplugged at Home performance.
While the VMA performances are typically surrounded by thousands of screaming fans in an arena, this year the show gave us a preview of what concerts in a post-pandemic world might look like.
Maluma, who took home the award for Best Latin Music Video, performed his new single “Hawái” with a drive-in style audience. Keke Palmer and CNCO also performed with a socially distanced audience sitting in their cars.
The highly anticipated VMA debut of the boy band BTS was another highlight of the night. They gave an explosive performance of their new single, “Dynamite.” The group also enjoyed several wins for Best Group, Best Pop and Best K-Pop.
Miley Cyrus took viewers by surprise as she sparked flashbacks to her 2013 hit song and music video, “Wrecking Ball,” ending the performance of her new song, “Midnight Sky,” on top of a swinging disco ball.
It was a big night for many, especially Lady Gaga who returned to the VMA stage to perform for the first time since 2013. She gave an out-of-this-world performance with a medley of songs off her sixth studio album, “Chromatica.” Gaga is best known for her eccentric red carpet looks and did not disappoint with her outer space-like costume changes and cohesive facial masks.
Ariana Grande joined Gaga on stage to perform their hit single, “Rain on Me.” The duo and their background dancers were one of the only acts of the night to wear masks throughout their entire performance. Gaga and Grande’s song took home three of the famous Moonman statues for Best Collaboration, Song of the Year and Best Cinematography.
Aside from winning the award for Artist of the Year, Gaga was also named the first ever recipient of the 2020 MTV Video Music Tricon Award, an honor given to someone with achievements in three or more fields of entertainment.
“I want nothing more than to be your artist of 2020,” Gaga said during her acceptance speech. “It’s a total privilege. I love you, stay safe, speak your mind and I might sound like a broken record but wear a mask. It’s a sign of respect.”
To close the show, the Black Eyed Peas sang “VIDA LOCA” off their newest album and left everyone feeling nostalgic as they finished the performance with their 2009 hit song, “I Gotta Feeling.”
“Wakanda forever,” Will.I.Am said as the performance ended. “Black Lives Matter.”
While it might have been different than past years, the MTV VMAs still presented a night filled with music, love, gratitude and hope for a better future.