Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lady Gaga and BTS take over at the predictably bizarre 2020 MTV Video Music Awards

CNCO performing at the 2020 Video Music Awards
CNCO performing at the 2020 Video Music Awards
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/MTV VMAs 2020/Getty Images for MTV

This year’s MTV Video Music Awards held the somewhat dubious honor of being the first relatively big awards show to happen during the coronavirus pandemic (we say “first” because the pandemic is clearly not going anywhere and big awards show have to happen no matter what), and while it happened on social-distance friendly outdoor stages that looked like the cartoon sets from the Star Wars prequels, it all seemed to work about as well as you’d expect—which is to say that it all seemed a lot like the regular VMAs, but more awkward and artificial than ever. Really if shows like this have to happen, even if it involves flying artists around the country like quarantine-dodging MLB players and putting backup dancers in masks (even though it would be very easy to pre-tape performances or put singers on Zoom), future shows could learn a lot from how this went.

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There were a lot of masks, certainly, but there were also a lot of hugs and people handing over Moon Person statues without visibly washing their hands beforehand. Presenters wouldn’t wear masks while reading nominees onstage, though Lady Gaga made sure to come in with a funky new thing on her face every time she won, and the requisite “here’s what’s happening backstage” shots before commercials would only sometimes show people covering their faces. Maybe everything was totally safe and nobody was ever in any coronavirus danger, but these are the kinds of things people are going to think about if more events happen like this.

As for the show itself, host Keke Palmer opened the VMAs with a short monologue that (thankfully) spent more time addressing social issues like police violence than it did with the sort “2020 sure is a lot, huh?” jokes that we all got sick of four months ago, and from there it was... well, a lot of performances. Some of them were very fresh and timely, like Maluma at a drive-in or Da Baby paying tribute to protestors with a performance that showed a dancer getting chased by cops while grabbing a box of face masks (very on-the-nose, just like your face mask should be!), but also Miley Cyrus was there, riding on a wrecking ball again, and Lady Gaga was there doing her typical Lady Gaga stuff. It’s like MTV wanted to move forward and reflect what’s happening now, but it also needed to keep one foot back in the past like a comforting blanket.

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BTS’ much-hyped performance—live on-stage on the streets of New York!—was also a bit of a missed opportunity. Nothing about it seemed especially live and it was clearly on another stage with a fake background, so it could’ve easily been pre-taped or filmed anywhere else. That’s not really a problem, so to speak, but it does kind of support the argument that this whole thing didn’t really need to happen with anyone on a stage together.

Also, some awards were handed out. BTS cleaned up a bit, thanks to MTV now including the group in more general categories. Lady Gaga also won multiple times, giving her a few chances for to change her outfit and facemask, many of which seemed difficult for her to talk through (which is actually a little better than pretending like things aren’t different these days, since it makes it hard to ignore the reality of what’s going on). Gaga also received MTV’s first-ever VMA “Tricon” award, a new honor that was invented specifically for her as a nod to her work as a musical artist, an actor, and an activist. Good thing she doesn’t excel at a fourth thing, because that would be a harder word to come up with. (It’s unclear if this is a new thing or just a replacement for the Video Vanguard award, so as to further distance it from former namesake Michael Jackson, but there was no Video Vanguard winner tonight either way.) 

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The full list of winners is below.

Best Direction
Taylor Swift – “The Man”
Billie Eilish – “xanny”
Doja Cat – “Say So”
Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”
Harry Styles – “Adore You”
The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

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Best Collaboration
Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – “Rain On Me”
Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber – “Stuck with U”
Black Eyed Peas ft. J Balvin – “RITMO (Bad Boys For Life)”
Ed Sheeran ft. Khalid – “Beautiful People”
Future ft. Drake – “Life Is Good”
Karol G ft. Nicki Minaj – “Tusa”

Best K-Pop
BTS – “On”
(G)I-DLE – “Oh My God”
EXO – “Obsession”
Monsta X – “SOMEONE’S SOMEONE”
Tomorrow X Together – “9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)”
Red Velvet – “Psycho” – SM Entertainment

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Best Group
BTS
5 Seconds of Summer
The 1975
BLACKPINK
Chloe x Halle
CNCO
Little Mix
MONSTA X
Now United
twenty one pilots

Best Alternative
Machine Gun Kelly – “Bloody Valentine”
The 1975 – “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)”
All Time Low – “Some Kind Of Disaster”
FINNEAS – “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night”
Lana Del Rey – “Doin’ Time
twenty one pilots – “Level of Concern”

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Video Of The Year
Billie Eilish – “everything i wanted”
Eminem ft. Juice WRLD – “Godzilla”
Future ft. Drake – “Life Is Good”
Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – “Rain On Me”
Taylor Swift – “The Man”
The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

Artist Of The Year
DaBaby
Justin Bieber
Lady Gaga
Megan Thee Stallion
Post Malone
The Weeknd

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Song Of The Year
Billie Eilish – “everything i wanted”
Doja Cat – “Say So”
Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – “Rain On Me”
Megan Thee Stallion – “Savage”
Post Malone – “Circles”

Best New Artist
Doja Cat
Jack Harlow
Lewis Capaldi
Roddy Ricch
Tate McRae
YUNGBLUD

Best Pop
BTS – “On”
Halsey – “You should be sad”
Jonas Brothers – “What a Man Gotta Do”
Justin Bieber ft. Quavo – “Intentions”
Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – “Rain On Me”
Taylor Swift – “Lover”

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Best Hip-Hop
DaBaby – “BOP”
Eminem ft. Juice WRLD – “Godzilla”
Future ft. Drake – “Life Is Good”
Megan Thee Stallion – “Savage”
Roddy Ricch – “The Box”
Travis Scott – “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”

Best Rock
blink-182 – “Happy Days”
Coldplay – “Orphans”
Evanescence – “Wasted On You”
Fall Out Boy ft. Wyclef Jean – “Dear Future Self (Hands Up)”
Green Day – “Oh Yeah!”
The Killers – “Caution”

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Best Latin
Anuel AA ft. Daddy Yankee, Ozuna, Karol G & J Balvin – “China”
Bad Bunny – “Yo Perreo Sola”
Black Eyed Peas ft. Ozuna & J. Rey Soul – “MAMACITA”
J Balvin – “Amarillo”
Karol G ft. Nicki Minaj – “Tusa”
Maluma ft. J Balvin – “Qué Pena”

Best R&B
Alicia Keys – “Underdog”
Chloe x Halle – “Do It”
H.E.R. ft. YG – “Slide”
Khalid ft. Summer Walker – “Eleven”
Lizzo – “Cuz I Love You”
The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

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Video For Good
Anderson .Paak – “Lockdown”
Billie Eilish – “all the good girls go to hell”
Demi Lovato – “I Love Me”
H.E.R. – “I Can’t Breathe”
Lil Baby – “The Bigger Picture”
Taylor Swift – “The Man” – Republic Records

Best Music Video From Home
5 Seconds of Summer – “Wildflower”
Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber – “Stuck with U”
blink-182 – “Happy Days”
Drake – “Toosie Slide”
John Legend – “Bigger Love”
twenty one pilots – “Level of Concern”

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Best Quarantine Performance
Chloe & Halle – “Do It” from MTV’s Prom-athon
CNCO – Unplugged At Home
DJ D-Nice – Club MTV presents #DanceTogether
John Legend – #togetherathome Concert Series
Lady Gaga – “Smile” from One World: Together At Home
Post Malone – Nirvana Tribute

Best Cinematography
5 Seconds of Summer – “Old Me”
Camila Cabello ft. DaBaby – “My Oh My”
Billie Eilish – “all the good girls go to hell”
Katy Perry – “Harleys In Hawaii”
Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – “Rain On Me”
The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

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Best Art Direction
A$AP Rocky – “Babushka Boi”
Dua Lipa – “Physical”
Harry Styles – “Adore You”
Miley Cyrus – “Mother’s Daughter”
Selena Gomez – “Boyfriend”
Taylor Swift – “Lover”

Best Visual Effects
Billie Eilish – “all the good girls go to hell”
Demi Lovato – “I Love Me”
Dua Lipa – “Physical”
Harry Styles – “Adore You”
Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – “Rain On Me”
Travis Scott – “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”

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Best Choreography
BTS – “On”
CNCO & Natti Natasha – “Honey Boo”
DaBaby – “BOP”
Dua Lipa – “Physical”
Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – “Rain On Me”
Normani – “Motivation”

Best Editing
Halsey – “Graveyard”
James Blake – “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow”
Lizzo – “Good As Hell”
Miley Cyrus – “Mother’s Daughter”
ROSALÍA – “A Palé”
The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

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Song Of The Summer
BLACKPINK “How You Like That”
Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion – “WAP”
DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch “Rockstar”
DJ Khaled ft. Drake “Popstar”
Doja Cat – “Say So”
Dua Lipa – “Break My Heart”
Harry Styles –“Watermelon Sugar”
Jack Harlow – “Whats Poppin”
Lil Baby ft. 42 Dugg – “We Paid”
Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyoncé – “Savage (Remix)”
Miley Cyrus – “Midnight Sky”
Pop Smoke ft. 50 Cent & Roddy Ricch – “The Woo”
SAINt JHN – “Roses”
Saweetie – “Tap In”
Taylor Swift – “cardigan”
The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

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