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NEW YORK (AP) – Lady Gaga cleaned the house at the MTV Video Music Awards 2020, while The Weeknd took home the grand prize – and both pop stars sent viewers important messages about the current state of the world: “Wear a mask” and “Justice for Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor.”
Gaga won five honors on 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.
“Wearing a mask. It’s a sign of respect,” said Gaga during one of her numerous appearances on stage when she received awards such as Artist of the Year, Song of the Year and the MTV Tricon Award.
With an electronic mask, Gaga played a medley of her songs, including “Stupid Love”, “Chromatica II” and “911”. She and Grande were accompanied by a number of background dancers, all of whom wore masks.
The Weeknd, the night’s first cast member, paid tribute to Blake and Taylor – two blacks who were shot by police – after winning Video of the Year and Best R&B for Blinding Lights.
“It’s really hard for me to celebrate and enjoy this moment right now, so I’ll just say, justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said.
The VMAs began with another touching moment when host Keke Palmer told viewers the show was dedicated to Chadwick Boseman, who died Friday aged 43 after battling colon cancer privately for four years.
“We dedicate today’s show to a man whose spirit has touched so many. He’s a real hero, and not just on screen, ”said Palmer. “His influence lives forever.”
The show also took moments to honor Juice WRLD and Pop Smoke, rappers who have died in recent months, though their current albums continue to dominate the pop charts and streaming services.
The Black Eyed Peas, who ended the more than two-hour show with Nicky Jam and Tyga, ended their set with the words “Black Lives Matter”. And R&B star HER won the video for a good award for its protest anthem about police brutality and systemic racism “I Can’t Breathe”.
“I’m super proud that everyone speaks out on social injustice,” said HER.
But most of the show was devoted to fun performances – some pre-filmed, others filmed in different locations in New York City, though the venues weren’t always clear. The VMAs were originally supposed to take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but plans changed because of the pandemic.
Colombian singer and best Latin winner Maluma sang from Brooklyn while The Weeknd from Manhattan performed. Pop All-Stars BTS, who have won four awards including Best Pop and Best Group, performed from South Korea. They were top notch during the pre-recorded performance which showed off their signature, skillful choreography. The seven band members danced and sang in sharp suits, sometimes in front of the backdrop of Times Square in their backs.
DaBaby, supported by the Jabbawockeez dance crew, went through several of his hits, including “Rock Star”. During the latter stretch, he rattled while jumping on a police car with a burning city as a backdrop. And Doja Cat, who was named Best New Artist by Push, showed a futuristic performance of her hits “Say So” and “Like That”.
Other cast members included Latin boy band CNCO and Miley Cyrus, who ended their Midnight Sky performance by sitting on a large disco ball reproducing their 2013 viral Wrecking Ball clip.
As for the highest honors, Grande shared BTS with four wins. Her No. 1 duet with Justin Bieber, “Stuck with U,” won Best Home Music Video – one of two new awards MTV established as artists moved due to the pandemic. CNCO won the best quarantine service for “MTV Unplugged at Home”.
Megan Thee Stallion won best hip-hop for “Savage” and Taylor Swift won best directing for “The Man”.
“This is the very first video that I have ever directed alone. And I’m just so grateful for that, ”said Swift. “I wanted to take the opportunity to thank the team that believed in me as a first-time director and made this video with me.”