The MTV VMAs brought some of the biggest names in music to the stage for a virtual awards show that raised the bar for event TV in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. From exciting performances to inspiring speeches, this year's VMAs were something special.
This year's performances were moved from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn -- as originally planned -- to various outdoor areas around the Big Apple, which led to some of the most unexpected and groundbreaking numbers in the show's history.
Here's a look at some of the biggest performances and most memorable moments from Sunday's big show.
The Weeknd Opens the Show With a Bang
If you want to kick things off in a big way, you can't go wrong with fireworks or The Weeknd. So it only makes sense that when you combine them, it's a winning combo. Performing in his red blazer and black gloves, The Weeknd opened the show with a rendition of his retro-synth masterpiece "Blinding Lights." The singer performed high above the streets of New York on the opening skydeck of Edge at Hudson Yards. As the song built to its big finish, the night sky lit up with a flury of fireworks that made this one of the most memorable VMA openers in years. This marked The Weeknd's return to the VMAs since 2015, when he wowed with a performance of "Can’t Feel My Face."
Keke Palmer Shares an Empowering Message
In her opening monologue, Palmer delivered a fun and impassioned speech about the power of music to make cultural change. "As rough as it's been, there have been incredible moments of inspiration that have given my generation hope," Palmer continued. "We've seen heroes going above and beyond... And with the Black Lives Matter movement, we've seen our generation step up, take to the streets, and make sure our voices will be heard. Enough is enough!"
Palmer explained that it's "time to be the change we want to see" and that the world needs to come together to create a wave of progress. "Music has that power. Music can help us heal," she said. "It's all love, and that's what tonight is about."
DaBaby Sparks a Fire
For his big VMAs performance, Da Baby teamed up with the Jabbawockeez for a powerful, virtual number that was as politically charged as it was surreal and captivating. He performed a trio of songs including "PEEPHOLE," "Blind" and his megahit single "Rockstar." Making good use of his green screen surroundings, DaBaby closed out his performance in front of a backdrop of Downtown LA. As he performed, the famous skyscrapers began to catch fire and, in a moment that seemed to call out to the protests and social upheavals around the nation, the city burned as he stood atop an empty cop car. It was a striking visual moment early in the show.
The Folklore songstress broke new ground at this year's VMAs when she became the first solo female artist to earn the award for Best Direction. "This is amazing," Swift said, as she accepted the award remotely. "This is the very first video that I've ever directed on my own... "I was told that this was an industry-voted award, so I want to say thank you to everyone in the industry who voted for this video. I also really want to thank the fans because you are the only reason the industry cares about anything that I do. And everything that you have done this summer, I'm so blown away and taken aback by your generosity to me. Thank you for everything."
Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Mirror Ball
The singer delivered her debut TV performance of her new single, "Midnight Sky," and added a healthy dose of nostalgia to the number. Cyrus went all out for the colorful performance, which ended with her ascending a staircase to a hanging disco ball, which she climbed on, "Wrecking Ball"-style -- a tribute to the song's seventh anniversary, which the singer celebrated earlier this week.
Lady Gaga's Costume Changes
The "Chromatica" songstress seemed to spend about as much time on stage as Keke Palmer! Not only did she take home the awards for Artist of the Year, Best Collaboration and Song of the Year, she was also honored with the first-ever Tricon Award and performed a nine-minute medley. For each acceptance speech, she came out rocking a totally different, wildly ornate outfit, and for the performance she had multiple costumes for different parts of the number. She also managed to pair each outfit with an equally out-of-this-world face mask that really made wearing them look awesome.
Chadwick Boseman Gets a Hero's Tribute
The world needs more superheroes, and we all deserve to see ourselves in them. Chadwick Boseman helped make that happen. Rest in power. pic.twitter.com/d05kkkQR6b
The Black Panther star died unexpectedly on Friday, and this year's VMAs made sure to honor his memory with a heartfelt tribute. Palmer kicked off the show by dedicating the event to the late actor. "We have to take a moment to talk about the devastating loss of Chadwick Boseman, an actor whose talent and passion is a true inspiration to all the fans he touched and everyone he encountered," she shared. "We dedicate tonight’s show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He is a true hero, not just onscreen but in everything he did. His impact lives forever."
MTV also honored Boseman with a tribute video reliving his 2018 MTV Movie Awards win for Best Hero, which the Black Panther star immediately turned over to the Waffle House shooting hero James Shaw Jr.
Doja Cat Pokes Fun at MTV News
The TikTok megastar made her VMAs debut on Sunday and kicked things off with a parody throwback to MTV News. The short sketch also poked fun at her own burgeoning fame with the anchor asking an off-screen producer, "Who the f**k is Doja Cat?" She then delivered a kinetic, intergalactic performance of her songs "Say So" and "Like That," which included some of our favorite TikTok dance moves!
Keke Palmer Gives Fans a "Snack"
Not content with just hosting, Palmer found time to pull off a fun, neon performance of her song "Snack," which managed to kick up the vibrance of the already-kaleidoscopic night of music and dance.
"We're getting as creative as we can, trying to make sure we can incorporate our awesome audience that the MTV VMAs usually always has, but within a way that's safe for everyone," Palmer shared. "So expect a cool surprise there. Then throughout [the show] we're figuring out all different ways that we can keep the excitement and the surprises going. Add elements to the show that people are going to be excited about and not feel, like, bummed or that the show is any different."
"I'm so excited," she continued. "You're gonna see me, I think, a lot during the show, so I'm very excited to have fun ... you're gonna get all Keke. All what you see of Keke on IG, you're gonna be getting that during the show."
Check out the video below for more on this year's unique VMAs.