2021 MTV VMAs: All the Best Moments and Biggest Performances
By Zach Seemayer
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The MTV VMAs brought some of the biggest names in music to the stage at the Barclays Center in New York City on Sunday. From exciting performances to powerful speeches, this year's VMAs were a celebration of joy.
The energy was electric as Doja Cat made her hosting debut -- while also delivering a live performance and basking in the glory of being nominated for five awards -- and was joined by Jennifer Lopez in a surprise appearance.
As usual the slew of musical artists delivering TV debuts of their latest hits -- including Normani's performance of "Wild Side" and Justin Bieber's return to the VMAs stage -- provided most of the night's biggest highlights.
Here's a look at some of the biggest performances and most memorable moments from Sunday's big show.
Justin Bieber and Olivia Rodrigo Kick Off the Show
Bieber made his first appearance on the VMAs stage in six years on Sunday to open the night with a performance of "Ghost" that got the crowd amped, before Rodrigo hit the stage for a wild and hard-hitting performance of "Good 4 U" that concluded with her shattering an MTV camera lens with her mic, true punk rock style.
Musgraves delivered her first-ever performance at the VMAs, and it really couldn't have gone better! The 33-year-old singer took the stage and wowed the crowd with the world premiere performance of her song, "Star-Crossed." Wearing a flowing white dress, Musgraves expertly sang the emotional track, which many consider it to be about her 2020 divorce from Ruston Kelly. The songstress started the powerful track walking through rows of candles and neon lights depicting red hearts stabbed with blue daggers. As the song built to its climax, a flaming heart erupted in pyrotechnic glory behind her, giving the heart-break song an extra punch.
Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots Reveals Baby News Mid-Song
Tyler Joseph really just announced his wife is pregnant with their second child during Twenty One Pilots’ VMA performance WHEN I TELL YOU I SCREAMED I- pic.twitter.com/l8MaY6HGUu
The Twenty One Pilots singer was in the middle of the group's VMAs performance we he dropped some big news -- he and his wife, Jenna, are expecting another kid! "My wife is pregnant!" he declared. "I didn't want to text everybody, so I thought I'd let you all know right now!"
Lil Nas X Brings 'Montero' Prison to the VMAs Stage
The 22-year-old artist took the stage alongside Jack Harlow for their first-ever live performance together of their controversial mega-hit, “Industry Baby." Lil Nas X brought all the shirtless back-up dancers, pink jumpsuits and short-shorts to heat up the show and bring a hyper-stylized version of the prison from his music video to the Barclays Center.
The 23-year-old singer, who makes up half of musical duo Chloe x Halle, performed without her sister, Halle Bailey, on Sunday. The singer showed no nerves as she gave the TV premiere of her first single, "Have Mercy," which was released just days before the show, rocking a hot pink corseted bodysuit and matching lace-up high-heeled booties.
After Scott took home the award for Best Hip Hop Video, the artist took the stage for a touching, sweet acceptance speech in which he thanked his 3-year-old daughter, whom he shares with girlfriend Kylie Jenner. "I love you all, New York! I first want to thank god, my mom, Stormi," Scott said with a smile as those in the audience cheered at the mention of his little girl. "All the amazing fans out there, I love you all so much!"
Normani delivered the TV debut of "Wild Side" in a TLC inspired metallic outfit that drew from the group's "No Scrubs" video. The singer was joined by a group of backup dancers in similar outfits that accompanied Normani as she sauntered across the stage. Her performance for the song, which samples Aaliyah's "One in a Million," also featured choreography very reminiscent of Aaliyah's music video for the hit track. Instead of Cardi B, who joined Normani on the track, singer and dancer, Teyana Taylor came out for a steamy finale to the performance.
After decades as one of the biggest bands in rock, the Foo Fighters were honored with the VMAs Global Icon Award, and before accepting the honor they delivered a medley of hits an new material that brought the house down. The band kicked things off with a performance of "Learn to Fly," before moving onto their recent track "Shame Shame," and wrapping up their number a rendition of "Everlong" that proved exactly why they deserved the Global Icon Award.
Busta Rhymes is a legend, an icon, and absolute musical titan, and tonight he reminded everyone why with a next-level medley that quickly became one of the highlights of the night and only got better as it went on.
Alicia Keys Celebrates New York
With the MTV VMAs taking place one day after the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Keys paid tribute to the tragedy with her performance. Keys and Swae Lee performed their new song, "Lala," at the VMAs stage in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and then Keys delivered a powerful cover of "Empire State of Mind," that stirred a lot of feels.
There were quite a few moments of political passion on Sunday, with Cindy Lauper and Billie Eilish each using their platforms to share important messages. While presenting an award, Lauper shared, "I won a moon person at the very first VMAs in 1984. Things are a little different now... Yeah, girls wanna have fun. But we also want to have funds. Equal pay. Control over our bodies! You know, fundamental rights." Later, Eilish was accepting the Video for Good Award and expressed, "We need to protect our young women at all costs. We also need to remember that we all have power. And we have to remember not to abuse it."