The MTV Video Music Awards are known for creating viral moments meant to shock or amaze their audience. But this year’s show was more about the important speeches and exciting performances.
The MTV VMAs, hosted by Katy Perry, was held at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Sunday.
Throughout the night, the persistent theme for many artists and presenters on the stage was to call for unity and equality. Paris Jackson, daughter of Michael Jackson, said that America has zero tolerance for violence, hatred and racism.
Several award presenters also called for equality, including the mother of a woman who was killed while protesting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., and a descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Other artists reached out to those suffering from depression. Pink taught her daughter a valuable lesson of self-acceptance.
Here are 9 of the top moments you need to see from this year’s MTV Video Music Awards.
1. Pink taught her daughter a valuable lesson of self-acceptance.
Pink was honoured on Sunday night with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. After performing a medley of her hits atop a car suspended from cables and riding around on a lawnmower, the singer used her acceptance speech to address her six-year-old daughter, Willow, who arrived on the red carpet in a three-piece suit to match her parents’ suits.
— MTV (@MTV) August 28, 2017
Pink said her daughter recently told her that “I’m the ugliest girl I know … I look like a boy with long hair.”
The Grammy-winning singer said that she created a PowerPoint presentation and showed her daughter that many artists, from Jackson to Prince to David Bowie and even herself, were regularly made fun of, but pressed ahead with their art to inspire others.
“We don’t change,” Pink said. “We take the gravel in the shell and make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.”
pink's acceptance speech was so beautiful and inspiring, don't sleep on it. pic.twitter.com/TfcR3ubdhK
— shauna/pinned if unf (@tomlinsonftdua) August 28, 2017
And in closing, she reminded her daughter: “You, my darling, are beautiful.”
2. Kendrick Lamar’s fiery performance
Kendrick Lamar’s performance kicked off the three-hour show, rapping his single DNA, in a cage of laser lights.
— Street Talk HGD (@streettalkhgd) August 28, 2017
Then as he transitioned to his hit Humble., a performer was “set ablaze” just a few feet away from Lamar, while dancers appeared to climb a fire wall behind him.
Lamar was nominated for eight awards at the VMAs, more than any artist in any genre and won six, including Video of the Year for Humble.
That video also won Best Hip-Hop Video, Direction, Cinematography, Art Direction and Visual Effects.
3. Jared Leto honours Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington
Leto said Bennington was a close friend who showed him that it was possible to pursue one’s dreams and still be kid and caring.
Leto said when he thinks about Bennington, “I see his face, which was always smiling. I think about his heart, which he wore on his sleeve.”
“I think about how kindly he treated me, my brother, our band. I think about his wife and his six incredible children. I think about his family. I think about his band, who were really his brothers, and I remember his voice,” Leto said of Bennington. “That voice will live forever.”
“If there’s anyone out there that’s watching this and feels like there is no hope, hear me now: you are not alone. There is always a way forward. Reach out. Share your thoughts. Do not give up,” Leto added.
4. Logic, Aleesia Cara and Khalid performed a song for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Logic performed his inspirational song 1-800-273-8255, named after the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
He was joined onstage by people who survived suicide attempts, some of whom were crying, as well as singers Alessia Cara (best dance video winner) and Khalid (best new artist winner).
Lyrics from Logic’s song include: “I don’t wanna be alive/I just wanna die today” and “I want you to be alive/You don’t got to die today.”
Logic said the song was “a platform to talk about something that mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about: mental health, anxiety and depression.”
5. Taylor Swift debuts music video for Look What You Made Me Do
Taylor Swift declared the end of her reputation in her new music video for her first single — Look What You Made Me Do — from her next album.
In the video, which premiered during the VMAs first hour, the pop star emerged from the grave as a zombie and sang her accusations in a dark world where previous versions of herself come back to haunt her.
It concludes with several Swifts arguing amongst themselves, with digs that have often been tossed at her such as “You are so fake,” or “There she goes playing the victim again.”
Finally, it ends with her own famous quote referring to West: “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.”
6. Heather Heyer’s mother announces the Heather Heyer Foundation
Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, said people all over the world had been inspired by her daughter’s courage.
Heyer’s mother entered the stage, telling the audience: “Only 15 days ago, my daughter Heather was killed as she protested racism. I miss her but I know she’s here tonight.”
“I want people to know that Heather never marched alone,” Bro said. “She was joined by people from every race and every background in this country.”
Bro announced the Heather Heyer Foundation, a non-profit that will award scholarships and “help more people join Heather’s fight against hatred.”
The violence in Charlottesville was sparked by the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. One of his descendants, the Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV, introduced Bro and said his ancestor has become a symbol of racism.
“We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism and hate,” Lee said. “As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.”
7. Miley Cyrus’ Younger Now performance
Miley Cyrus showcased a strong vocal performance with the title track from her upcoming Younger Now LP, while wearing cat-eye glasses and a poodle skirt.
Before her performance, the singer took to Twitter to promise her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, that she would be on her best behaviour before her performance at this year’s VMAs, after her infamous routine at the 2013 show with Robin Thicke.
“Sorry Dad…. I’ll be good tonight I promise … @vmas,” Cyrus wrote.
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) August 27, 2017
8. Lorde’s interpretive dance
Lorde, who had the flu, danced throughout the performance of Homemade Dynamite instead of singing it, wearing a tin foil half dress, pants and sneakers.
The singer opted to simply dance, not even lip syncing as the album track rang out.
Lorde tweeted before the show that “i have the flu so bad I needed an IV #showgoeson #cutelilproppedupcorpse”
— Lorde (@lorde) August 27, 2017
9. Fifth Harmony makes light of former band member leaving the group
Pop group Fifth Harmony took to the stage to perform Angel, where their former fifth member, Camila Cabello, symbolically appears to be thrown backwards off the stage in a stunt.
Cabello publicly exited the band in search of a solo career back in December 2016, reportedly without telling the other members the news first. This led to a series of back-and-forth statements placing blame for the breakup on one another.
Fifth Harmony was awarded best pop video for their song, Down, featuring Gucci Mane, which they also performed at the award show Sunday night.
See the full list of winners from last night’s 34th annual MTV VMAs below.
Video of the year: HUMBLE. Kendrick Lamar
Artist of the year: Ed Sheeran
Collaboration: I Don’t Wanna Live Forever, Zayn & Taylor Swift
Pop: Down, Fifth Harmony feat. Gucci Mane
Hip hop: HUMBLE. Kendrick Lamar
Dance: Stay, Alessia Cara & Zedd
Rock: Heavydirtysoul, Twenty One Pilots
Fight against the system: Black SpiderMan, Logic feat. Damian Lemar Hudson; Immigrants (We Get the Job Done), The Hamilton Mixtape; Light, Big Sean; Scars to Your Beautiful, Alessia Cara; Stand Up/Stand N Rock #NoDAPL, Taboo feat. Shailene Woodley; Surefire, John Legend.
Song of summer: XO Tour Llif3, Lil Uzi Vert
New artist: Khalid
Art direction: HUMBLE. Kendrick Lamar (Production Designer: Spencer Graves)
Choreography: Fade, Kanye West (Choreographers: Jae Blaze, Guapo, Matthew Pasterisa, Teyana Taylor & Derek Watkins)
Cinematography: HUMBLE. Kendrick Lamar (Cinematographer: Scott Cunningham)
Direction: HUMBLE. Kendrick Lamar (Directors: Dave Meyers, The Little Homies)
Editing: Wyclef Jean, Young Thug (Editors: Ryan Staake, Eric Degliomini)
Visual effects: HUMBLE. Kendrick Lamar (Company: Timber/Lead: Jonah Hall)
—With files from the Associated Press