The MTV Video Music Awards has a reputation for being eventful, and while the show was approached very differently in 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions, there was still plenty to talk about once the last award of the night had been handed out. The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” was named Video of the Year, while Taylor Swift won Best Direction for helming her own video for “The Man.” Lady Gaga had a memorable evening, scooping Artist of the Year as well as Song of the Year and Best Collaboration for “Rain on Me,” her massive song with Ariana Grande. Gaga’s highly anticipated medley was mesmerizing, but the same cannot be said of all the performances.
The majority of stars brought their A-game to the VMAs in 2020, but the unusual circumstances surrounding the show made for a surreal and somewhat confusing experience. From crazy face masks to glowing crotches, these were the best and worst moments at the 2020 VMAs.
Best: Miley Cyrus' retro callback moment
She came in like a disco ball. Okay, so it doesn’t really have the same ring to it, but Miley Cyrus still looked pretty darn awesome when she straddled a giant glittery disco ball in a retro-themed homage to her “Wrecking Ball” music video, widely seen as the moment she went from being the face of Disney’s Hannah Montana to a provocative pop star. Cyrus gave a heartfelt rendition of her single “Midnight Sky” as she climbed a giant staircase and straddled the ball, and it went down well with her fans and the press alike (BuzzFeed called it an “extremely iconic” moment).
The singer got pulses racing when she appeared on the red carpet wearing next to nothing, but her bold choice (she opted for a barely-there, off-the-shoulder Mugler dress) won her plenty of praise online — Cyrus “never disappoints,” Cosmopolitan tweeted, adding some clapping hands emojis to make it clear that they very much approved of the get-up. Cyrus’ creativity was celebrated on the night: she won Best Art Direction and Best Editing for her song “Mother’s Daughter.”
Worst: Glowing private parts were a theme of the evening
Black Eyed Peas’ hit “I Gotta Feeling” may be the ultimate feel good song, but it didn’t really do much to lift the spirits on this occasion. The group (which was desperately missing Fergie’s presence) closed out the evening with a rendition of the 2009 smash — and it got weird. There was nothing wrong with the performance itself — at least, we don’t think there was. It was hard to pay that much attention to the music when Will.i.am, Taboo, and Apl.de.ap’s private parts appeared to be glowing through their pants.
Bizarrely, they weren’t the only artists who had an otherworldly glow around their nether regions during the 2020 VMAs. In an earlier performance, Doja Cat (who won the Push Best New Artist award) wore an outfit that featured glowing, finger-like appendages wrapped around her private parts. “If you had ‘glowing crotches, times two’ on your VMAs bingo card, collect now,” Variety joked in a mixed review of the socially distanced event.
Best: Lady Gaga's dazzling array of face masks
2020 marked the tenth anniversary of Lady Gaga rocking up to the VMAs wearing a dress made from raw meat, which was later “preserve[d] … like beef jerky” and placed in a museum (per MTV), in case you were wondering. Gaga’s red carpet look wasn’t quite as outlandish, but it was still pretty out there. She channeled the VMAs Moon Person statue with a silver coat-dress by Area and a fish bowl face mask, the first of many strange outfits Gaga would wear over the course of the 2020 VMAs.
The pop icon donned numerous weird and wonderful masks, including a memorable pink muzzle designed by Cecilio Castrillo. Gaga wore a horned mask by Lance Victor Moore when she accepted the Song of the Year award, and she later danced around in a chunky Chromatica-themed face covering during her electric performance. “I might sound like a broken record, but wear a mask,” the “Bad Romance” singer said as she accepted the first ever VMAs Tricon award, honoring her impact in music, fashion and activism. “It’s a sign of respect,” she added.
Worst: Did MTV lie about the show being live?
If MTV had simply come out and explained that the Video Music Awards would not be live this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most everyone would have understood that decision. Awards shows and events have been basically non-existent since the virus hit the United States, so any version of the VMAs would have been a welcome distraction, but by allowing people to think that the show was actually going to be live, MTV just made things worse.
“This was a show strangely hellbent on denying what just about everyone viewing either knew ahead of time or could quickly suss: that it wasn’t live,” Variety concluded, while Cosmopolitan complained that “MTV kinda lied about it being ‘live.'” So how did they actually do it? According to Page Six sources, the majority of presentations, red carpet interviews and live performances were recorded days in advance and were simply played off as being in the moment. Of course, we totally understand the difficulty of orchestrating something like this. But why the subterfuge, MTV?
Best: BTS made history with a major win
When MTV decided to introduce a Best K-Pop category at the Video Music Awards in 2019, fans of one particular group reacted angrily. BTS won the award hands down, of course, but ARMY (their super dedicated fan group) looked at it like a massive cop out. The new category was seen as “suspicious at best and borderline racist,” according to Variety, which pointed out that the uber popular Korean boy band wasn’t being considered for any of the big awards, despite their levels of popularity around the world.
Not only did BTS stop the show with its performance of “Dynamite,” the crew also picked up the Best K-Pop Moon Person once more in 2020. Oh, and they also walked away with one of the night’s biggest accolades, too, snagging the Best Pop award for the song “On.” This made BTS “the first-ever Asian act to win” the category, according to The New Indian Express’ Indulge. The Bangtan Boys beat out competition from Halsey (“You Should Be Sad”), the Jonas Brothers (“What a Man Gotta Do”), Justin Bieber and Quavo (“Intentions”), Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande (“Rain On Me”) and Taylor Swift (“Lover”).
Worst: Some of the red carpet choices were pretty peculiar
The MTV VMAs has been responsible for some incredible fashion moments over the years, but the 2020 red carpet was pretty disappointing on the whole. While the likes of Sofia Carson and Doja Cat looked on point, many others missed the mark with their outfits, which ranged from bland and forgettable to utterly ridiculous. Former reality star Nicole Richie showed up in an uninspired lime green mini dress, and if you haven’t been keeping up with her lately (she recently released what appears to be a satirical socially conscious rap album related to the character for her Quibi show), her explanation was even more baffling. “I wanted to wear green because my album is all about organic vegetables,” she said on the red carpet.
Latin American boy band CNCO and rapper DaBaby were seriously under dressed (the latter didn’t even have a shirt on underneath his jacket), and The Weeknd’s bizarre choices had some viewers legit worried. The singer arrived to be photographed in a blood red suit, black leather gloves, and bruises all over his face, causing confusion online. Turns out the fake wounds were the same ones he had in the “Blinding Lights” music video.
Best: The VMAs tribute to Chadwick Boseman
The 2020 VMAs took place just days after the shocking passing of movie star Chadwick Boseman, best known for playing King T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some artists honored the late actor in their own way (the Black Eyed Peas gave a Wakanda salute during their performance as a clear tribute), while MTV chose to dedicate the whole show to him. Host Keke Palmer called Boseman “an actor whose talent and passion is a true inspiration to all the fans he touched and everyone he encountered” during the show’s opening segment. “We dedicate tonight’s show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He’s a true hero, not just on screen, but everything he did. His impact lives forever.”
Boseman appears to have become a popular figure at the network after he made a kind gesture at the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards — the Black Panther star gave his golden popcorn award to a real life hero who had disarmed an active gunman at a Waffle House weeks earlier.
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