Lil Nas X won Video of the Year Sunday at the MTV Music Video Awards on a night in which Justin Bieber triumphantly returned to the stage as a performer and as the winner of the Artist of the Year award.
Justin Bieber received the award and opened the ceremony with an energetic performance that began with him rappelling from the roof of the Barclays Center to sing “Stay” with Kid LAROI and his single “Ghost.”
“I don’t take this for granted,” said Lil Nas X upon receiving the final award of the night for the video for his song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).”
The VMAs (as these awards are also known) celebrated the 40th anniversary of MTV by mixing moments of the first stars of the chain, such as Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, with high-octane performances from new stars like Olivia Rodrigo, Camila Cabello, and Chloe.
But much of the start of the show belonged to Bieber, who was the top nominee of the night. Sunday was his first VMA performance in six years, and he also took home the best pop award for “Peaches,” with Giveon accompanying him on stage.
“As we know, there is a lot going on in the world,” Bieber said in his acceptance speech after winning artist of the year. “We are in unprecedented times with COVID. Music is an incredible medium to reach people and bring them together. We are all here together ”.
Moments after Olivia Rodrigo performed her hit “good 4 u”, she picked up the first prize of the night for her hit “Drivers License”. Later, he won the best new artist award.
“I feel very grateful to be able to write music, to do things that I love and call it my job,” said Rodrigo, who was nominated for the first time. At the beginning of the ceremony, the singer called 2021 “the most magical year of my life.”
Jennifer Lopez, who three days earlier made her rekindled romance with Ben Affleck official on the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival, presented Rodrigo with her award.
Billie Eilish received the “video for good” award for “Your Power” and in her acceptance speech she said that Alicia Keys kissed her on the cheek before she spoke about the satisfaction of writing the song and empowering women.
“We must protect our own women at all costs,” Eilish said, as her brother and producer Finneas clapped from their seat. “We must remember that we all have power. We must remember not to abuse it.
Lauper, who presented Bieber with his first award, advocated for equal rights for women.
“Girls still want to have fun,” he said, alluding to his classic song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” “But we also want to have funds, fair pay, control over our bodies, you know, fundamental rights.”
Lil Nas X took the stage with Jack Harlow and later performed his controversial song “Montero (Call Me by Your Name).” Kacey Musgraves and Shawn Mendes also performed during the evening.
Ozuna performed his new song “La Funka” accompanied by dancers dressed as teddy bears.
The award for the best Latin music video, Announced in a statement after the evening, it was for Eilish and Rosalía for “You’re going to forget it.”
Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles introduced Doja Cat, the host of the show, who gave a performance from on high. Held up by cables, Doja Cat glided over the crowd and landed on stage while performing “Been Like This” and “You Right.”
Before the show, Machine Gun Kelly had a heated argument on the red carpet with UFC fighter Conner McGregor. A video showed McGregor being held by the safety of Kelly, who later won the award for best alternative music for his song “My Ex’s Best Friend,” featuring Blackbear.
Kelly said she did not initially want to release the song, but thanked her label for going against her wishes. He also thanked the director of the music video despite a dispute during filming.
“I haven’t talked to you since we did it because we fought on set, but it’s a great video and I’m really glad I won,” he said. “We won!”
Megan Thee Stallion arrived at the ceremony as the second most nominated of the night, with six nominations. BTS, Doja Cat, Drake, Giveon, Lil Nas X, and Rodrigo had five each.
Bieber and Megan Thee Stallion will compete for the artist of the year award with Ariana Grande, Doja Cat, Rodrigo and Taylor Swift.
The Foo Fighters performed and later received the Global Icon Award, an honor given for the first time at the VMAs. The award recognizes an artist or band “whose unparalleled career and continued impact and influence have maintained a unique level of worldwide success in music and beyond.”
He previously featured artists such as Queen, Eminem and Whitney Houston at the MTV Europe Music Awards.
The rock band comprised of Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear and Rami Jaffee performed several of their hits, including “Learn to Fly” and “Shame Shame.” It was his first performance at the VMAs since 2007.
Eilish presented the award for the group, thanking MTV veterans from Kurt Loder to Tabitha Soren.
“Thank you very much for this award,” said Grohl. “We will see them in another 26 years.”