MTV has dedicated its Video Music Awards show to Chadwick Boseman, calling the 43-year-old Black Panther star, whose death last week shocked fans around the world, a “true hero”.
The annual awards night, the biggest on the music calendar, had a starkly different look this year across New York City’s five boroughs instead of taking place at a packed Barclays Centre in New York, with little to no audience and performances outside due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The VMAs marked the first major US awards show to take place during the coronavirus pandemic. Artists took the stage in audience-less locations around New York City to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Wearing outrageous and “iconic costumes”, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus were among dozens of presenters, with Lady Gaga the biggest winner of the night with five awards.
Performers included BTS, The Black Eyed Peas, DaBaby, The Weeknd, Doja Cat, Maluma with CNCO and Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande.
Cyrus referenced her iconic 2013 music video Wrecking Ball in a live performance of her hit new single Midnight Sky.
Thanks mostly to their hit collaboration Rain on Me, Gaga and Grande led the nominations with nine.
Wearing highly creative masks during each performance and acceptance speech, Lady Gaga stormed the ceremony with multiple costume changes ranging from an exotic bird to a bright green ball gown, all accompanied by exaggerated custom-made face shields.
“I was wearing face shields before it was a thing,” Gaga said on Twitter during the show.
“This has not been an easy year for a lot of people,” she said on Sunday night. “Stay safe, speak your minds, and I might sound like a broken record but wear a mask … It’s a sign of respect.”
Billie Eilish and The Weeknd followed with six nominations.
Boseman a ‘true hero’
Opening the annual ceremony dedicated to the best in pop music, 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”.
“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,” Palmer said on Sunday night local time.
Boseman’s death on Friday of colon cancer brought an outpouring of tributes ranging from former US president Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler.
Boseman had been diagnosed in 2016, his family said, but had not publicly disclosed his illness.
The VMA awards show on Sunday also ran clips of Boseman accepting an MTV Movie Award in 2018 for his role as king of the fictional African kingdom Wakanda in Black Panther and aired a black screen with the words “Rest in Power”.
The 2018 superhero movie, the first in the genre to feature a predominantly black cast, jumped back into the top five on the Apple and Amazon movie charts on Sunday.
America’s national reckoning over systemic racism was also on the minds of performers and presenters after months of street protests over the deaths of black people at the hands of police.
“It’s our time to be the change we want to see,” Palmer said. “We need to come together, and music has that power.”
The Weeknd, accepting the trophy for best R&B song for Blinding Lights, said he was not in the mood for partying “so I’m just going to say justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor”, referring to the recent police shootings of Blake and Taylor.
Key winners at the MTV Video Music Awards
- VIDEO OF THE YEAR: The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
- ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Lady Gaga
- SONG OF THE YEAR: Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – Rain On Me
- BEST COLLABORATION: Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande – Rain On Me
- BEST K-POP: BTS On
- PUSH BEST NEW ARTIST: Doja Cat
- BEST POP: BTS – On
- BEST R&B: The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
- BEST HIP-HOP: Megan Thee Stallion – Savage
- BEST MUSIC VIDEO FROM HOME: Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber – Stuck with U
- BEST QUARANTINE PERFORMANCE: CNCO – Unplugged At Home