Skip to content
MTV VMA Highlights: NPR


Lil Nas X accepts Best Direction for “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” on stage at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards in New York on Sunday.

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images


hide caption

toggle legend

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

MTV VMA Highlights: NPR

Lil Nas X accepts Best Direction for “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” on stage at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards in New York on Sunday.

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

The MTV Video Music Awards returned to the stage after the socially distanced 2020 show. The show also marked the network’s 40th anniversary.

It was a big night for Olivia Rodrigo, Justin Bieber and Lil Nas X, among others. Here are some of the memorable moments and winners of “Moon Person”.

Outstanding performances and memorable moments

The night saw performances from Justin Bieber, Camila Cabello, Chlöe, Lil Nas X, Machine Gun Kelly, Kacey Musgraves, Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Olivia Rodrigo, Shawn Mendes, Twenty One Pilots and more. Watch these videos here.

Some stars were making their VMA debuts with brand new songs. Musgraves performed “Star-Crossed”, the title track from his recently released studio album, while Chlöe (who you may know as half of sister R&B duo Chlöe x Halle) performed her first solo single “Have Mercy” on stage for the first time.

Other veterans returned to the stage: Brooklyn legend Busta Rhymes performed a medley of some of her greatest hits, while Alicia Keys honored the 9/11 anniversary by ending her performance with a piano version of “Empire State of Mind”.

A few other notable moments, as collected by MTV: Olivia Rodrigo took to the stage from a cloud (Good 4 Her, honestly), Doja Cat danced through the air after being introduced by her fellow gravity defender Simone Biles (and then accepted a prize dressed like a worm) and the Foo Fighters received the very first Global Icon Award from the VMA.

See United States todayperformance ranking.

A list of nominees and starred winners

Justin Bieber led with seven nominations, followed by Megan Thee Stallion (who got six but came home empty-handed). Billie Eilish, BTS, Doja Cat, Drake, Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo and Giveon each received five nominations.

Lil Nas X won first video of the year award with “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” then started his thank you speech by thanking “the gay agenda”. This video also won the award for best direction and best visual effects.

Justin Bieber won the Artist of the Year award and shared “Best Pop” with Daniel Caesar and Giveon for “Peaches”.

Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” won Song of the Year and Best Pushing Performance of the Year. She also won the award for best new artist.

Here is the full list.

A milestone anniversary

The awards show paid tribute to MTV’s history from start to finish.

It opened with a surprise appearance from Madonna, a VMA legend with 20 Lunar Awards to her name.

The Queen of Pop celebrated her decades-long relationship with MTV – and New York City – in video footage that showed her in the back of a cab, in Times Square and ultimately live on stage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. , surrounded by screens showing some of her iconic clips (and dropping her trench coat to reveal a naughty leather outfit).

“Forty years ago another outsider came to New York City, hoping to create something revolutionary. An all-music channel was created in the middle of the night and called itself MTV,” Madonna said. . “We met and formed a bond that changed my life, changed music and created a whole new art form. That’s why there’s only one place to be tonight.”

Cyndi Lauper, who won a Moon Person in the very first VMAs in 1984, reminded viewers how much everything has changed since then. In brief remarks before presenting an award, she linked her hit song to the fight for women’s rights.

“Yeah, girls always want to have fun,” Lauper said, as the crowd roared. “But we also want to have funds. Equal pay. Control over our bodies! You know, basic rights.”

The evening ended with another nod to the past. The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”, the very first video to air on MTV in 1981, played on the end credits.