Kendrick Lamar was the king of the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, winning six awards on a night full of emotional performances, political moments and a new, eye-popping Taylor Swift music video.
The 2017 MTV VMAs at the Forum in Inglewood, California, kicked off with lasers, fire and Kendrick Lamar. Break dancers performed amidst the light beams and fog as the rapper performed “DNA.” The song culminated with a ninja break-dancing while engulfed in flames. Then, the rapper transitioned to “Humble” and Lamar’s backup performers, who were wearing martial arts uniforms, clamoured up and down a ladder that was set ablaze.
Ed Sheeran then took the stage to perform “Shape of You” against a prismatic set before Lil Uzi hopped onstage to add a few rap lines and helped Sheeran close out the song before the two launched into “XO TOUR Llif3.”
The show cut to a skit featuring host Katy Perry hatching up a scheme to visit space, asking for advice from Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson, Abbi Jacobson, Kathryn Hahn and Kevin Bacon who reminded Perry, “I wasn’t really on Apollo 13.” Perry then detailed her fictional trip to space before she floated down to the stage in her holographic space suit.
When she got to the stage, Perry explained to the audience that she has been missing in action because of her trip to space.
She said: “The world is doing so well right? Everything is fine? Great! Maybe not so much.”
Perry explained she wanted to change clothes. As she started to disrobe, she went through a rack of clothes. At one point, she took a “Handmaid’s Tale” uniform out and asked what it was. She said, “You guys have really been going through it, haven’t you? How the f**k are you coping right now?” before she was handed a fidget spinner as an explanation.
Paris Jackson presented best pop video award, but not before giving an impassioned statement against white supremacists.
“Let’s leave here tonight remembering we must show these Nazi, white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville and all over the country that as a nation with liberty as our slogan, we have zero tolerance for their violence, their hatred and their discrimination,” said Jackson. “We must resist.”
Fifth Harmony won best pop video for “Down“ and they got teary as they thanked their families and Gucci Mane, who was on the stage with them.
Hailee Steinfeld announced Julia Michaels’ performance of “Issues.”
The VMAs premiered Taylor Swift’s video for her new single “Look What You Made Me Do” while a new minutes later, Yara Shahidi announced Shawn Mendes’ performance of “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back.”
Perry returned to the stage with a message for people affected by Hurricane Harvey and said, “We are praying for your safety … because we’re all in this together.”
Alessandra Ambrosio and Jack Antonoff, who sported a prominent Star of David necklace, announced a performance by Lorde.
Lorde opened by turning on a boom box onstage and dancing to her song “Homemade Dynamite.” Later, backup dancers joined her to lift her into the air so she could float over the stage. She ended the performance without singing a single word.
Pete Wentz and Teyana Taylor presented best dance, which went to “Stay” by Alessia Cara and Zedd.
DJ Khaled took the stage with his baby, Asahd Tuck Khaled, who Perry said would obviously win the social media baby contest. He then announced a performance by Fifth Harmony. The girl group started with “Angel” before transitioning into “Down.”
Ludacris and Olivia Munn presented best collaboration, which went to “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn and Taylor Swift. Jack Antonoff and his “favorite new artist” Sam Dew accepted the award on the singers’ behalf.
Jared Leto took the stage to pay tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Soundgarden front-man Chris Cornell.
Leto then urged audience members and viewers at home to stand up for a performance by Linkin Park.
A few minutes later, host Perry announced a performance by Miley Cyrus, who sang “Younger Now” after shouting, “Love you, Katy!”
Cardi B announced a spirited performance of “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato.
Later, P!nk appeared onstage in a convertible to sing a medley of her songs, including “Get the Party Started” and “Raise Your Glass” before hopping onto an ATV to sing “So What” as backup singers danced nearly nude with only black bars to cover themselves.
P!nk then sang “Don’t Let Me Get Me” and “Just Give Me A Reason” against a screen playing her old music videos before she performed her newest single “What About Us.”
After Pink’s performance, Ellen DeGeneres took the stage to present the Vanguard Award to P!nk.
Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown took the stage to present artist of the year and quipped, “Just last year, I was stuck in the upside down and now I’m here.” The award went to Brown’s “personal favorite” Ed Sheeran.
Vanessa Hudgens announced a performance by Alessia Cara.
Kesha announced a performance of “1-800-273-8255” by Alessia Cara and Logic, encouraging people to seek help and advice. The song title is also the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Bebe Rexha and The Chainsmokers presented best new artist, which went to Khalid, before Thirty Seconds to Mars sang “Walk on Water” with a performance that saw them appear as a heat map.
Reverend Robert Mead IV took the stage and said:
“I am a descendent of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin. Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s March in January and especially Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”
Mead then introduced Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, who said of her daughter:
“I miss her, but I know she’s here tonight. I have been deeply moved to see people across the world, the whole world, find inspiration in her courage.” She announced the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, which will provide scholarships to “help people join Heather’s fight against hatred. I want people to know that Heather never marched alone. She was always joined by people of every race and every background in this country.”
She announced that MTV decided to honor all six nominees for its category, best fight against the system, adding:
“I congratulate all these artists on their VMA tonight and I look forward to the important work that they and all of you will do together to make the world a better, kinder place. Thank you.”
Hailey Baldwin announced the performance of the “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” reboot by Rod Stewart and DNCE, who put on a colorful and flashy performance from Las Vegas.
Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot presented video of the year, which went to “Humble.” by Kendrick Lamar.
Noah Cyrus announced a performance by host Perry and Nicki Minaj who together closed out the ceremony.
Here’s the full list of winners from the 2017 VMA’s:
Video of the Year: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best New Artist: Khalid
Artist of the Year: Ed Sheeran
Best Hip Hop Video: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Collaboration: Zayn and Taylor Swift: “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)”
Best Pop Video: Fifth Harmony: “Down” [ft. Gucci Mane]
Best Dance Video: Zedd and Alessia Cara: “Stay”
Best Rock Video: Twenty One Pilots: “Heavydirtysoul”
Song of the Summer: Lil Uzi Vert: “XO Tour Llif3”
Best Direction: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Cinematography: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Visual Effects: Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Best Choreography: Kanye West: “Fade”
Best Editing: Young Thug: “Wyclef Jean”
Best Fight Against the System (all nominees win):Logic: “Black SpiderMan”; The Hamilton Mixtape: “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)”; Big Sean: “Light”; Alessia Cara: “Scars to Your Beautiful”; Taboo: “Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” [ft. Shailene Woodley]; John Legend: “Surefire”