New York — Beyoncé owned the MTV Video Music Awards — like she did in 2014 — with a 16-minute performance featuring her recent hits from Lemonade.
The 34-year-old worked various stages with strong, layered vocals, skilled dance moves and even an outfit change — all as the audience watched in awe and cheered her on.
Queen B kicked of her strong set with Pray You Catch Me as blue lights beamed onstage. She was wearing white, but later stripped down to a black leotard with full sleeves as she sang Hold Up and Sorry. She grew angry and twerked while performing Don't Hurt Yourself and ended with the anthemic Formation.
"If y'all came to slay, sing along with me," she said.
The audience at Madison Square Garden watched intensely on Sunday, at times recording the performance with their phones.
It was reminiscent of the 2014 VMAs, when Beyoncé also performed for 16 minutes and accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award. This year it was awarded to Rihanna, who split up her performances throughout the night.
Beyoncé's top-notch performance was the opposite of Britney Spears, who returned to the VMA stage after 10 years. Not only did she lip sync, in typical fashion, she did so badly. Spears performed her hit Make Me... and danced slickly, but she didn't actually sing a word of the song live. She was joined by rapper G-Eazy — and she lip synched the hook to his hit song, Me, Myself and I.
Beyoncé was the top nominee with 11, including video of the year for Formation. She won best female video, presented to her by four of the Final Five gymnast, excluding Gabby Douglas, who is hospitalised for a mouth infection.
"Thank you to my fans. I love you," she said. "Have a beautiful night."
The Sorry hitmaker was angel-winged and green-feathered with daughter Blue Ivy in tow as she arrived on the white carpet along with Sybrina Fulton, Lezley McSpadden and Gwen Carr, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, among others.
They appeared in videos for Beyoncé's Lemonade visual album and also make up the Mothers of the Movement, women of colour who lost children to violence.
In typical and true Kanye West fashion, the rapper ranted onstage, touching on subjects from music to his beef with Taylor Swift to violence in his hometown Chicago. Before he debuted his music video for Fade on Sunday, West rambled onstage as the audience in New York City cheered him on.
"Now later tonight Famous might lose to Beyoncé but I can't be mad, I'm always wishing for Beyoncé to win," said West, who competed with her for video of the year, and also referring to the 2009 VMAs when he jumped onstage, stole Swift's microphone and said Beyoncé should have won over the then-country singer.
He talked about his Famous video, which features what appears to be naked images of West, Swift, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump and more. He even pointed to former girlfriend Amber Rose, who was in the audience and is also in the video.
"It was an expression of our now, our fame right now, us on the inside of the TV, you know, the audacity to put Anna Wintour right next to Donald Trump," he said.
"I put Ray J in it bro," he said, referring to Kardashian's ex with whom she did a sex tape.
"But if you think about last week it was 22 people murdered in Chicago," he continued. "You know, people come up to me like, 'Man, that's right! Take, tell Taylor this. Bro, like I love all y'all."
"That's why I called her," he said with a laugh.
Rihanna kicked off the show, performing a medley of her hit songs in a bright pink ensemble that matched her background dancers and the stage.
She sang songs like We Found Love and Where Have You Been — sometimes letting the backing track do most of the work. She sang Work and other songs during a second performance.
Ariana Grande brought spin class to the VMA stage when she sang the reggae-tinged Side to Side with Nicki Minaj.
Grande cycled while singing and was backed by female dancers imitating her. Male dancers lifted dumbbells and did other exercises, and at the end of their performance, Grande and Minaj put their male dancers' faces in front their crotches.
Michael Phelps said he's been inspired by hip-hop music before introducing Future, who Phelps said he listened to before swimming. The rapper-singer-producer performed his hit (Expletive) Up Some Commas.
Drake won the first award for the night — best hip hop video for Hotline Bling. Puff Daddy, who presented the award, said Drake was stuck in traffic.
Calvin Harris won best male video — beating West's Famous — for This is What You Came For, which featured Rihanna and was co-written with former girlfriend Swift. Harris accepted the award in a video message.
Fifth Harmony and Ty Dollar $ign won best collaboration video for Work from Home. The girl group also won song of the summer for Flex (All In My Head).
Coldplay, Desiigner, Fergie and Alessia Cara earned multiple nominations, while David Bowie — who died from cancer earlier this year — was nominated for best direction, cinematography, art direction and editing for Lazarus. The music video, which shows him looking frail in bed with bandaged eyes, was released just days before the icon's death on 10 January.
Song of the summer: Fifth Harmony, "All in My Head (Flex)"
Video of the year: Beyoncé, "Formation"
Female video: Beyoncé, "Hold Up"
Male video: Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna, "This is What You Came For"
Hip-hop video: Drake, "Hotline Bling"
Collaboration video: Fifth Harmony feat. Ty Dolla $ign, "Work from Home"
Breakthrough long-form video: Beyoncé, "Lemonade"
New artist: DNCE
Art direction: David Bowie, "Blackstar"
Choreography: Beyoncé, "Formation" (Chris Grant, Jaquel Knight, Dana Foglia)
Direction: Beyoncé, "Formation" (Melina Matsoukas)
Cinematography: Beyoncé, "Formation" (Malik Sayeed)
Editing: Beyoncé, "Formation" (Jeff Selis)
Visual effects: Coldplay, "Up & Up" (Vania Heymann, Gloria F X)
(Photos: Getty Images)
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