A socially distanced VMAs happened – and they were actually quite good!

The socially-distanced version of the annual awards bash combined big stars and flashy technology for a night of good, safe fun


The phrase “socially-distanced awards ceremony” probably doesn’t instil you with a lot of excitement, even in the good times vacuum that is 2020. The MTV VMAs 2020, though, proved keeping six feet apart doesn’t have to be a tedious ball-ache, calling on some of pop’s biggest stars (and a lot of flashy technology) to create an actually quite good night of safe, responsible fun. Here are the best bits from the night. 

BTS’ ‘Dynamite’ VMAs debut 

The VMAs have been slower on the uptake with BTS and the world of K-pop than some other awards shows – last year was the first year they were nominated at the event, but fans weren’t impressed at them being kept out of the main pop categories. That changed a little bit in 2020 – while the Korean heavyweights still weren’t nominated for the big three of Artist, Video or Song Of The Year, they did get a new nod for Best Pop among their nominations (they took home all four). 


Unsurprisingly, given the group’s unmatchable popularity, BTS were also invited to perform at the VMAs this year – making them the first Korean act to perform at all four of the US’ top awards ceremonies. Performing their new single ‘Dynamite’ live for the very first time, the band nailed infectious choreography in front of green screen visuals of New York, travelling from DUMBO to the neon glow of Times Square and a retro-futuristic take on the Manhattan skyline. It was a brilliantly fun first outing for the mood-lifting song that made you want to jump into the screen and join them for a firework-lit dance party on the Hudson. 

Lady Gaga’s eclectic array of masks

Over the last few months, we’ve seen masks go from utilitarian and bland to opening up a whole new world of fashion. For us plebs, that might mean getting one in a nice floral print or a bold colour, but for the Gagas of the world the possibilities don’t stop there. One of the highlights of the VMAs 2020 was seeing the star switch up her mask every time she set foot on stage – and she appeared a lot. 

There was some sort of pink leather contraption that looked like it could double up as a diving mask. She performed her ‘Chromatica’ medley with a very cyberpunk black mask with light-up muzzle. Then there was the reddish-brown one with sea urchin tentacles coming off of either side. The always adventurous star ended the night on a classy and classic note – silver sequins (to match her gigantic metallic shoulder pads, of course). Gaga might have made them look effortlessly cool, but they would definitely get us normies some strange looks down Tesco.   

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A heartfelt tribute to Chadwick Boseman

On Friday (August 28), the world received a devastating shock when it was revealed that Chadwick Boseman, the brilliant star of Black Panther, Da 5 Bloods, Get Up and more, had died from cancer. Although the VMAs were pre-recorded this year, host Keke Palmer took the time to appear via video message before the main show began to dedicate the ceremony to the actor. “We dedicate tonight’s show to a man whose spirit touched so many,” Palmer said. “He is a true hero – not just on screen but in everything he did. His impact lives forever.” 

During the first ad break, the awards show shared a tribute video featuring footage of Boseman at the 2018 MTV Movie Awards. In the clip, the star deflected the attention from himself and onto James Shaw Jr, who disarmed a gunman at a diner in Tennessee in 2018, saving lives in the process. It was a fitting way to honour the actor – someone who stood for good and making the world a better place, and saw a hero inside everyone, whether they portrayed one on screen or not.  

The Weeknd making his platform count 

A lot of the VMAs 2020 felt fairly escapist – perhaps a side effect of all the visual effects and CGI wizardry – but there were moments that brought the show back down to earth. The Weeknd’s two acceptance speeches were among them. Instead of patting himself on the back for winning Best R&B and Video Of The Year for ‘Blinding Lights’, he put the world’s focus back on an issue that matters far more than handing out astronaut-shaped trophies to pop stars – police brutality. “It’s really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment so I’m just gonna say justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said in his first speech, reiterating it in his second, making his platform count. 

Gaga and Ariana’s joyous performance

If there is a lyric most appropriate for keeping your positive mental attitude in tact during the horror show that is 2020, it’s ‘Rain On Me’’s “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive”. Life might be – to put it bluntly – shit, but we’re not dead yet and Gaga and Ari’s first live performance of the ‘Chromatica’ banger gave us one more reason to be thankful for that. Wearing masks (of course) and dressed like they were heading out to a rave in outer space, they bounced, finger-waved and hair-flipped their way through, bringing contagious joy through their simple moves. 

In fact, all of Gaga’s inventive medley

Gaga has long proven that she is the master of inventive performances and tonight was no different. Whether she was sliding down a fireman’s pole into a room crowded with creepy mannequins on ‘911’ or starting ‘Stupid Love’ at a brain-shaped piano, her ‘Chromatica’ medley was eclectic, experimental and yet another unrivalled outing for an artist whose imagination knows no bounds. 

DaBaby grapples with police brutality 

Though he had just under four minutes to make his mark, North Carolina rapper DaBaby made the most of his limited time, bringing masked mimes, CGI choppers and a powerful statement to his ‘Blame It On Baby’ medley. After making his way through ‘Peephole’ and ‘Blind’, the latter of which saw him handcuffed in the back of a police car, he broke free and performed ‘Rockstar’ from the roof of the vehicle. To his right lay a discarded placard that read, “Stop killing us”, just visible as the helicopter above fired shots in his direction. 

And the most confusing moment of the night… Black Eyed Peas’ luminous crotches

We can’t call them a best bit, but we also just can’t ignore them. Black Eyed Peas closed out the ceremony with a performance of ‘Vida Loca’ and ‘I Gotta Feeling’, the former of which featured some very… interesting fashion choices. Namely, a flashing groin-shaped light fixture shoved down each of the members’ pants, glowing through their white shorts as they thrusted across the stage. Why? Honestly, who knows. We just hope for their sake they invested in some energy-efficient bulbs that don’t give off too much heat.  

VMAs 2020 winners

MTV Tricon Award
Lady Gaga

Video Of The Year
The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’

Song Of The Year
Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande – ‘Rain On Me’

Artist Of The Year
Lady Gaga

Best Collaboration
Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande – ‘Rain On Me’

Best Pop
BTS – ‘On’

PUSH Best New Artist
Doja Cat

Best Hip-Hop
Megan Thee Stallion – ‘Savage’

Best Rock
Coldplay – ‘Orphans’

Best Group

Best Alternative
Machine Gun Kelly – ‘Bloody Valentine’

Best Latin
Maluma ft. J. Balvin – ‘Qué Pena’

Best R&B
The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’

Best K-pop
BTS – ‘On’

Video For Good
H.E.R. – ‘I Can’t Breathe’

Best Music Video From Home
Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber – ‘Stuck With U’

Best Quarantine Performance
CNCO – Unplugged At Home

Best Direction
Taylor Swift – ‘The Man’ (Taylor Swift)

Best Cinematography
Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande – ‘Rain On Me’ (Thomas Kloss)

Best Art Direction
Miley Cyrus – ‘Mother’s Daughter’ (Christian Stone)

Best Visual Effects
Dua Lipa – ‘Physical’ (EIGHTY4)

Best Choreography
BTS – ‘On’ (Son Song Deuk, Lee Ga Hun, Lee Byung Eun)

Best Editing
Miley Cyrus – ‘Mother’s Daughter’ (Alexandre Moors, Nuno Xico)