The 2021 MTV VMAs took place Sunday, September 12 and featured a star-studded lineup of performers at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. It was the award ceremony's 38th year running. By working with New York state and local officials, the event was able to have a large audience despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The roster of performers included Camila Cabello, Chlöe, Doja Cat, Jack Harlow, Kacey Musgraves, Lil Nas X, Normani, Olivia Rodrigo, Ozuna, Shawn Mendes and Tainy, Twenty One Pilots, Justin Bieber, The Kid Laroi, Foo Fighters, Travis Barker, Machine Gun Kelly, Alicia Keys and Swae Lee.
Check out the clips of all the performances below!
The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber
The two popular artists opened up the VMAs with a bang, performing "Stay" together for a hyped-up audience. Later, Bieber broke off to perform "Ghost" solo. It was his first time performing on the VMA stage since 2015. The Biebs had a pretty good night: besides delivering a sky-high performance, he received a Moonperson for Best Pop with his song "Peaches."
Next up, teen idol Olivia Rodrigo performed her catchy song "good 4 u." Hovering down on a cloud of disco balls, Olivia delivered the song with a posse of punk dancers behind her and an audience in front of her that knew every lyric to the bop. Later on, Rodrigo would sweep the awards for Song of the Year and Push Performance of the Year ("drivers license") as well as Best New Artist.
Kacey Musgraves' song and album "star-crossed" have been getting a lot of buzz lately, and Musgraves knew exactly how to appease the VMA audience: by performing a candlelit, vulnerable rendition of the song. While the country star didn't have any nominations for the night, she almost burned the house down: both with her vocal chops and with the flaming heart decoration that flared in the background.
Twenty One Pilots
Performing their song "Saturday" on Sunday's VMAs, Twenty One Pilots gave the excited crowd a free ukulele and a terrific drum solo from Josh Dun. The dancy song wasn't the only reason the band was there: they were also nominated for Best Alternative ("Shy Away") and Best Group.
Rapper SAINt JHN had not one, not two...but three performances at the VMAs! All of them happened on the outdoor Extended Play Stage. First up was "Sucks To Be You," followed by "Trap," and "Roses." He was nominated alone for Push Performance of the Year ("Gorgeous"), and shared a Best R&B nom and Best Cinematography win with Beyoncé, Blue Ivy Carter, and Wizkid for "Brown Skin Girl."
The English singer Ed Sheeran performed the sugary sweet song "Shivers" on the Toyota Stage at Brooklyn Bridge Park. His hit song "Bad Habits" helped him receive a plethora of VMA nominations: including Video of the Year, Song of Summer, Best Art Direction, and Best Choreography.
Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow
Lil Nas X was one of the luckiest artists at the VMAs. Along with Olivia Rodrigo, the "Montero" singer received three awards (Video of the Year, Best Direction, Best Visual Effects). Like with all his live performances, Lil Nas X turned up the heat with an epic performance of "Industry Baby" with Jack Harlow and a full marching band, and an abridged version of his hit song "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)." Anyone know where we can buy a pair of those glittery boxers?
Who doesn't love old-fashioned black and white visuals over Camila Cabello's voice? The gorgeous Cuban diva performed "Don't Go Yet" on the VMAs stage with some impressive choreography. "Don't Go Yet" was also nominated for Song of the Summer at the show.
Shawn Mendes and Tainy
After Camila came her beau, Shawn Mendes. The singer poured his heart out with the Tainy-assisted "Summer of Love," which was nominated for Song of the Summer. Mendes also got a nod for Best Pop with his song "Wonder."
Brazilian singer Anitta gave a special performance of her song "Girl From Rio" as part of a Burger King advertisement. It was a mix of pre-recorded music video and stage performance with some flashy choreography.
Like SAINt JHN, The Rap Game reality TV star Latto also sang three songs on the Extended Play Stage. She brought some big energy with her songs "Big Energy," "B-tch From Da Souf," and "Muwop." She was also nominated for Push Performance of the Year for her song "Sex Lies."
The VMAs host herself even took to the stage! The superstar performed her songs "Been Like This" and "You Right" for the show. She was nominated for Video of the Year, Artist of the Year, Song of Summer, and Best Visual Effects, while also winning Best Art Direction with Saweetie (for "Best Friend"), and receiving the award with SZA for Best Collaboration while dressed like "a worm."
With a gorgeous light show and varsity jock backup dancers, Chlöe delivered a rockin' performance of her new song "Have Mercy." Making her solo performance debut, she brought the house down with stunning choreography and astounding vocals.
Normani showed she could slay a live performance of her Song of the Summer-nominated bop "Wild Side" just as well as in her music video. It wasn't super flashy, but it didn't need to be: Normani's chill vocals and choreography-heavy act was enough to win over the crowd. And she made sure to end the number with a talk-worthy moment.
Somehow Ozuna made a concept of crane machine stuffed toys oh so cool. In a glittery getup, the Puerto Rican singer performed his song "La Funka" for the crowd while a horde of teddy bears acted as backup dancers. How cute and cuddly!
Introduced by Billie Eilish, Global Icon honorees Foo Fighters took the stage to perform a medley of songs: "Learn to Fly," "Shame Shame," and "Everlong." Attentive viewers noticed the words "Charlie RIP" on Taylor Hawkins' drum kit, which was a nod to dearly departed Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.
Alicia Keys and Swae Lee
The perfect performer for a VMAs hosted in NYC? Alicia Keys. With the help of Swae Lee, the legendary singer performed "LaLa" and "Empire State of Mind" for the crowd at Liberty State Park.
Busta Rhymes and Spliff Star
For the penultimate performance of the night, Busta Rhymes and Spliff Star performed a medley of hits for the VMAs crowd. It was anything but ordinary with tribal drummers and dancers, sharks and explosions, and lots of fish-eye effects from the camera. Who wouldn't want to dance along in that energized crowd?
Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker
Last but not least, Born With Horns collaborators Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker closed the ceremony with a rockin' performance of "papercuts." We don't know how Kelly was able to sing with those thorns on his face, but we're blown away by his stage presence. He also won the Best Alternative Moonperson for his song "My Ex's Best Friend."
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Article Image: Justin Bieber at the GRAMMY awards in 2016, Ed Sheeran performing with his acoustic guitar in 2015, Camila Cabello posing for the camera while at the 2018 BRIT Awards. (PopularImages, yakub88 via DepositPhotos, Cubankite via Shutterstock.)