The MTV Video Music Awards aren’t about who won–they are about spectacle, stunts, and performances.
This year, Beyoncé got the show started before even stepping inside Madison Square Garden by bringing along Blue Ivy, who made waves on the red carpet in a braids, a mini tiara, and a glittery princess gown with enough tulle to retail for a reported $11,000.
Ariana Grande, for her part, turned the arena into the world’s biggest SoulCycle class when she brought out the spinning bikes for a performance of “Side by Side” with Nicki Minaj.
Between that, appearances from Olympians like Serena Williams and Michael Phelps, and Teyana Taylor‘s impeccably toned – and somehow recently pregnant – body, fitness is definitely in. The latter took centerstage thanks to Kanye West, who used his four minutes to debut his new video for “Fade,” starring Taylor, a 25-year-old dancer who’s signed to his GOOD Music label, writhing around a gym in the company of her husband, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player Iman Shumpert.
But before that, Kanye also used his speech to touch on everything from Taylor Swift to gun violence in Chicago. On the sidelines, Kim Kardashian was beaming like a proud first lady (at least, before heading back to Snapchat.)
Nick Jonas, meanwhile, confounded everyone but moving his performance to nearby Tick Tock Diner, serenading a more opaquely clothed Ashley Graham in a leather tracksuit while Joanne the Scammer looked on.
Back in the stadium, Beyoncé showed everything how things are done with a show-stopping 16-minute medley from “Lemonade,” adding another “greatest hit” to the timeline of her history at the Awards by using a baseball bat to smash a camera, breaking the fourth wall. Between leading her dancers into a formation of the women symbol to lighting the place up in flames, she was literally on fire.
Next up, after an intro from Kim Kardashian, Britney Spears made a valiant effort to follow up on Queen Bey by grinding up on G-Eazy with a microphone somewhat in hand.
And finally, after being stuck in traffic, Drake made it to the ceremony in time to present Rihanna with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, and was just as thoughtful as his congratulatory billboard to the singer might have led you to expect. In his speech, Drake recalled meeting Robyn Fenty in Toronto, in 2005. He then proceeded to tell the crowd he’s been in love with her pretty much ever since – what could have easily turned into a marriage proposal, except Rihanna simply laughed, rolled her eyes, and kissed him on the cheek.
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