The MTV VMAs might not have been ‘live,’ but at least they were creative

The annual awards production was forced to pivot with the pandemic

‘Give MTV credit for creativity.

When the show’s original plan for this year’s Video Music Awards sank – it was going to be the first live awards gathering since the pandemic began, with the blessing of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, until said pandemic continued to rage – the network pivoted to what it was still calling a “live” production that would feature performances from around New York City.

ExplorePHOTOS: MTV VMAs 2020 what they wore

On Sunday night, the annual mélange of meaningless trophies, pop culture memories and “Get off my lawn!”-styled commentary from anyone over 30, impressively weaved together pre-taped performances and acceptance speeches, all while keeping locations intentionally vague.

The opening performance from The Weeknd (who would also win video of the year, among other trophies) was a glittering spectacle from the Edge at Hudson Yards, an apropos setting for his hit, “Blinding Lights.” According to Page Six of the New York Post, it was filmed Thursday night.

As well, best quarantine performance winners CNCO shot their rendition of “Beso” last week among a small group of fans hanging out atop their vehicles; the song ended with a splash of fireworks on the Hudson River (which, apparently, didn’t earn much applause from neighbors).

But really, does it even matter anymore where and when these performances and acceptances speeches were filmed, especially this year, when normalcy is barely a concept?

K-Pop crossover sensations BTS displayed their precision dance moves and pop hooks of their first English-language single, “Dynamite,” in front of iconic New York images, including Times Square and the Brooklyn Bridge. But those backdrops were merely snazzy effects on a green screen from South Korea.

Their fans, assuredly, do not care that they weren’t actually in New York.

The most ubiquitous star of the night, Lady Gaga, was clearly relishing the fashion possibilities that accompany mask wearing, as she donned elaborate facial coverings that often looked like frillier mockups of “Star Wars” creatures and “Sound of Music”-meets-Cher costumes.

In addition to performing “Rain on Me” with Ariana Grande (in Los Angeles), Lady G won three awards, as well as the inaugural Tricon Award, which led to the furious Googling of, “what is a tricon?” It was my biggest question of the night, along with, why are the Black-Eyed Peas on this show? And, Coldplay is considered a rock act?

Always the inspiration, Gaga promised that, “A Renaissance is coming, and the wrath of pop culture will inspire you and the rage of art will empower you.”

Host Keke Palmer didn’t have much to do amid these pre-taped bits because, with no audience to play off of and no impromptu shenanigans taking place on stage, hosting is a rather thankless gig (she did, however, perform a bit of “Snack”).

In a pre-taped segment to the pre-taped show, Palmer announced that the VMAs would be dedicated to the valiant Chadwick Boseman, whose shocking death Friday night is still reverberating in the entertainment sphere.

It was, perhaps, the most authentic moment of the night.

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Here is the full list of nominees and winners:

Video of the Year

WINNER: The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records

Billie Eilish: “Everything I Wanted” – Darkroom / Interscope Records

Eminem ft. Juice WRLD: “Godzilla” – Shady / Aftermath / Interscope Records

Future ft. Drake: “Life Is Good” – Epic Records / Freebandz

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain on Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records

Taylor Swift: “The Man” – Republic Records

Artist of the Year

WINNER: Lady Gaga – Streamline / Interscope Records

DaBaby – SCMG / Interscope Records

Justin Bieber – RBMG / Def Jam

Megan Thee Stallion – 300 Entertainment

Post Malone – Republic Records

The Weeknd – XO / Republic Records

PUSH Best New Artist

WINNER: Doja Cat — Kemosabe / RCA Records

Jack Harlow — Generation Now / Atlantic Records

Lewis Capaldi — Capitol Records

Roddy Ricch — Atlantic Records

Tate McRae — RCA Records

Yungblud – Locomotion Recordings / Geffen Records / Interscope Records

Song of the Year

WINNER: Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records

Billie Eilish: “Everything I Wanted” – Darkroom / Interscope Records

Doja Cat: “Say So” – Kemosabe / RCA Records

Megan Thee Stallion: “Savage” – 300 Entertainment

Post Malone: “Circles” – Republic Records

Roddy Ricch: “The Box” – Atlantic Records

Best Collaboration

WINNER: Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records

Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber: “Stuck with U” – Republic Records / Def Jam

Black Eyed Peas ft. J Balvin: “Ritmo (Bad Boys For Life)” – Epic Records / We The Best

Ed Sheeran ft. Khalid: “Beautiful People” – Atlantic Records

Future ft. Drake: “Life Is Good” – Epic Records / Freebandz

Karol G ft. Nicki Minaj: “Tusa” – Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Best Pop

WINNER: BTS: “On” – Big Hit Entertainment

Halsey: “You Should Be Sad” – Capitol Records

Jonas Brothers: “What a Man Gotta Do” – Republic Records

Justin Bieber ft. Quavo: “Intentions” – RBMG / Def Jam

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records

Taylor Swift: “Lover” – Republic Records

Best Hip-Hop

WINNER: Megan Thee Stallion: “Savage” – 300 Entertainment

DaBaby: “Bop” – SCMG / Interscope Records

Eminem ft. Juice WRLD: “Godzilla” – Shady / Aftermath / Interscope Records

Future ft. Drake: “Life Is Good” – Epic Records / Freebandz

Roddy Ricch: “The Box” – Atlantic Records

Travis Scott: “Highest in the Room” – Epic Records / Cactus Jack

Best R&B

WINNER: The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records

Alicia Keys: “Underdog” – RCA Records

Chloe x Halle: “Do It” – Parkwood / Columbia Records

H.E.R. ft. YG: “Slide” – MBK / RCA Records

Khalid ft. Summer Walker: “Eleven” – Right Hand Music / RCA Records

Lizzo: “Cuz I Love You” – Atlantic Records

Best K-Pop

WINNER: BTS: “On” – Big Hit Entertainment

EXO: “Obession” – SM Entertainment

(G)I-DLE: “Oh My God” – Republic Records

Monsta X: “Someone’s Someone” – Epic Records

Red Velvet: “Psycho” – SM Entertainment

Tomorrow X Together: “9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)” – Big Hit Entertainment

Best Latin

WINNER: Maluma ft. J Balvin: “Qué Pena” – Sony Music Latin

Anuel AA ft. Daddy Yankee, Ozuna, Karol G & J Balvin: “China” – Real Hasta La Muerte

Bad Bunny: “Yo Perreo Sola” – Rimas Entertainment

Black Eyed Peas ft. Ozuna & J. Rey Soul: “Mamacita” – Epic Records

J Balvin: “Amarillo” – Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Karol G ft. Nicki Minaj: “Tusa” – Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Best Rock

WINNER: Coldplay: “Orphans” – Atlantic Records

Blink-182: “Happy Days” – Columbia Records

Evanescence: “Wasted On You” – BMG

Fall Out Boy ft. Wyclef Jean: “Dear Future Self (Hands Up)” – Island Records

Green Day: “Oh Yeah!” – Reprise / Warner Records

The Killers: “Caution” – Island Records

Best Alternative

WINNER: Machine Gun Kelly: “Bloody Valentine” – Bad Boy / Interscope Records

The 1975: “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” – Dirty Hit / Interscope Records

All Time Low: “Some Kind Of Disaster” – Fueled By Ramen

Finneas: “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night” – AWAL

Lana Del Rey: “Doin’ Time” – Interscope Records

Twenty One Pilots: “Level of Concern” – Elektra Music Group / Fueled By Ramen

Best Group

WINNER: BTS

5 Seconds of Summer

The 1975

Blackpink

Chloe x Halle

CNCO

Little Mix

Monsta X

Now United

Twenty One Pilots

Best Music Video From Home

WINNER: Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber: “Stuck with U” – Republic Records / Def Jam

5 Seconds of Summer: “Wildflower” – Interscope Records

Blink-182: “Happy Days” – Columbia Records

Drake: “Toosie Slide” – OVO/Republic Records

John Legend: “Bigger Love” – Columbia Records

Twenty One Pilots: “Level of Concern” – Elektra Music Group / Fueled By Ramen

Best Quarantine Performance

CNCO: MTV Unplugged At Home

Chloe x Halle: “Do It (from MTV Prom-Athon)”

DJ D-Nice: Club MTV Presents: #DanceTogether

John Legend: #TogetherAtHome Concert Series

Lady Gaga: “Smile” from One World: Together At Home

Post Malone: Nirvana Tribute

Video For Good

WINNER: H.E.R.: “I Can’t Breathe” – MBK / RCA Records

Anderson .Paak: “Lockdown” – 12 Tone Music Group

Billie Eilish: “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” – Darkroom / Interscope Records

Demi Lovato: “I Love Me” – Island Records

Lil Baby: “The Bigger Picture” – Quality Control Music / Motown / Capitol Music Group

Taylor Swift: “The Man” – Republic Records

Everyday Heroes: Frontline Medical Workers

WINNER: ALL

Dr. Elvis Francois and Dr. William Robinson: “Imagine”

Dr. Nate Wood: “Lean On Me”

Jefferson University Hospital’s Swab Squad: “Level Up”

Jason “Tik Tok Doc” Campbell

Lori Marie Key: “Amazing Grace”

Best Direction

WINNER: Taylor Swift: “The Man” – Republic Records – Directed by Taylor Swift

Billie Eilish: “Xanny” – Darkroom / Interscope Records – Directed by Billie Eilish

Doja Cat: “Say So” – Kemosabe / RCA Records – Directed by Hannah Lux Davis

Dua Lipa: “Don’t Start Now” – Warner Records – Directed by Nabil

Harry Styles: “Adore You” – Columbia Records – Directed by Dave Meyers

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records – Directed by Anton Tammi

Best Cinematography

WINNER: Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records – Cinematography by Michael Merriman

5 Seconds of Summer: “Old Me” – Interscope Records – Cinematography by Kieran Fowler

Camila Cabello ft. DaBaby: “My Oh My” – Syco Music / Epic Records – Cinematography by Scott Cunningham

Billie Eilish: “all the good girls go to hell” – Darkroom / Interscope Records – Cinematography by Christopher Probst

Katy Perry: “Harleys In Hawaii” – Capitol Records – Cinematography by Arnau Valls

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records – Cinematography by Oliver Millar

Best Art Direction

WINNER: Miley Cyrus: “Mother’s Daughter” – RCA Records – Art Direction by Christian Stone

A$AP Rocky: “Babushka Boi” – Polo Grounds Music / RCA Records – Art Direction by A$AP Rocky & Nadia Lee Cohen

Dua Lipa: “Physical” – Warner Records – Art Direction by Anna Colomer Nogué

Harry Styles: “Adore You” – Columbia Records – Art Direction by Laura Ellis Cricks

Selena Gomez: “Boyfriend” – Interscope Records – Art Direction by Tatiana Van Sauter

Taylor Swift: “Lover” – Republic Records – Art Direction by Kurt Gefke

Best Visual Effects

WINNER: Dua Lipa: “Physical” – Warner Records – Visual Effects by EIGHTY4 and Mathematic

Billie Eilish: “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” – Darkroom / Interscope Records – Visual Effects by Drive Studios

Demi Lovato: “I Love Me” – Island Records – Visual Effects by Hoody FX

Harry Styles: “Adore You” – Columbia Records – Visual Effects by Mathematic

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records – Visual Effects by Ingenuity Studios

Travis Scott: “Highest in the Room” – Epic Records / Cactus Jack – Visual Effects by ARTJAIL, SCISSOR FILMS & FRENDER

Best Choreography

WINNER: BTS: “On” – Big Hit Entertainment – Choreography by The Lab, Son Sung Deuk

CNCO & Natti Natasha: “Honey Boo” – Sony Music Latin / RCA Records – Choreography by Kyle Hanagami

DaBaby: “BOP” – SCMG / Interscope Records – Choreography by Dani Leigh and Cherry

Dua Lipa: “Physical” – Warner Records – Choreography by Charm La’Donna

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records – Choreography by Richy Jackson

Normani: “Motivation” – Keep Cool / RCA Records – Choreography by Sean Bankhead

Best Editing

WINNER: Miley Cyrus: “Mother’s Daughter” – RCA Records – Edited by Alexandre Moors, Nuno Xico

Halsey: “Graveyard” – Capitol Records – Edited by Emilie Aubry, Janne Vartia & Tim Montana

James Blake: “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow” – Republic Records – Edited by Frank Lebon

Lizzo: “Good As Hell” – Atlantic Records – Edited by Russell Santos & Sofia Kerpan

Rosalía: “A Palé” – Columbia Records – Edited by Andre Jones

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records – Edited by Janne Vartia & Tim Montana

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