by Mae Mansour (’24) | October 11, 2021
With musical artists and celebrities able to return to the stage live and in person, this year’s MTV Video Music Awards was a hit. The show was much more interactive as compared to the pre-recorded, crowdless 2020 MTV VMAs. The event, hosted by artist and nominee Doja Cat, celebrated the network’s 40th anniversary. It featured special appearances by many icons, such as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, David Lee Roth, and Busta Rhymes, who have all contributed to the program’s history. The three-hour long show was hosted in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in front of a partially-masked live audience.
There were many iconic performances during the event, including one by Justin Bieber and Kid Laroi, who performed their hit song “Stay.” This was Bieber’s first time back on the MTV VMAs stage in six years. With seven nominations, Beiber was the most nominated artist at the 2021 VMAs. Ultimately, he took home the awards for Best Pop for “Peaches” and Artist of the Year.
Making her official MTV VMAs debut, Olivia Rodrigo also put on an outstanding performance. Singing her single “good 4 u” from her chart-topping album SOUR, Rodrigo’s prom-themed performance kept the whole audience on their feet. She was nominated for five VMAs, and ended up winning Song of the Year and Push Performance of the Year for her hit song “driver’s license.” She also won the award for Best New Artist.
Some other great performances of the night were Ed Sheeran singing his songs “Bad Habits” and “Shivers,” Twenty One Pilots singing “Saturday,” and Tainy and Shawn Mendes performing “Summer of Love.” The 2021 VMAs host herself, Doja Cat, put on a breathtaking performance of “Been Like This” and “You Right.”
Lil Nas X’s song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” won Video of the Year, Best Direction, and Best Visual Effects awards. It was also nominated for Video for Good and Best Art Direction awards. During his performance and acceptance speech, the “Old Town Road” singer made a point to bring awareness to the HIV epidemic and thank “the gay agenda.” Along with Jack Harlow, Lil Nas X performed the song that night, along with their song “Industry Baby.”
“Franchise” by Travis Scott, featuring Young Thug & M.I.A. won Best Hip-Hop Video. This win caused some controversy, as some believe “WAP” by Cardi B, featuring Megan Thee Stallion, should have won the award.
John Mayer was a shoo-in for the Best Rock award with his song “Last Train Home.” Although he ended up winning, the Best Rock award was, unfortunately, the only award he was nominated for.
BTS won the awards for Group of the Year, and Best K-Pop, with nominations also in Song of the Year for their single “Dynamite” and Best Pop for their single “Butter.”
The night, filled with many more performances, speeches, and awards, kept the audience waiting for more. Having the show with an actual live audience made it worth watching. With all the outstanding performances, the 2021 MTV VMAs returned to its iconic status, and was not hindered by the new state of the world due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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