Kendrick Lamar dominated this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, landing six awards and opening the show with a stunning performance that included ninjas on fire.
However, Ed Sheeran edged out Lamar for Artist of the Year.
“Every one is a big deal,” Lamar said about the awards during the pre-show. “We put a lot of work in, just the culture of hip-hop. For the world to respect our culture and understand how much we put in — the time, the effort — to create it, it’s a beautiful thing.”
The awards show at The Forum in Los Angeles Sunday night was not what many had expected, with expectations of a Taylor Swift-Katy Perry confrontation. Swift, who won best collaboration video with Zayn for “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” was a no-show, though the video of her new single “Look What You Made Me Do” did make a splash, featuring various Swift personas from previous videos arguing amongst themselves. Perry, who hosted the show, delivered her song “Swish Swish,” which is reportedly about her beef with Swift.
The VMAs referred to numerous pressing world issues, including the residents of Texas currently struggling against Tropical Storm Harvey. Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, protests earlier this month, announced that MTV would give all six finalists for the award for “Best Fight Against the System” video the award this year.
Jared Leto offered a tribute to the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.
P!nk received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, following an inventive medley that blended songs from throughout her career. She dedicated the award to her daughter, Willow, telling her, “Baby girl, we don’t change. We take the gravel in the shell and we make a pearl.”
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Because most VMAs are voted on by fans, the winners are often unexpected. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” taking the “Song of the Summer” award over Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito,” which has held onto No. 1 for the past 15 weeks.