From Beyoncé to Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj to Nick Jonas, the 2016 MTV VMAs featured an array of sequins, smoke machines and killer dance moves. Here, Us Weekly has rounded up the night’s biggest performances in a list ranked from best to worst.
There was no doubt that Queen Bey owned the night with her high-energy 15-minute performance, which covered a good portion of her epic Lemonade album, including “Pray You Catch Me,” “Sorry,” “Hold Up,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “Formation.” The audience went wild for what was ultimately a mini-concert, complete with fierce backup dancers, pyrotechnics and plenty of swagger. (At one point, Beyoncé took a baseball bat to the cameras in a nod to her now-iconic music video for “Hold Up.”)
Sunday was meant to be Rihanna’s night; the Barbadian beauty was honored with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, and she delivered, with four performances interspersed throughout the night. The “Work” singer — with costume changes we won’t soon forget — spanned a gamut of her greatest hits over the past 11 years, from “Don’t Stop the Music” to “Only Girl” to “Rude Boy” to “Pour It Up.” And ever the performer, she kept a huge smile on her face when rumored beau Drake professed his love for her and presented her with the award.
Even though Spears’ comeback was highly anticipated (the last time she took to the MTV VMA stage was back in 2007, in a limp, sloppy performance of “Gimme More” at the height of her troubled period), the pop star failed to completely wow the crowd. A big part of the less-than-stellar performance was due to context: Spears was slated to perform right after Beyoncé’s epic stage time, and she had to fake chemistry with collaborator G-Eazy. Still, the pop princess’ sharp dance moves and fit figure proved that she’s still Britney, bitch.
4. Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj
Put two hot divas on one stage, turn up the workout beats, and the result is … lukewarm? Even though both Grande and Minaj looked drop-dead gorgeous in hot pink, tight outfits on Sunday night, their performance failed to hit the level of energy that they achieved in 2014 performing alongside Jessie J for their hit “Bang Bang” at the AMAs. Maybe it was trying to belt out high notes while peddling furiously atop an exercise bike.
Michael Phelps was enthusiastic — though bumbling — in his introduction of Future, but the rapper’s performance didn’t quite live up to the hype. Rather than bring raw energy to the stage, Future’s minimal choreography and casual approach to his performance made it a lower point among the evening’s festivities.
6. Nick Jonas and Ty Dolla $ign
Points for creativity. Jonas and Ty Dolla $ign took a different approach to their VMA performance, dancing and singing in NYC’s Tick Tock diner just outside Madison Square Garden and serving up some energetic “Bacon.”
7. Chainsmokers and Halsey
Though both Halsey and the Chainsmokers are artists on the rise, their performance at the VMAs was somewhat lackluster — especially as compared with the extravagant artistry of their fellow performers. Namely, Beyoncé.