The MTV Video Music Awards opened with a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, following the Black Panther star’s death aged 43.
A starkly different VMAs is taking place across New York City’s five boroughs, with little to no audience and performances outside due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Host for the evening Keke Palmer opened the show with a tribute to Boseman, whose death on Friday stunned Hollywood. He was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago.
“We dedicate tonight’s show to a man whose spirit touched so many,” Palmer said. “He is a true hero, not just on screen but in everything he did. His impact lives forever.”
Self-proclaimed “millennial diva” Palmer’s opening monologue contained references to the tumultuous year, touching on the pandemic as well the social unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd in May.
“We can never tolerate police brutality,” Palmer said from a set near the Empire State Building.
“It’s our time to be the change we want to see. We need to come together, and music has that power.”
Canadian singer The Weeknd was the first performer of the night, singing his smash hit Blinding Lights over 1,000ft above Manhattan on the Edge building at Hudson Docks.
Rapper DaBaby performed his song Blind while handcuffed in the back of a police car, climbing on the vehicle’s roof for a rendition of UK number one single Rockstar.
Other stars set to perform include Billie Eilish, BTS, and Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, who lead the way in nominations with nine.
And ahead of their performance of the dance-infused single Rain On Me, the pair won best collaboration for the song.
“This means the world,” Gaga said while accepting the prize, adding she and Grande are “truly soul sisters”.
Taylor Swift won best direction for her The Man music video, accepting the award with a video message from home.