After last year’s virtual ceremony, the MTV Video Music Awards made a return to live television for its 40th anniversary in Brooklyn, New York.

Hosted by Doja Cat, the 40th annual VMAs made many statements, some executed with precision and others not so much. It’s time to highlight the award winners and performances who served as the show-stopping entertainment of the night as well as the ones who did not get the memo to put it all out on stage. 

Of course, though, there has to be some honorable mentions addressed: The Foo Fighters won the Global Icon Award, Machine Gun Kelly and blackbear won Best Alternative Video for their hit song, “my ex’s best friend,” Kacey Musgraves performed her new song “star-crossed” and Billie Eilish won the Video for Good Award for her female empowerment anthem, “Your Power.” 

Here are some of the best three and worst three performances of the 40th VMAs:


“Industry Baby” by Lil Nas X ft. Jack Harlow

Lil Nas X proved his true fearlessness as an artist with his prison-themed, hot-pink covered stage performance of his lead single off his upcoming album, Montero. Unbeknownst to the audience, they watched the artist show off his killer choreography with a dance break of shirtless prisoners while Jack Harlow rapped with swagger in a bedazzled black jumpsuit. With an emphasis on sensuality throughout, the duo may have just had the most noteworthy performance of the whole show. 

“Been Like This” x “You Right” by Doja Cat

The VMAs host brought out her acrobatic side as she sang her emotional ballad “Been Like This” while suspended in the air with a golden halo. As she made her way down to the stage, she captivated the audience with her contemporary choreography as she transitioned into an R&B-esque track, “You Right,” while rocking an all-red two piece suit. It proved just how multi-dimensional she is as an artist, and fans were not disappointed. 

“Don’t Go Yet” by Camila Cabello

What made this performance unique was the use of black and white to set the scene for the singer’s homage to her Cuban upbringing. It felt like you were watching an old film from the early 1900s, and Cabello’s vocals caught the audience by surprise as she implemented vibrato and Hispanic lyrics into her set. 

The choreography was also clean and precise, with a change from black and white to full, vibrant pinks and purples by the end of the number. Overall, it had fans anxious to see what’s next from the singer’s new album, which features “Don’t Go Yet.” 


“Stay” by Kid Laroi ft. Justin Bieber

The duo opened the show, but the vocals were subpar due to the constant jumping and running around the stage. You could barely understand the lyrics, and it did not show Kid Laroi’s usually spot-on, raspy vocals. 

The costumes were also lackluster, as Bieber sported a black hoodie and baggy jeans while Laroi was wearing what almost looked like silk pajamas and sunglasses. Fans seemed to not be engaged as the two tried to harmonize with one another, and it wasn’t the amazing opening that the VMAs is usually known for. 

“Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo

Personally, I really like Olivia Rodrigo, but this performance was simply not her best. At the beginning, you could barely hear the opening line due to the overwhelming guitars and drums that backed it, which was evident as the singer started off-key. 

Once she got back into her rhythm, the performance got slightly better, but all the extra dancers and actors in the background almost made it disorienting to follow along. By the end, Rodrigo was out of breath and her voice was shaky, so it wasn’t the spectacular end viewers wanted. 

“Have Mercy” by Chloe Bailey

This was the singer’s first live performance separate from her sisterly duo of Chloe x Halle, and it may have been the most confusing spectacle of the night. What started out as just Bailey on stage turned into a graveyard scene with dancers in varsity jackets and an eerie background of a jack-o’-lantern. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to go for a Halloween vibe or what, but the concept of the performance didn’t match with the trap beat bounce of the song.