Beyonce took home the most prestigious prize at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards and gave a performance for the ages, but for most of Sunday night, Nicki Minaj had won the unofficial award for biggest head turner.
The fireworks started with the opening act: 21 year old breakout singer Ariana Grande, Brit-soul belter Jesse J and rapper Nicki Minaj recreating their three-way collaboration, “Bang Bang.”
Minaj, though, grabbed attention for her own single, the posterior-friendly new song “Anaconda,” with a crotch-grabbing, butt gyrating, simulated humping performance that draws comparisons to last year’s infamous Miley Cyrus twerking.
Katy Perry won the Best Female Video award for “Dark Horse,” while Ed Sheeran won for Best Male Video. Grande won for Best Pop Video for “Problem,” her collaboration with rapper Iggy Azalea. Fifth Harmony won the award for Artist to Watch.
Drake won the award for Best Hip-Hop Video for “Hold On (We’re Going Home)” featuring Majid Jordan.
And in a suprise, pop star Lorde took home the Best Rock Video for “Royals,” despite not actually being a rock star.
It wasn’t as shocking as Minaj’s number, but Taylor Swift had the audience pumped with her slick ’80s pop throwback, “Shake It Off.” A little while later, Sam Smith made his American award show debut with a more subdued performance of his hit, “Stay With Me.”
Usher may have had the strongest performance of the night for his foot-stomping song, “Believe Me.”
There were also somber moments, such as Common’s reference to the events in Ferguson, Mo. “I want us to all take a moment of silence for Mike Brown, peace in this country and around the world,” said the rapper.
There was also a brief montage of images of Robin Williams to salute the late comic actor.
But the night ultimately belonged to Beyonce.
Besides netting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award — an honor previously bestowed on pop’s most visually-savvy artists, from Madonna to Peter Gabriel to Justin Timberlake to Jackson himself — Beyonce had been up for eight other awards. Her nominations included “Video of the Year” for “Drunk In Love,” which features husband Jay-Z.
Before the telecast began, boy band 5 Seconds of Summer continued their season to remember by winning the award for Best Lyric Video for their hit, “Don’t Stop.”