Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” took video of the year at the 2021 VMAs, held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday (Sept. 12).
Lil Nas X co-directed the envelope-pushing “Montero” with Tanu Muino. It’s just the third video of the year winner to be directed or co-directed by the artist, following Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” (which she directed by herself) and Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” (which he co-directed with Dave Meyers and Dave Free).
Rodrigo took song of the year for “Drivers License.” The smash, a tender and universally relatable look at young heartbreak, spent eight consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s the Grammy front-runner to win for both record and song of the year.
Rodrigo, 18, also became the fifth-youngest best new artist winner to date at the VMAs. Bieber was just 16 when he won in 2010. Avril Lavigne, Austin Mahone and Billie Eilish were each 17 when they won. (The Kid LAROI, who MTV revealed was this year’s runner-up, is also 18.)
Rodrigo is all but certain to win the Grammy for best new artist. That would make her just the fifth artist to be named best new artist at both of these shows. The first four were Hootie the Blowfish, Alicia Keys, Maroon 5 and Billie Eilish.
Rodrigo also won push performance of the year, again edging out The Kid LAROI.
Bieber won artist of the year. He’s the first male winner in the category since Ed Sheeran, who was the inaugural winner four years ago. (Camila Cabello, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga were the winners in the intervening years.) Bieber also won best pop for “Peaches” (featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon), in an upset over BTS’ megahit “Butter.” BTS won in that category last year for a lesser hit, “On.”
“Butter” did, however, win best K-pop. BTS has won that award in all three years it has been presented. They won last year for “On” and two years ago for “Boy with Luv” (featuring Halsey).
BTS also won group of the year for the third year in a row. They are the first group to win in that category (or one of its predecessors, best group video or best group) three years running. No Doubt are the only other three-time winners in the category’s history, but their wins were not consecutive.
“Butter” also won song of summer. This is the second year in a row that a K-pop act has won in that category. Blackpink won last year for “How You Like That.”
Doja Cat’s silky “Kiss Me More,” featuring SZA, took best collaboration. It’s the fourth all-female collab to win best collaboration, following Beyoncé and Shakira’s “Beautiful Liar” (2007), Lady Gaga feat. Beyoncé’s “Telephone” (2010) and Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande’s “Rain on Me” (2020).
Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” won best R&B. “Peaches” and “Leave the Door Open” reached No. 1 on both the Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, but MTV decreed that Silk Sonic’s hit tipped a little more R&B, while Bieber’s hit tipped a little more pop. It will be interesting to see where the Grammys slot these two genre-blending hits.
Travis Scott’s “Franchise” (featuring Young Thug & M.I.A.) won best hip-hop. It’s the first male-fronted hit to win in that category since Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” four years ago.
Eilish’s “Your Power” was a surprise winner for video for good, beating, among others, H.E.R.’s Oscar-winning “Fight for You.”
Eilish also won best Latin for “Lo Vas A Olvidar,” a collab with Latin superstar Rosalía. It’s Rosalía’s second win in the category. She took the award two years ago for “Con Altura,” a collab with J Balvin (featuring El Guincho).
Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl” won best cinematography. Queen Bey didn’t do the cinematography, but at the VMAs, artists share in the technical awards. This is her 29th VMA, which extends her record as the artist with the most awards. Madonna is a distant second, with 20 awards.
Foo Fighters were the inaugural winner of the global icon award, which the VMAs imported from the EMAs, the MTV European Music Awards. This is a year of recognition for the veteran band, which will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this year.
Machine Gun Kelly won best alternative for the second year in a row. He took the award this year “my ex’s best friend,” featuring blackbear. He won last year for “Bloody Valentine.” MGK is the only the second act to win back-to-back awards for best alternative. The first was Nirvana, which managed a three-peat from 1992-94 with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom” and “Heart-Shaped Box.” Important caveat: The category went on a 20-year hiatus from 1999-2019.
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