From Kendrick Lamar’s fiery 2017 VMAs opening performance to Katy Perry’s slam dunk at the end, here are all the 2017 VIdeo Music Awards performances from Sunday (Aug. 27) ranked from worst to best.
Lorde has always marched to the beat of her own drum, and her 2017 VMAs performance may be the strangest, most fearless thing she’s done yet. Sidelined by a bad flu (she tweeted she was on an IV prior to her performance), Lorde was unable to sing “Homemade Dynamite,” but that didn’t stop her from taking the stage and dancing and miming to the song. It wasn’t bad – in fact, it was impossible to look away from – but considering that she wasn’t actually singing during her performance, we gotta put this in last place. But major props to Lorde for her the-show-must-go-on mentality (and we hope her backup dancers had some hand sanitizer ready after carrying Lorde around the stage).
14. 30 Seconds to Mars
Using a heat vision filter on the cameras, 30 Seconds to Mars brought a trippy, colorful aesthetic – and Travis Scott – to the 2017 VMAs. The Imagine Dragons-esque song isn’t one of their finest, but it’s solid, and the visual was a welcome dose of something different.
13. Julia Michaels
Michaels’ red, poofy dress was stunning, and her voice sounded gorgeous on her irresistible hit “Issues.” Sadly, MTV cut it off after about a minute, but we still loved seeing her represent, if only for a minute.
Same as Julia Michaels, Kyle’s performance of “iSpy” was abbreviated during the VMAs telecast, with the full thing available online. Kyle’s a dynamic live performer though, and he made the most of his short time.
11. Shawn Mendes
The 19-year-old singer performed “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” to overpowering screams from his fans. His voice was in fine form, alternately sensitive and husky, and when he slung his guitar on his back and ventured into the crowd, his fans were practically frothing at the mouth. Mendes might not steal the spotlight, but he’s a reliable performer and a nearly flawless live vocalist.
10. Ed Sheeran
Between awards shows and radio, we’ve heard Sheeran’s “Shape of You” plenty of times. So it was a smart move that instead of only playing a No. 1 hit we’ve heard ad infinitum, Sheeran brought out Lil Uzi Vert for a surprise duet on low-key anthem “XO Tour Llif3.” Vert seemed thrilled, Sheeran looked happy, and it was worth it solely for Cardi B’s reaction the second she realized what was happening.
9. Demi Lovato
Backed by a heavenly choir and flanked by fierce backup dancers at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Demi Lovato belted new single “Sorry Not Sorry” amidst a raging pool party. No, not a stage done-up to look like one — her stage was literally erected inside an outdoor pool. But most importantly, Demi demonstrated once again how pitch perfect she is as a live vocalist, singing with verve, style and nailing the high notes.
8. Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj
Standing atop an enormous half-basketball on stage, Katy Perry switched from VMAs host to performer and launched into her ’90s club-inflected Witness single “Swish Swish.” Her backup dancers sporting nets-for-veils on their faces was a cute touch, and it was a cool visual when the half-basketball rotated around to reveal Nicki Minaj hidden inside. Incidentally, Minaj sounded like fire on her verse, which she delivered with casual savagery and queenly attitude. Perry indulged in her goofy sense of humor at the end, flying above the crowd and landing atop a basketball hoop just in time to end the show on a literal slam dunk as basketball balloons dropped over the crowd.
7. Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara’s sweetly soulful voice is one of the best things to enter the mainstream consciousness in the last few years. Sure, “Scars to Your Beautiful” might be two years old at this point, but Cara made it fresh thanks to a mid-song costume (and hairdo) change that served to emphasize the song’s eternally relevant message. Plus, she’s a knockout live singer, so any chance to hear her sing is a joy.
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6. Miley Cyrus
Baby bikers, senior citizens dressed up as pink ladies and greasers, a dance line– yes, it was another idiosyncratic Miley Cyrus VMAs performance on Sunday (Aug. 27) night. Dressed up as the coolest girl in high school circa 1954, Cyrus performed new single “Younger Now,” bringing a touch of heartfelt singer-songwriter rock to the VMAs. While the visuals for the performance were memorable, Miley’s vocals stole the show – it was easy to forget during her Bangerz era, but Cyrus’ voice can effortlessly dip and soar without coming across as too showy. And during “Younger Now,” her substantial vocal chops were on full display.
5. DNCE and Rod Stewart
Good-time party band DNCE teamed up with rock legend Rod Stewart for a Studio 54-themed performance of his chart-topping disco classic “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Wearing a silvery blazer, Rod strutted through the Saturday Night Fever-esque set, smoothly crooning the sensual jam like it was still 1978. Joe Jonas with a mustache duetting with Rod Stewart? It was the collaboration the world never knew it needed.
4. Logic, Alessia Cara and Khalid
Logic, Alessia Cara, Khalid and a troupe of people wearing the phone number for the suicide prevention hotline – 1-800-273-8255, also the name of their collaboration – brought strong visuals and a powerful message to the 2017 VMAs. Toward the end of the performance, Logic spoke out against racism, sexism, mental health awareness and a number of issues that don’t get enough attention. He also dropped this truth bomb: “We are born equal, bur we are not treated equally.”
3. Fifth Harmony
Unnecessary Camila Cabello shade aside, Fifth Harmony’s “Angel”/”Down” combo – complete with on-stage rain, a synchronized mic drop and Gucci Mane – was one of the show’s highlights. Their voices melded beautifully together, and their choreography was the strongest of any 2017 VMA performer. If you were worried the show was lagging, 5H gave it a much-needed jolt of fresh energy.
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Recipient of this year’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, P!nk delivered easily the best speech of the night at the 2017 VMAs. But before that, she took the stage for a career-spanning run of her greatest hits, from “Get the Party Started” and “Raise Your Glass” – performed in a car that floated over the crowd – to “Just Give Me a Reason,” which she augmented with snippets of “Don’t Let Me Get Me” and some of “Fuckin’ Perfect” before closing with current single “What About Us.” Oh, and she sang “So What” while driving a tractor around, with naked chainsaw-wielding dancers following her the whole time. So yeah, it was classic P!nk: Inventive, crazy, memorable, and effortlessly cool.
1. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s VMAs performance was fire – literally. In addition to rapping with an unbridled fury on “DNA.”, he brought on a ninja who was actually on fire for some astonishing footwork. And during “HUMBLE.”, his backup ninja dancers scaled a flaming fence — giving us serious Super Mario World Ludwig’s Castle vibes — while he continued to destroy the mic. As far as awards show openers go, this was a GOAT.