NEW YORK — BET flawlessly launched an awards show during the coronavirus pandemic, and MTV will have its turn to put on an all-star event at a time when live shows have limitations and restrictions.
The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards will air at 7 p.m. Sunday, with pop stars like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and BTS set to perform some of their well-known hits. The ceremony will air live on MTV but also, for the first time, on The CW on Chicago’s WCIU-Channel 26.
Some of the performances will be pretaped, while others will air live across various stages in New York City. The show was originally supposed to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but plans changed in response to the worldwide pandemic.
The 2020 BET Awards, which aired in June, was a major success and one of the first virtual awards shows of the coronavirus era. While abiding by safety guidelines and rules set in place by government officials to prevent the virus from spreading, the show featured highly produced, artsy taped performances from DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion, John Legend and Alicia Keys, while also addressing police brutality, inequality and the Black Lives Matter movement.
MTV will attempt to pull off a similar success Sunday, though it has already had some setbacks. While Miley Cyrus, DaBaby, Black Eyed Peas, Maluma, Doja Cat and CNCO are set to perform, some acts have backed out. “The Box” rapper Roddy Ricch said he had to call off his performance “due to COVID compliance issues at the last minute.” And J Balvin, who contracted COVID-19, is no longer hitting the stage, though he didn’t specifically say why.
Actress and singer KeKe Palmer, who is hosting the show, promised that the VMAs will still be a big show, despite its limits.
“I think there will be highly memorable moments that people are going to take away from the night for me,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think they’re being very secretive about everything! But yeah, you’re going to get memorable moments. And look, the fact that we put on a show at this scale during the middle of a plague is already memorable.”
Gaga and Grande are the top contenders with nine nominations apiece, most of them for their No. 1 collaboration “Rain on Me,” which is nominated for the top prize: video of the year.
The Weeknd and Billie Eilish, the second-most nominated acts, are also up for video of the year with “Blinding Lights” and “everything i wanted.” Others nominated for the top award include Taylor Swift’s “The Man,” Future and Drake’s “Life Is Good” and Eminem’s “Godzilla,” which features late rapper Juice WRLD.
The shifts artists have made because of the pandemic are reflected in two new categories: best music video from home and best quarantine performance. Grande and Justin Bieber’s No. 1 hit “Stuck with U” will compete in the music video category along with Drake’s “Toosie Slide,” Legend’s “Bigger Love,” 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Wildflower,” blink-182’s “Happy Days” and twenty one pilots’ “Level of Concern,” which topped the Billboard rock songs chart for seven weeks and features the lyrics, “Will you be my little quarantine?”
R&B duo Chloe x Halle, who have successfully promoted their new album with impressive live performances mostly put on in their tennis court and outside their new home, are nominated for best quarantine performance for “Do It” from MTV’s virtual prom “Prom-athon.” Other nominees include Gaga’s “Smile” from the TV special “One World: Together At Home”; Legend’s “#togetherathome” concert; DJ D-Nice’s “Club MTV presents #DanceTogether”; CNCO’s “MTV Unplugged At Home”; and Post Malone’s tribute to Nirvana.
Protest songs reflecting the Black experience created in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others also earned VMA nominations. R&B star H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” Anderson.Paak’s “Lockdown” and Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” all scored nominations in the video for good category.
Megan Thee Stallion — who topped the charts this year with the Beyoncé-assisted “Savage” and “WAP,” her viral song with Cardi B — earned multiple nominations, including one for artist of the year. Her competition includes Gaga, Bieber, DaBaby, The Weeknd and Post Malone.