From Lady Gaga’s Fashion To The Absurd Dystopian Green Screens, The 10 Defining Moments Of The 2020 VMAs

So, in case you missed it, the 2020 Video Music Awards just happened. Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and others served looks, epic performances and brought us back down to reality with a reminder of the current times we live in. 

But, this year also hit differently. In the midst of the current Black Lives Matter movement and a global pandemic, some artists used their platform and voice to declare justice for the deaths of Black people and to remind us all to stay at home and wear a face mask. Then, there’s the crowd which can only be described as Nintendo Mii crowds in a tennis match of Wii Sports—and not helped by Keke Palmer pretending they actually exist lmao. At the very least, BTS, Lady Gaga and Doja Cat fans are eating good tonight. 

Here are the defining moments of the 2020 VMAs. 

Lady Gaga winning absolutely everything and looking stunning every damn time she’s on stage

Over the course of the night, Gaga won FIVE awards—umm, Billie Eilish who?—and delivered a different club kid-inspired look (with an appropriately themed stylish mask) every time she walked on stage. For real, it almost got to the point where I wanted Gaga to win every single award just to see what she’d come out in next. 

And that’s before we even begin to dissect her yellow neon bondage-bikini fit turned neon pink turned glitter bodysuit she performed in during her Chromatica live medley. Or, the fact Gaga used every opportunity she could to remind y’all to “wear a mask, it’s a sign of respect.”

First, accepting Best Collaboration for “Rain On Me” with Ariana Grande, Gaga came out in a technicolor Iris Van Herpen haute couture optical illusion dress, the same extremely high-heeled boots, and a custom pink post-apocalyptic muzzle by Cecilio Castrillo.

Then, accepting the award for Song of the Year (again, “Rain On Me”), the Chromatica singer wore an emerald green silk ball gown from Christoher John Rogers Fall 2020 collection, paired with a steampunk crimson red leather face mask with walrus tusks designed by Lance Victor Moore and House of Emmanuele crystal and pearl necklace.

Following that, the A Star is Born actress received the Artist of the Year award, stepping on stage in a Valentino Fall 2020 haute couture fit made up of a ridiculously long and fluffy ostrich feather coat and sparkly silver sequin catsuit, white high-heel boots and sequin face mask designed by MaisonMet. 


Then, before accepting the MTV’s first ever Tricon Award, Gaga seemingly made a quick stopover back at her palace on Chromatica and returned to the stage as a literal space elf. She wore the same catsuit and boots as before but swapped out the Valentino coat for a reflective silver leather coat with bold wavy shoulders designed by Candice Cuoco. Gaga accessorised with a metal choker and bra by Manuel Albarran and a custom “jellyfish” sculpted steel crown by Lance V Moore. She literally looked like she just parked her cosmic space fleet out back and just dropped in. 

Gaga really went to the VMAs and said, “I’m going to give the gays everything they want.”

BTS’s debut VMA performance being literally “Dynamite” 

BTS made their Video Music Awards performance debut with a live set (all the way from South Korea) of their latest comeback single, “Dynamite.” Dressed in flared pants, lil vests and blazers, the crew danced to the backdrop of the famous Washington Street in Brooklyn, New York. And, obviously, they looked absolutely adorable. 

The group also won Best Pop (“On”), Best Kpop, Best Group and Best Choreography (“On”).

Everyone being extremely horny for Maluma

Columbian singer Maluma, real name, Juan Luis Londoño Arias, performed at the VMAs and looked… *ahem*… very good in a full yellow suit. The 26-year-old singer, who was awarded Best Latin, performed “Hawái” sitting on a motorcycle. And, naturally, Twitter was v horny for him. 

Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande literally performing with face masks

In perhaps one of the most distinct symbols that this show was held in 2020, everyone at the VMAs was seen wearing a face mask. Including, ofc, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande during their performance.

The Weeknd reminding us we still need justice for Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake

The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, won Best R&B and Video of the Year for “Blinding Lights”. But, unlike other artists, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter didn’t use his acceptance speech to thank his fans and praise himself for his achievements. He used it to address one of the biggest issues right now, demanding justice for the deaths of Black people and victims of racial injustice by police, specifically, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake.

“It’s really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment, so I’m just gonna say justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said, accepting the Best R&B award and thanking his collaborators Antom Tanni and La Mar Taylor. 

The absurd dystopian virtual reality and phantom crowd of the VMAs green screen

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, everything at the VMAs was shot virtually and in front of a giant stretched out green screen. There were no crowds, just an echoing looping sound of a phantom audience and digitalised skyscrapers in the distance featuring random people’s faces projected on windows. It was nothing short of an absurd, dystopian reality.

H.E.R’s tribute to George Floyd and others, “I Can’t Breathe,” winning Video For Good

R&B icon H.E.R. won the Video for Good award for the music video to her song and tribute to George Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police, “I Can’t Breathe.” The music video features shots of protests around the U.S. and the names of Black Americans who still deserve justice. 

Doja Cat making her debut VMA performance and killing it

Like BTS, Doja Cat also made her VMA performing debut with an epic cyber futuristic performance of her TikTok viral tracks, “Say So” and “Like That.” 

Introducing herself as an e-girl news anchor, the beloved and controversial singer-rapper then performed to the backdrop of visual effects and light shows reminiscent of Tokyo’s famous TeamLab Borderless exhibit, with dancers dressed in hazmat suits with face masks and spiky monster costumes like a 60s camp sci-fi film. Doja dressed like an alien interpretation of the iconic Venus painting.

Doja also took home Push’s Best New Artist award.

The Chloe x Halle erasure… 

I will never forgive the VMAs for only having the singing sibling duo Chloe x Halle perform as a part of the pre-show. The erasure. The unprofessionalism. The downright mistreatment of bonafide, certified music icons and arguably 2020’s biggest new artists. 

Anyway, Chloe x Halle performed a live set of “Ungodly Hour” and ofc it slapped. The pair were dressed in a matching silver leather corset, opera gloves and thigh high boots, styled with a silver African choker, chandelier earrings and silver chain jewels hanging from their hair.

The Black Eyed Peas performing (for some reason???) with glowing penis pants

So, idk why they were there, but old school hip hop group Black Eyed Peas (excluding Fergie) closed the show with a performance of “Vida Loca” and “I Got A Feeling.” And, uhh, for some reason, the boys wore, uhh, glow sticks in their pants? Just… roll the footage.

Julian Rizzo-Smith is a writer and producer. He also claims to be a vine historian, avid connoisseur of low-fi beats, indie hip hop and Kermit memes. In a perfect world, he’d be married to Tyler the Creator, own an Arcanine and a Lapras, and don his own Sailor Scouts uniform. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster, which is also, coincidentally, how one might describe him.