Story highlights

Heather Heyer's mother made an announcement

Taylor Swift premiered her new video

Perry was criticized for her hosting

CNN  — 

Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards were about performances and powerful words.

Kendrick Lamar kicked off the show with a mini-medley of his songs. The fiery set included a man totally engulfed in flames. Lamar went into the evening with eight nominations, followed by Katy Perry and The Weeknd tied with five nominations each.

Perry, who also served as the night’s host, started with a video sketch about space travel that featured astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Peggy Whitson. The singer joked about the state of the world.

“Even in the apocalypse we deserve the best soundtrack,” she said, then introduced Paris Jackson, daughter of the late Michael Jackson, to present the award for best pop video.

Jackson made a statement before announcing the winner.

“Let’s leave here tonight remembering that we must show these Nazi, white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville and all over the country that as a nation with ‘liberty’ as our slogan, we have zero tolerance for their violence, their hatred and their discrimination,” she said. “We must resist.”

The best pop video award went to Fifth Harmony for “Down.”

Jackson’s remarks were just part of the political tone of the night.

Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV, a 24-year-old pastor and a descendent Confederate general Robert E. Lee, appeared to speak out against racial injustice.

“We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism and hate,” Lee said. “As a pastor it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.”

He called on “all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on.”

Lee then introduced Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville while marching as a counter-protestor against a white supremacist rally seeking to stop the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee.

Bro spoke of missing her daughter and announced the launch of a foundation named in honor of Heyer.

“I want people to know Heather never marched alone,” Bro said. “She was always joined by people from every race and every background in this country.”

In that spirit, Bro said, MTV decided to honor all six of the videos nominated for the new category of best fight against the system.

Perhaps the most anticipated moment of the show arrived with the premiere of Taylor Swift’s music video for her new single “Look What You Made Me Do.”

The video was a much darker look for Swift, who appeared in it as different versions of herself, including as a zombie with snakes.

Swift isn’t the only one to have undergone a transformation.

The iconic “Moonman” trophy handed out Sunday is now a “Moon Person.”

“Why should it be a man?” MTV president Chris McCarthy told the New York Times. “It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist.”

That type of sentiment was shared by Pink, who accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.

The singer performed a mix of some of her biggest hits, along with her new single “What About Us.”

She closed her performance with a diverse group of backup dancers and held their raised hands in triumph.

During her acceptance speech, Pink told the story of her six-year-old daughter feeling unattractive because she believed she looked like a boy. The singer said she used it as a teachable moment to discuss androgynous artists who have found success, including herself.

“Baby girl we don’t change, we take the gravel in the shell and we make a pearl,” Pink said. “And we help other people to change so that they can see more kinds of beauty. To all the artists here, I am so inspired by all of you. Thank you for being your true selves.”

The speech was one of the highlights of the night based on social media reaction, as was Jared Leto’s tribute to Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington.

Bennington committed suicide in July on what would have been the birthday of his good friend, rocker Chris Cornell, who took his own life two months prior.

Singer Logic offered another emotional moment when Alessia Cara, Khalid and several suicide attempt survivors joined him in a performance of the suicide prevention track “1-800-273-8255,” which brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance.

Less popular with social media was Perry’s hosting skills.

The “Roar” singer was soundly roasted for her skits and jokes, some of which fell flat.

Here’s a list of some of the night’s winners:

Best Pop Video

Shawn Mendes - “Treat You Better”

Ed Sheeran - “Shape of You”

Harry Styles - “Sign Of The Times”

Fifth Harmony ft. Gucci Mane - “Down” - WINNER

Katy Perry ft. Skip Marley - “Chained To The Rhythm”

Miley Cyrus - “Malibu”

Best Dance Video

Afrojack ft. Ty Dolla $ign - “Gone”

Calvin Harris - “My Way”

Kygo x Selena Gomez - “It Ain’t Me”

Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber and MØ - “Cold Water”

Zedd and Alessia Cara - “Stay” - WINNER

Best Collaboration Video

Charlie Puth ft. Selena Gomez - “We Don’t Talk Anymore”

DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller - “Wild Thoughts”

D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty - “Broccoli”

The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey - “Closer”

Calvin Harris ft. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean - “Feels”

Zayn & Taylor Swift - “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)” - WINNER

Best Hip Hop Video

Chance the Rapper - “Same Drugs”

DJ Khaled ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne - “I’m The One”

D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty - “Broccoli”

Kendrick Lamar - “HUMBLE.” - WINNER

Big Sean - “Bounce Back”

Migos ft. Lil Uzi Vert - “Bad & Boujee”

Best New Artist

Julia Michaels

Khalid - WINNER

Kodak Black

Noah Cyrus


Young M.A

Song of Summer

Camila Cabello Feat. Quavo - “OMG”

Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi, Feat. Justin Bieber - “Despacito (Remix)”

DJ Khaled Feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller - “Wild Thoughts”

Fifth Harmony Feat. Gucci Mane - “Down” Ed Sheeran - “Shape of You”

Demi Lovato - “Sorry Not Sorry”

Shawn Mendes - “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back”

Lil Uzi Vert - “XO Tour Llif3” - WINNER

Video of the Year

Alessia Cara - “Scars To Your Beautiful”

Bruno Mars - “24K Magic”

DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller - “Wild Thoughts”

Kendrick Lamar - “HUMBLE.” - WINNER

The Weeknd - “Reminder”

Artist of the Year

Ariana Grande

Bruno Mars

Kendrick Lamar


Ed Sheeran - WINNER

The Weeknd

Best Fight Against the System

Logic ft. Damian Lemar Hudson - “Black SpiderMan” - WINNER

The Hamilton Mixtape - “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” - WINNER

Big Sean - “Light” - WINNER

Alessia Cara - “Scars To Your Beautiful” - WINNER

Taboo ft. Shailene Woodley - “Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” - WINNER

John Legend - “Surefire” - WINNER