Inside the 2021 MTV VMAs: red carpet drama, star performances and all the winners

Without a doubt, the night belonged to Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo and BTS

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The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards certainly delivered the drama.

With a celebrity-packed red carpet, the show was filled with A-list performances and winners from start to finish, following a surprise appearance from Madonna to open the event that celebrated 40 years of MTV.

“They said we wouldn’t last," Madonna told the screaming crowd. "But we’re still here.”

The night, arguably, belonged to Lil Nas X, who won Video of the Year, Best Direction and Best Visual Effects for Montero (Call Me by Your Name).

“I do not take this for granted,” he said, while accepting the night’s final award for the Music Video of the Year.

Olivia Rodrigo, 18, also cleaned up. The singer was named Best New Artist and won Song of the Year and Performance of the Year for drivers license.

“I feel so grateful that I get to write music, make stuff that I love and call it my job,” said Rodrigo, a first-time nominee, after her award was presented by Jennifer Lopez. Earlier in the awards ceremony, the singer called 2021 the “most magical year of my life”.

Olivia Rodrigo accepts the award for Song of the Year for 'drivers license' as presenter Jennifer Lopez looks on at the 2021 MTV VMAs. Reuters

Other big winners included BTS, who were named Group of the Year and also won the best K-pop Award for their song Butter, and Justin Bieber who won Artist of the Year and Best Pop for Peaches with Daniel Caesar and Giveon.

Bieber returned to the stage to perform Ghost and Stay with The Kid Laroi; it was his first MTV VMA performance in six years.

“As we know, there’s so much going on in the world as we speak,” Bieber said during his artist of the year acceptance speech.

“I know you guys have probably heard it a lot. We are in unprecedented times with this Covid thing that’s happening right now. It’s a big deal. Music is such an amazing outlet to be able to reach people and bring us all together. That’s why we are here right now. We’re all here together.”

Billie Eilish won the fan-voted Video for Good for her song Your Power, and later won Best Latin Video for Lo Vas A Olvidar with Rosalia.

Before the show, Machine Gun Kelly got into a heated argument on the red carpet with UFC fighter Conor McGregor. Video showed McGregor being held back by security from Kelly who later won Best Alternative for his song my ex’s best friend, featuring blackbear. Kelly also performed Papercuts with Travis Barker. The duo was introduced by their girlfriends, Megan Fox and Kourtney Kardashian; Fox asked the crowd to get "extra loud for [their] future baby-daddies".

The Foo Fighters performed and then accepted the Global Icon Award, an honour handed out for the first time at the VMAs. The award recognises an artist or band “whose unparalleled career and continued impact and influence has maintained a unique level of global success in music and beyond”.

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs at the MTV Video Music Awards. AP

The prestigious award was previously presented at the annual MTV Europe Music Awards. Past recipients include Queen, Eminem and Whitney Houston.

The rock band – comprising Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear and Rami Jaffee – performed several of their hits including Learn to Fly and Shame Shame. It was their first performance at the VMAs since 2007.

Eilish presented the Global Icon Award to the group, who thanked MTV veterans from Kurt Loder to Tabitha Soren.

“Thank you very much for this award,” Grohl said. “We’ll see you in another 26 years.”

All of the winners at the 2021 MTV VMAs:

Lil Nas X won three MTV VMAs for 'Montero (Call Me By Your Name)'. Reuters

Video of the Year: Lil Nas X, Montero (Call Me by Your Name)

Artist of the Year: Justin Bieber

Song of the Year: Olivia Rodrigo, drivers license

Best New Artist: Olivia Rodrigo

Global Icon: Foo Fighters

Best Collaboration: Doja Cat featuring SZA, Kiss Me More

Best Pop: Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon, Peaches

Group of the Year: BTS

Push Performance of the Year: May 2021, Olivia Rodrigo, drivers license

Best Hip-Hop: Travis Scott featuring Young Thug & MIA, Franchise

Best K-pop: BTS, Butter

Best R'n'B: Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak and Silk Sonic, Leave the Door Open

Best Rock: John Mayer, Last Train Home

Best Alternative: Machine Gun Kelly featuring blackbear, my ex's best friend

Best Latin: Billie Eilish and Rosalia, Lo Vas A Olvidar

Video for Good: Billie Eilish, Your Power

Best Direction: Lil Nas X, Montero (Call Me by Your Name)

Best Cinematography: Beyonce, Blue Ivy, Saint Jhn, WizKid, Brown Skin Girl

Best Art Direction: Saweetie featuring Doja Cat, Best Friend

Best Visual Effects: Lil Nas X, Montero (Call Me by Your Name)

Best Choreography: Harry Styles, Treat People with Kindness

Best Editing: Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak and Silk Sonic, Leave the Door Open

– Additional reporting by AP

Updated: September 13, 2021, 7:10 AM