DaBaby Made A Powerful Statement About Police Brutality In VMA Debut

DaBaby’s “Rockstar,” featuring Roddy Ricch, just racked up its 11th week at the top spot on Billboard’s Songs of the Summer chart, and the Charlotte-based rapper brought his hit to the 2020 Video Music Awards. DaBaby is up for four awards this year, including Artist of the Year, but this marked his first time on the awards-show stage. “Get your popcorn because you’re dealin’ with Baby,” teased the Charlotte-based rapper on the VMAs Pre-Show when asked about his main show performance.

As the show’s hostess Keke Palmer noted, DaBaby’s powerful performance spoke to the cultural moment, particularly in the wake of national uprisings in response to the deaths of unarmed Black citizens George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others. The performance kicked off with the rapper, wearing Lakers colors in what appeared to be a tribue to the late Kobe Bryant, dancing in a dark room.

Seems chill — until, suddenly, it wasn’t. DaBaby is arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a police car, where a masked member of the hip-hop dance crew, the Jabbawockeez, danced beside him as he performed his song, “Blind.” Eventually, DaBaby was seen stomping on top of the police car. The New York cityscape lit aflame behind, as the Jabbawockeez broke it down around him.

In addition to Artist of the Year, DaBaby is also up for Best Hip-Hop and Best Choreography for “Bop,” and his Camila Cabello team-up “My Oh My” is up for Best Cinematography.

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several performances around New York City. Find all of MTV News’s coverage right here

The Weeknd Kicked Off The VMAs With A Literal, Actual Bang

By Harron Walker 

The Weekend kicked off the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards with a live performance of “Blinding Lights” from a staggering stage overlooking New York City, and, well, you didn’t think he was going to give us “Blinding Lights” without literally trying to blind us with some lights, did you?

Performing the chart-topping After Hours track before a live audience for the first time since taping Saturday Night Live in March, the Canadian hitmaker began his set lying on the floor, bloodied and bruised, as if waking up from a particularly debaucherous night—much like the song’s deeply chaotic Anton Tammi-directed video. After stumbling his way through flashing blue and orange light fixtures, Abel found his way to the edge of the Edge, a 100-story-high sky deck atop one of Manhattan’s many skyscrapers.

A circling helicopter amped up the tension — who is she, and what does she want? Then, suddenly, on the Hudson River in the distance, a wall of fireworks exploded behind him. Incredible lights! The lights? They were top tier.

In his new Esquire cover story, the Weeknd, who’s up for six awards tonight — including Artist of the Year, Video of the Year, Best R&B, Best Direction, Best Editing, and Song of the Summer — explained that “Blinding Lights” is about “driving to this person [you want to see] and you’re just blinded by streetlights, but nothing could stop you from trying to go see that person, because you’re so lonely.” Seems like there’s no better place to perform a song about loneliness than from the sky deck of a Manhattan skyscraper, like some kind of 2020 version of Rapunzel — and months into quarantine, no less. The yearning! The yearning… I can’t feel my face, but I can definitely feel that.

Tonight’s performance of “Blinding Lights” marks the second time that the Weekend has performed at the VMAs. He previously rocked the ceremony with one of his most iconic past hits, “Can’t Feel My Face,” back in 2015.

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several performances around New York City. Find all of MTV News’s coverage right here.

Miley Cyrus Rides A Glittering Disco Ball In Feverish ‘Midnight Sky’ VMA Debut

By Lauren Rearick

For one brief moment, Miley Cyrus took the audience of the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards on a trip through time. Performing her latest track, “Midnight Sky,” live for the first time, Cyrus took a cue from the single’s vintage-inspired visuals, incorporating elements of disco and dance into her VMAs return.

In the feverish performance, Cyrus wore a shimming black dress with a slit up the thigh and accessorized with a huge chain holding a silver cross pendant. She stood in front of a circle of white light that flashed in time with her music. Throughout the delivery, the cherry-red circle below Cyrus grew bigger and brighter, rising in intensity with the track. Just as the song started to conclude, Cyrus climbed a set of stars, floating away on a disco wrecking ball, which stood as an obvious reference to her 2013 single, “Wrecking Ball.”

Prior to tonight’s performance, Cyrus had teased followers with a few social media posts from her VMA rehearsals. One photo had the singer posing in a room lit by blue light, her face covered with a mask. In a second image, which proved to be a pretty good indication of what Sunday’s performance would include, her silhouette, which showed her holding a microphone, was the only thing visible against an entirely dark backdrop.

In a previous Billboard interview, the former Disney Channel star had revealed that “Midnight Sky,” themed around the idea of finding personal independence, was inspired by the concept of eternity. “I think we’re kind of set up for devastation — in that, from the time we’re little kids, we’re taught to claim other humans as our best friends forever. And you just don’t know who you’re going to be sitting with here right now. You never know who you’re going to evolve to be and who they’re going to evolve to be. So I think that we, especially as women in relationships, a lot of the time we can get villainized when ‘forever’ doesn’t happen,” she said.

This definitely wasn’t the first time Cyrus made major headlines at the VMAs. She served as host of the ceremony back in 2015, and last year, she delivered a stunning and emotional performance of “Slide Away.

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several performances around New York City. Find all of MTV News’s coverage right here.

Machine Gun Kelly Recruits Blackbear And Travis Barker For A VMA Pop-Punk Explosion

Pat Benatar taught us that love is a battlefield, and to close out the 2020 VMAs pre-show, Machine Gun Kelly reminded us exactly what’s at stake with a medley performance of two of his heart-on-sleeve cuts: the chunky-riffed “My Ex’s Best Friend” and the pop-punky “Bloody Valentine.”

Poised on a pinked-out rooftop and channeling so many modern-rock videos of yore, MGK’s energy traversed the cityscape that backdropped him, clutching a guitar and backed up by a spirited band. Of course, he didn’t do it alone – Blackbear, perched like a gargoyle on the roof, brought his signature panache to the tune as well. But things were just getting started.

To smash into “Bloody Valentine,” MGK’s pal and frequent collaborator Travis Barker handled the drums as the pair blasted off high above the city in a Day-Glo purple room. MGK, flashing his crisp gem teeth, and Barker, an octopus of percussion, united in a sweaty wash of neon that made the song feel like a triumphant blur.

Both tunes are slated to appear on his upcoming fifth album, Tickets to My Downfall, due out September 25. Earlier in the pre-show, MGK’s “Bloody Valentine” nabbed the VMA for Best Alternative.

The rollicking performance followed a quartet of equally rousing pre-show renditions. First, Jack Harlow delivered his hit “What’s Popppin” to an empty basketball court, sporting a Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz jersey that featured “Say Her Name” penned on the back. Then, Tate McRae married a moody, blue, and minimal “You Broke Me First” with big 2020 work from home energy by making a dance partner out of an antiseptic office desk.

Next up, Chloe x Halle — clad in crystalline, futuristically glamorous silver dresses — ran through “Ungodly Hour” singing into vintage radio microphones and swaying in their own gleam. And Lewis Capaldi set a red room ablaze with his lone bellow of “Before You Go” set to light piano accompaniment.

See MGK, Blackbear, and Barker made the city their own in the rockin’ performance above.

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several performances around New York City. Find all of MTV News’s coverage right here.

Chloe x Halle Are Cyborg Sphinxes In ‘Ungodly’ VMA Pre-Show Performance

Not even a global pandemic can slow the Bailey sisters down. In June, Chloe x Halle dropped their second project, Ungodly Hour, which included collaborations with noted songwriter Victoria Monét and a sign-off from Beyoncé herself. Later that same month, they delivered one of the most memorable performances of this year’s BET Awards, in which they performed a sumptuous medley of the collection’s breakout singles “Forgive Me” and “Do It” in a dance-off against themselves.

The duo, who are in their early ’20s, brought that same unstoppable energy to the 2020 Video Music Awards, then added a touch of polished chrome, with a bouncy performance preceding the show. Disco seems to be a running theme at this year’s Video Music Awards — the South Korean band BTS will debut their discotheque-inspired English single “Dynamite” later in the evening — and Chloe x Halle’s blissful groove seemed perfectly tailored for the vibe.

The sisters walked into the frame wearing chrome, armor-like bodysuits and thigh-high boots to match while illuminated from behind by glowing starshine. “Welcome to the ‘Ungodly Hour,'” they said, launching into a dance in perfect unison to the song by the same name, the title track of their latest LP. As their staccato movements continued, silver crests and chains dangling from their heads shook and whipped wildly, giving the sisters the appearance of cyborg sphinxes. References to retrofuturism — to Metropolis‘s Maschinenmensch or the robotic illustrations of the Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama — could easily be made.

Or maybe Chloe and Halle intended some confluence of all of the above. Watching this show, one can’t help but feel the lyrics, a tell-off of a lover who only calls late when they want one thing, might allude to something larger, even fantastical, like aliens who come in the night. Anything seems possible, and with a performance of this star-affirming caliber, it’s easy for fantasy to run wild. As the show reaches its climax, Chloe and Halle are drenched in a downpour of white strobes, like a sign from above, some greater power calling them home.

Earlier this year, Chloe x Halle told MTV News collaborating on Ungodly Hour. “I love how, in the moment, we were just making good music,” Chloe said. “We weren’t making anything saying, like, ‘Oh, this has to be our first song’ or ‘This has to be a hit.’ We were just making music that made us feel good.”

“There’s definitely some songs on there that will make you cry, put you in your feelings,” Halle added. “But there’s also songs that’ll make you want to twerk, and we thought that’s OK, because it’s a reflection of everything that you are. People have layers. It’s not just one thing.”

The 2020 VMAs pre-show has kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several performances around New York City. Find all of MTV News’s coverage right here.

2020 MTV VMA Winners: See The Full List

Just as 2020 has been an unprecedented year, the 2020s VMAs were destined to be a show unlike anything we’ve ever seen. As always, all your faves are here, finding new and creative ways to bring their performances to you, and the show’s lead-up has been full of key match-ups in various categories.

And as ever, the big questions remain. How many awards will Lady Gaga and/or Ariana Grande, who lead this year’s nominations field, walk away with? Will Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish, who are both up for Best Direction, be recognized for continuing to innovate in their field? Who will be crowned Artist of the Year, in a year when all six nominees have had banner moments that have propelled them to the top of culture at large?

Soon, we won’t have to speculate any longer. The 2020 VMAs have officially kicked off, and it’s going to be a blast. Find the full winners list below.

Video of the Year

Billie Eilish: “Everything I Wanted” – Darkroom / Interscope Records

Eminem ft. Juice WRLD: “Godzilla” – Shady / Aftermath / Interscope Records

Future ft. Drake: “Life Is Good” – Epic Records / Freebandz

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain on Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records

Taylor Swift: “The Man” – Republic Records

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records

Artist of the Year

DaBaby – SCMG / Interscope Records

Justin Bieber – RBMG / Def Jam

Lady Gaga – Streamline / Interscope Records

Megan Thee Stallion – 300 Entertainment

Post Malone – Republic Records

The Weeknd – XO / Republic Records

PUSH Best New Artist

Doja Cat – Kemosabe / RCA Records

Jack Harlow – Generation Now / Atlantic Records

Lewis Capaldi – Capitol Records

Roddy Ricch – Atlantic Records

Tate McRae – RCA Records

Yungblud – Locomotion Recordings / Geffen Records / Interscope Records

Song of the Year

Billie Eilish: “Everything I Wanted” – Darkroom / Interscope Records

Doja Cat: “Say So” – Kemosabe / RCA Records

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records

Megan Thee Stallion: “Savage” – 300 Entertainment

Post Malone: “Circles” – Republic Records

Roddy Ricch: “The Box” – Atlantic Records

Best Collaboration

Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber: “Stuck with U” – Republic Records / Def Jam

Black Eyed Peas ft. J Balvin: “Ritmo (Bad Boys For Life)” – Epic Records / We The Best

Ed Sheeran ft. Khalid: “Beautiful People” – Atlantic Records

Future ft. Drake: “Life Is Good” – Epic Records / Freebandz

Karol G ft. Nicki Minaj: “Tusa” – Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records

Best Pop

BTS: “On” – Big Hit Entertainment

Halsey: “You Should Be Sad” – Capitol Records

Jonas Brothers: “What a Man Gotta Do” – Republic Records

Justin Bieber ft. Quavo: “Intentions” – RBMG / Def Jam

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records

Taylor Swift: “Lover” – Republic Records

Best Hip-Hop

DaBaby: “Bop” – SCMG / Interscope Records

Eminem ft. Juice WRLD: “Godzilla” – Shady / Aftermath / Interscope Records

Future ft. Drake: “Life Is Good” – Epic Records / Freebandz

Megan Thee Stallion: “Savage” – 300 Entertainment

Roddy Ricch: “The Box” – Atlantic Records

Travis Scott: “Highest in the Room” – Epic Records / Cactus Jack

Best R&B

Alicia Keys: “Underdog” – RCA Records

Chloe x Halle: “Do It” – Parkwood / Columbia Records

H.E.R. ft. YG: “Slide” – MBK / RCA Records

Khalid ft. Summer Walker: “Eleven” – Right Hand Music / RCA Records

Lizzo: “Cuz I Love You” – Atlantic Records

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records

Best K-Pop

BTS: “On” – Big Hit Entertainment

EXO: “Obession” – SM Entertainment

(G)I-DLE: “Oh My God” – Republic Records

Monsta X: “Someone’s Someone” – Epic Records

Red Velvet: “Psycho” – SM Entertainment

Tomorrow X Together: “9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)” – Big Hit Entertainment

Best Latin

Anuel AA ft. Daddy Yankee, Ozuna, Karol G & J Balvin: “China” – Real Hasta La Muerte

Bad Bunny: “Yo Perreo Sola” – Rimas Entertainment

Black Eyed Peas ft. Ozuna & J. Rey Soul: “Mamacita” – Epic Records

J Balvin: “Amarillo” – Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Karol G ft. Nicki Minaj: “Tusa” – Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Maluma ft. J Balvin: “Qué Pena” – Sony Music Latin

Best Rock

Blink-182: “Happy Days” – Columbia Records

Coldplay: “Orphans” – Atlantic Records

Evanescence: “Wasted On You” – BMG

Fall Out Boy ft. Wyclef Jean: “Dear Future Self (Hands Up)” – Island Records

Green Day: “Oh Yeah!” – Reprise / Warner Records

The Killers: “Caution” – Island Records

Best Alternative

WINNER: Machine Gun Kelly: “Bloody Valentine” – Bad Boy / Interscope Records

The 1975: “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” – Dirty Hit / Interscope Records

All Time Low: “Some Kind Of Disaster” – Fueled By Ramen

Finneas: “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night” – AWAL

Lana Del Rey: “Doin’ Time” – Interscope Records

Twenty One Pilots: “Level of Concern” – Elektra Music Group / Fueled By Ramen

Best Music Video From Home

5 Seconds of Summer: “Wildflower” – Interscope Records

Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber: “Stuck with U” – Republic Records / Def Jam

Blink-182: “Happy Days” – Columbia Records

Drake: “Toosie Slide” – OVO/Republic Records

John Legend: “Bigger Love” – Columbia Records

Twenty One Pilots: “Level of Concern” – Elektra Music Group / Fueled By Ramen

Best Quarantine Performance

Chloe x Halle: “Do It (from MTV Prom-Athon)”

CNCO: MTV Unplugged At Home

DJ D-Nice: Club MTV Presents: #DanceTogether

John Legend: #TogetherAtHome Concert Series

Lady Gaga: “Smile” from One World: Together At Home

Post Malone: Nirvana Tribute

Video For Good

Anderson .Paak: “Lockdown” – 12 Tone Music Group

Billie Eilish: “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” – Darkroom / Interscope Records

Demi Lovato: “I Love Me” – Island Records

H.E.R.: “I Can’t Breathe” – MBK / RCA Records

Lil Baby: “The Bigger Picture” – Quality Control Music / Motown / Capitol Music Group

Taylor Swift: “The Man” – Republic Records

Best Direction

Billie Eilish: “Xanny” – Darkroom / Interscope Records – Directed by Billie Eilish

Doja Cat: “Say So” – Kemosabe / RCA Records – Directed by Hannah Lux Davis

Dua Lipa: “Don’t Start Now” – Warner Records – Directed by Nabil

Harry Styles: “Adore You” – Columbia Records – Directed by Dave Meyers

Taylor Swift: “The Man” – Republic Records – Directed by Taylor Swift

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records – Directed by Anton Tammi

Best Cinematography

5 Seconds of Summer: “Old Me” – Interscope Records – Cinematography by Kieran Fowler

Camila Cabello ft. DaBaby: “My Oh My” – Syco Music / Epic Records – Cinematography by Scott Cunningham

Billie Eilish: “all the good girls go to hell” – Darkroom / Interscope Records – Cinematography by Christopher Probst

Katy Perry: “Harleys In Hawaii” – Capitol Records – Cinematography by Arnau Valls

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records – Cinematography by Michael Merriman

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records – Cinematography by Oliver Millar

Best Art Direction

A$AP Rocky: “Babushka Boi” – Polo Grounds Music / RCA Records – Art Direction by A$AP Rocky & Nadia Lee Cohen

Dua Lipa: “Physical” – Warner Records – Art Direction by Anna Colomer Nogué

Harry Styles: “Adore You” – Columbia Records – Art Direction by Laura Ellis Cricks

Miley Cyrus: “Mother’s Daughter” – RCA Records – Art Direction by Christian Stone

Selena Gomez: “Boyfriend” – Interscope Records – Art Direction by Tatiana Van Sauter

Taylor Swift: “Lover” – Republic Records – Art Direction by Kurt Gefke

Best Visual Effects

Billie Eilish: “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” – Darkroom / Interscope Records – Visual Effects by Drive Studios

Demi Lovato: “I Love Me” – Island Records – Visual Effects by Hoody FX

Dua Lipa: “Physical” – Warner Records – Visual Effects by EIGHTY4 and Mathematic

Harry Styles: “Adore You” – Columbia Records – Visual Effects by Mathematic

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records – Visual Effects by Ingenuity Studios

Travis Scott: “Highest in the Room” – Epic Records / Cactus Jack – Visual Effects by ARTJAIL, SCISSOR FILMS & FRENDER

Best Choreography

BTS: “On” – Big Hit Entertainment – Choreography by The Lab, Son Sung Deuk

CNCO & Natti Natasha: “Honey Boo” – Sony Music Latin / RCA Records – Choreography by Kyle Hanagami

DaBaby: “BOP” – SCMG / Interscope Records – Choreography by Dani Leigh and Cherry

Dua Lipa: “Physical” – Warner Records – Choreography by Charm La’Donna

Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me” – Streamline / Interscope Records – Choreography by Richy Jackson

Normani: “Motivation” – Keep Cool / RCA Records – Choreography by Sean Bankhead

Best Editing

Halsey: “Graveyard” – Capitol Records – Edited by Emilie Aubry, Janne Vartia & Tim Montana

James Blake: “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow” – Republic Records – Edited by Frank Lebon

Lizzo: “Good As Hell” – Atlantic Records – Edited by Russell Santos & Sofia Kerpan

Miley Cyrus: “Mother’s Daughter” – RCA Records – Edited by Alexandre Moors, Nuno Xico

Rosalía: “A Palé” – Columbia Records – Edited by Andre Jones

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” – XO / Republic Records – Edited by Janne Vartia & Tim Montana

The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several performances around New York City. Find all of MTV News’s coverage right here.

BTS Want The Disco-Pop Fun Of ‘Dynamite’ To ‘Be Your Energy’

The end of summer might be in sight, but BTS are keeping those sunny days alive. Their latest single, “Dynamite,” premiered last week, bringing a warm, infectious pop tune bolstered by a disco beat — the kind of song that can extend summer by another month or so. And as the group tells MTV News, its bright music is only half the message.

“It’s a really fun disco-pop track about doing what we can do, even when things don’t work out as planned,” RM said. J-Hope added an additional splash of goodwill: “We hope this song can be your energy.”

The vocals on the sparkling track range from soaring hooks to RM’s more grounded baritone, capturing the full range of expression. “I am kind of in charge of English here, so in many parts of this song, you can hear me singing in the background with a low voice,” RM said. “Listen closely.”

“The singing in ‘Dynamite,’ it wasn’t easy,” J-Hope added, “because the song is high-pitched.”

For the video, this vision is brought to life by a feast of pastel colors and light, as well as signature explosive dance moves. As for he choreography, J-Hope revealed that the group had fun trying out new moves in front of the cameras, some of which ended up in the final visual, which he called “mostly freestyle.”

“We really had fun filming the music video,” Jimin said. “We came up with the choreo and the gestures. There were good vibes only!”

Jungkook revealed that for his solo dancing part — where he stomps around in a bedroom decorated with posters of David Bowie, The Terminator, and The Beatles’s Abbey Road — he “couldn’t focus that well from the start, so I had to re-shoot it later.” Nevertheless, it’s a highlight in the buoyant clip.

In the interview, BTS also listed their favorite videos they’ve ever made, a dynamic range spanning the narrative expansiveness of “Run,” the sleek ferocity of “Fire,” and more. When they broke down the “On” Kinetic Manifesto film, Jungkook made mention of the whirring overhead zooms that reveal the group’s fluid choreography backed up by even more dancer support. He said those shots were captured by drones. “The drones were super fast,” J-Hope said, translated to English.

If their recent “Dynamite” video is any indication, BTS’s own choreo while they perform the song might also be super fast. We’ll find out on Sunday night, August 30, during the 2020 VMAs, where BTS is set to give the tune its TV debut performance. The group is also up for Best Pop, Best K-pop, and Best Choreography — all for “On.”

The 2020 VMAs will air live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, August 30 across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.

Bop Shop VMA Edition: Songs From Blackpink, Taylor Swift, And More

Blackpink ft. Selena Gomez: “Ice Cream”

Blackpink, VMA-nominated for Best Group, are serving us another mega pop-star collab, only this time, it’s sweet and screams, “Ice Cream.” Selena Gomez joins Lisa, Jennie, Jisoo, and Rosé in a pastel-saturated playground with a different flavor than other recent Blackpink tracks like “How You Like That” and “Kill This Love.” It’s a flirty, fun, and refreshing taste; Gomez and our leading ladies are addictive on this end-of-summer bop, so run, don’t walk, to their truck and help yourself to all of this delicious treat. And once you’re there, good luck getting “ice cream chillin’, chillin’ ice cream, chillin’” out of your head. Enjoy! —Daniel Head

Billie Eilish Steps Out Of The Darkness And Into The Director’s Chair

A cursory YouTube search of Billie Eilish’s name won’t quickly reveal the music video for the pop star’s second standalone single, “Six Feet Under.” The followup to Eilish’s dreamy Soundcloud debut, “Ocean Eyes,” as well as the singer-songwriter’s first release through Interscope Records, the 2016 clip may be the forgotten gem among Eilish’s 20 visuals to date (though, at 26 million views, its reach is nothing to balk at). Visually, it remains a standout within her catalog, in part because it’s Eilish’s only video in which the artist is not present. And where her better-known visuals boast highly produced body horror fit for a David Cronenberg feature — in “When the Party’s Over,” her eyes bleed black tears — “Six Feet Under” has the DIY appeal of the Blair Witch Project: A smoke bomb placed before a wooden fence is ignited by a disembodied hand and spouts plumes of yellow, teal, and red. The footage was edited by Eilish’s mother Maggie Baird in reverse, at times, so that the clouds spread, then recede, ebb and flow. This was also the first of her music videos Billie Eilish directed herself.

At the time of its release, Eilish was 15, living with her parents in a Highland Park, Los Angeles, bungalow, where she was homeschooled and collaborated on music from the childhood bedroom of her brother and primary creative partner Finneas. She began writing music at 11, but before that, “since I was, like, nine years old, I was making music videos to songs that I just liked, ‘cause I just wanted it so bad,” she tells MTV News. And while, by 14, directing her own visuals was still largely a dream — the beginning threads of which can be seen in “Six Feet Under” — but Eilish found that her experience, particularly as a young woman in the industry, wasn’t valued. “There’s this weird world of ‘You don’t have any experience so you can’t have the job; – it’s like, well, how am I supposed to get the job if I can’t get any experience?” she once posed to The Guardian. “I think that’s a big problem in the world with women. I don’t think people like us being the boss.” As her sound evolved from ethereal, fairy-like pop to incorporate a convergence of influences — she’s often cited the rap game’s resident weirdo Tyler, the Creator as a perennial inspiration — while her earliest visuals reflected the teenage state of an identity in flux.

Eilish has synesthesia, a neurological condition that makes her uniquely able to visualize music as vibrant hues, and her earlier videos appear to nod to that: “Bellyache,” for example, finds the singer exploring a canyon rendered in high-contrast technicolor, while she dons an all-yellow sweatsuit. It was with “You Should See Me in a Crown” that Eilish fully stepped into the macabre aesthetics for which she has become known, as well as back into the director’s chair. The video, which released in 2018 and was the third Eilish self-directed, sees the singer mouthing lyrics to-camera while wearing a glittering diadem the size of her head. Tarantulas crawl across her arms and inside her mouth as her body shakes and spasms, perhaps a reference to her diagnosis of Tourette syndrome, that often manifests as facial tics and muscle tension. Often incorporating characteristically nightmarish fantasies the likes of which haven’t been seen in the industry since the work of ‘90s industrial titans Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, the visuals that came after were meant to haunt and discomfort. “I love bugging people out,” she said in a New York Times Magazine profile earlier this year. “Freaking people out. I like being looked at. I like being in people’s heads. I feed off it.”

By the release of her debut album in March 2019, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Eilish was fully in control of her sound — beat-heavy electronics and droning synths; whispered, spoken-word vocals that dissolve into guttural sighs — and her image, even while collaborating. For “All the Good Girls Go to Hell,” which is up for three VMAs on Sunday, she brought her highest concept yet to director Rich Lee: Riffing off the song’s title, she would become a fallen angel, plunging into a tar-drenched hellscape. Together, the pair referenced images of oil spills in the ocean, as well as Paul Thomas Anderson’s film There Will Be Blood. “She wanted to have these angel wings burn off, and what you’re left with are the charred remains of the wings underneath,” Lee tells MTV News, “to become the devil, basically.” The transformation involved the design and fabrication of a pair of wings, each extending 15 feet, which were strapped to Eilish via harness and puppeteered by an off-camera crew. Covered in black oil composed of Nickelodeon slime to communicate a harrowing warning about the climate crisis, Eilish lugged the full weight of the slime-soaked wings across the set. “You can see just how far she’s willing to go to almost endure pain to make art,” Lee says.

That sentiment rings particularly true when viewing Eilish’s “Xanny” video, which transposes the uncomfortable experience of breathing in secondhand smoke into a muted gray tonality. In the vein of “You Should See Me in a Crown,” the singer remains passively center-frame, mouthing her lyrics to-camera, as hands holding cigarettes reach in from beyond the frame to extinguish the butts on her cheeks, leaving temporary marks across her face. “It was just so natural, and kind of magical, the way that it came,” Eilish says of the inspiration for the visuals. Directing it herself, however, was another matter. “It’s a lot, a lot more work. It’s definitely a lot less… I want to say fun, but it is fun. It’s fun in a different want, though,” she says, comparing the experience to being directed on set. “But really, it was exactly what I’ve needed, because I’ve wanted to direct my own stuff for my entire life.”

Now, it seems the tide has finally shifted. This year, Eilish’s direction for “Xanny” earned her a VMA nomination for Best Director, while another video with Eilish at the helm, “Everything I Wanted,” is up for Video of the Year. Meanwhile, her latest music video for the up-tempo “My Future,” an animation that sees a cartoon rendering of the singer literally grow and blossom as the song’s beat picks up, seems to shirk off some of the darkness, perhaps a message of hope in what’s to come. “I love the idea of making you think about something that you didn’t even know you thought,” she says. “The songs that I’m working on currently, the videos I’m working on currently, I got a lot of things I want to say about my life and about the world in general. And you know, why not say them?”

The 2020 VMAs will air live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, August 30 across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.

Looking Back At Justin Bieber’s VMAs Journey From 2009 To Now

In 2009, Justin Bieber attended his first VMAs, excited to see Beyoncé. He stood next to Diddy on the red carpet outside Radio City Music Hall, having just met him for the first time, and gleamed a big smile with the sleeves of his jacket rolled up. Later, he’d be onstage introducing a fellow pop sensation, but first, he was taking it all in. “He’s a great young man in the making,” Diddy said, smiling himself.

Eleven years later, Biebs’s history with the VMAs is long and speckled with plenty of highlights. He’s won three Moon Person trophies and been nominated for 20 in total, including four this year at the 2020 VMAs. But back in 2009, when Bieber first stopped by the show, Diddy was right: JB was still in the making. Now, he’s a made man. Below, relive Bieber’s VMAs evolution from then until now.

  • 2009: A Biebs is born

    Bieber’s first-ever appearance at the show wasn’t marked by a performance, though he did join Miranda Cosgrove onstage to introduce Taylor Swift, who launched into “You Belong With Me” with the help of some creative subway cinematography. On the red carpet, Bieber’s baby face and gigantic smile helped make him an instant presence, especially with his then-trademark artfully shaggy hair.

  • 2010: Homecoming king on the skins

    The following year saw JB making his proper performance debut, and he seized the moment. It was, naturally, a shining medley, and dressed like a Riverdale homecoming king, he managed to pack a bit of “U Smile,” “Baby,” and “Somebody to Love” into just over four minutes. He had help, flanked by a battalion of dancers while rocking a sideways black cap, and capped the show by busting out a drum solo from behind the kit. Biebs’s “Baby” also won the highly coveted Best New Artist trophy, beating out an impressive roster of fellow nominees: Nicki Minaj, Kesha, Jason Derulo, and Broken Bells. The legend had just begun.

  • 2011: One less lonely snake

    The 17-year-old was another year wiser and another few inches taller as he picked up the Moon Person for Best Male Video for “U Smile,” the song he’d fittingly teased at the previous show. Bieber topped Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You,” Bruno Mars’s “Grenade,” and even Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” for the distinction, and earlier in the evening, he memorably used a baby albino boa constrictor named Johnson as a fashion accessory — though he later reportedly auctioned him off for charity.

  • 2015: A triumphant (and tearful) return

    After a few years away from the VMA spotlight, the 2015 show was very much a welcome return for the recently 21-year-old performer. Two days before the event, he dropped “What Do You Mean?” and had dominated the entire summer with his Jack Ü collab “Where Are Ü Now.” He hit the red carpet looking like a stylish ’80s vampire — leather jacket, suede boots, a blond swoop of bangs — and nabbed Best Visual Effects along with Skrillex and Diplo. But no one could’ve predicted what happened after the athletic, flair-filled performance of his big summer hits: Biebs broke down in tears onstage. “I just wasn’t expecting [the audience] to support me in the way that they did,” Bieber later explained. “Last time I was at an award show, I was booed.”

  • 2020: Stuck with him

    Though he’s not scheduled to perform, Bieber nabbed four nominations for the 2020 show, the most he’d been up for since 2016. His noms include a biggie for Artist of the Year, Best Collaboration (thanks to “Stuck With U,” his charity quarantine team-up with Ariana Grande), Best Pop, and a nod in the inaugural Best Music Video From Home category. It’s been 11 years since his first VMA appearance, and Bieber’s still holding strong.

The 2020 VMAs will air live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, August 30 across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.