Hosted by Keke Palmer, the 2020 VMAs air live on Sunday night, with performances by Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, BTS, Miley Cyrus and more

By Benjamin VanHoose
Updated August 30, 2020 06:45 PM
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Lady Gaga, Keke Palmer, Ariana Grande
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Despite unprecedented times, the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards are pushing forward!

On Sunday night, the annual awards show will proceed with a broadcast unlike any other in the past, given the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its accompanying social distancing guidelines.

Organizers announced earlier this year, however, that the VMAs will carry out an isolated show, not held inside the Barclay's Center, but rather have outdoor showcases throughout New York City's five boroughs.

“The 2020 VMAs will be held on Sunday, August 30, and pay homage to the incredible resiliency of New York with several outdoor performances around the City with limited or no audience, adhering to all state and city guidelines,” MTV previously said in a statement.

To prep for the unique installment of the storied VMAs legacy (hosted by actress Keke Palmer!), read on to know what to expect.

Check out PEOPLE's full MTV VMAs coverage to get the latest news on one of music’s biggest nights.

Ariana Grande & Lady Gaga lead nominations:

The "Rain on Me" gals, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, topped the 2020 tally of most nominated artists with nine nods each. Billie Eilish and The Weeknd are close behind, both receiving six nominations at the event, with winners determined based on votes from fans.

Celebrating the nominations, Gaga, 34, wrote on Instagram that she's "so grateful and so blessed" to be recognized. "This is such a difficult time for people all over the world, I really honor how lucky I am to have a day like today," she said at the time.

In addition to the usual categories — including video of the year, artist of the year, song of the year, best collaboration and more — MTV has added two new categories aimed at honoring music created during the pandemic: best music video from home and best quarantine performance.

See the full list of the 2020 nominees here.

BTS, Doja Cat and J Balvin
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Performers include BTS, Miley Cyrus, Black Eyed Peas and more:

Even with extenuating circumstances, a number of major acts are set to bring down the house on Sunday night. Aside from Gaga and Grande, who will bring Chromatica to life, the big night will also see performances from Miley Cyrus, the Black Eyed Peas, The Weeknd, DaBabyDoja CatMaluma, CNCO and more. K-pop sensations BTS will also give the television debut of their brand-new all-English single "Dynamite."

There will also be a star-studded pre-show ahead of the main event, featuring celebrity interviews plus performances by Chloe x Halle, Machine Gun Kelly, Lewis Capaldi and others.

In a slight shakeup to the lineup of performers, J Balvin and Roddy Ricch dropped out of the VMAs this year.

Lizzo performs onstage during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center on August 26, 2019, in Newark, New Jersey.
Mike Coppola/Getty

Celebrities traveling to perform at the VMAs will not be subjected to the statewide mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on travelers coming from areas with high rates of COVID-19.

"Similar to professional athletes, the VMA cast and crew are required to adhere to strict procedures which include quarantining when not working, wearing masks and appropriate social distancing, and rigorous testing during their stay," New York's Department of Health told CBS News in a statement. "Exemptions to the travel advisory, which The Department has granted on a case by case basis, include individuals who have traveled to New York for medical procedures or funerals, as examples."

Bebe Rexha, Bella Hadid, Kelly Clarkson and more will present awards

Big celebrities are set to present awards, including actors Drew Barrymore, Anthony RamosJoey King and Sofia Carson, musicians Bebe Rexha, Jaden Smith, Kelly Clarkson, Machine Gun Kelly, Madison Beer and blink-182 drummer Travis Barker. Also joining the list of presenters are Bella Hadid and Nicole Richie.

"See you sunday," tweeted Carson ahead of her VMA appearance.

The show will be socially distanced amid the pandemic:

To adhere to public health precautions, MTV has opted for outdoor performances during this year's broadcast. The channel said in a statement that the format will "be more feasible and safer."

"In close consultation with state and local health officials‎, it became clear at this time that outdoor performances with limited or no audience would be more feasible and safer than an indoor event," they said in a statement earlier this summer.

"The VMAs will highlight the boroughs in an exciting show and return to Barclays Center in 2021. MTV will continue to work closely with the Department of Health, state and local officials, the medical community, and key stakeholders to ensure the safety of all involved."

How to watch:

The 2020 VMAs airs live on Sunday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m. ET, with a pre-show, hosted by Nessa Diab and Jamila Mustafa, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on MTV.

This year’s main show will simulcast across 11 ViacomCBS brands including BET, BET Her, CMT, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV2, Nick at Nite, Paramount Network, Pop, TV Land, VH1, as well as The CW, making it available to an expanded broadcast audience for the first time.

Follow along on social media with the hashtag #VMAs.