From Kanye West's unfiltered speech to Rihanna and Drake's perfect lovefest

By Laura Cohen
Updated December 02, 2020 02:03 AM
Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

[BRIGHTCOVE “21027002” “” “peoplenow” “auto” ]The 2016 MTV Video Music Awards had a little bit of everything: a classically Kanye West speech, lots of love for Rihanna and some topical humor from Jimmy Fallon. Here are the moments that we’ll be thinking about well into this week.

1. Rihanna opened the show
Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award winner Rihanna got the night started with a medley of her famous hits – in just the first of her four performances of the night. In an all-pink outfit, she took us through history with “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Only Girl (in the World),” “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been.”

2. The Final Five gave us all the squad goals
From Rio to the VMAs, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team was at it again, giving us major FOMO by rocking their sparkly dresses, adorably presenting the award for best female video and casually meeting Kim Kardashian West (sadly, teammate Gabby Douglas was recovering from a hospitalization). Of course, we knew it was only a matter of time before Kim met her Twitter pen pal Simone Biles in real life – and they took a commemorative selfie to celebrate the occasion.

3. Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande reunited, and it was flawless
The women who sang “Bang Bang” with Jessie J at the 2014 VMAs got together once again to perform their collaboration “Side to Side,” which somehow made going to the gym seem like a fun activity we might be interested in some day, between Grande’s fierce cycling and Minaj’s bevy of hunky men.

4. Alicia Keys took to the stage with a moving poem
Keys continued her makeup-free movement when she took the stage to present the award for best male video, but that’s not the only reason she made an impact. Keys also used the moment to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and share a short poem with a strong message: “I hope that one day, men and women truly are equal.”

5. We found out the story behind #PhelpsFace
Michael Phelps‘ intense face at the summer Olympics launched a thousand memes, but we’ve still been wondering what song he could have been listening to to get that game face. He gave us the answer when presenting Future’s performance of that very song, “F— Up Some Commas.”

6. Kanye West’s entire speech …
We weren’t sure if West could top his speech from last year (you know, in which he announced he would be running for president), but he certainly got in a lot before introducing his new music video. Among his many quoteable lines, he said, “Later tonight, ‘Famous’ might lose to Beyoncé, but I can’t be mad,” poking fun at his 2009 interruption of Taylor Swift’s speech before listing the “less then 10” role models in his life, including “Truman, Ford, Hughes, Disney, Jobs, West.”

7. And his new music video
Following that speech, West premiered his music video for “Fade,” which featured singer Teyana Taylor, barely clothed and dancing through an empty gym, as one does. After a shower with an equally hot man, the video’s ending showed Taylor with a lion’s face, naked and surrounded by sheep. Only #art that we could get from West, naturally.

8. Nick Jonas threw a star-studded dinner
For his performance of “Bacon,” Jonas took to N.Y.C.’s Tick Tock diner. Along with a plate of bacon, the performance also featured a lot of celebrity cameos, from DNCE (including Jonas’ brother Joe) to model Ashley Graham. Our only question: How do we get to dine with all these stars?!

9. When Beyoncé made Lemonade
Eleven nominations certainly warrants a flawless performance, and Beyoncé slayed her Lemonade medley as only she can. After an introduction from Serena Williams, Queen Bey looked angelic in a white feather coat, shimmied in a lace black leotard, smashed the camera with a baseball bat, was illuminated by flames and, finally, got into “Formation” with dancers in matching black over-the-knee boots. Basically, if that performance had just lasted the rest of the VMAs, we wouldn’t have been mad.

10. Britney Spears made an amazing return to the VMAs
After Kardashian West introduced Spears with, “We watched her strip out of a tuxedo and set the stage on fire, we watched her tame a snake and be very untamed with the one and only Madonna,” we knew we were in for something good. The pop princess gave her first performance at the VMAs since 2007, and it was Britney, bitch, indeed. Wearing a yellow bedazzled one-piece with matching thigh-high boots, the star slithered across the floor before being joined on stage by rapper G-Eazy. There was a lot of hair-flipping, naturally.

11. Jimmy Fallon did an epic impression of Ryan Lochte
Going off of Ryan Lochte’s Olympics scandal, Fallon took the opportunity to dress up as the swimmer when presenting video of the year (the winner of which he could not choose, even if there was a gun to his head). Plus, did you see Phelps’ excited reaction?!

12. Drake melted hearts all around the world
After her final performance of the night, Rihanna accepted the Video Vanguard Award – from none other than Drake, who surprised all of us when he stepped onto the stage in a tuxedo.

He summed up her career with, “She succeeds by being something in which no one in this industry does, which is by being herself,” and then caused us to cry all the happy tears with, “She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old. She’s one of my best friends in the world. She’s a living breathing legend in our industry.”