Miley Cyrus won the top honor Sunday at the MTV Video Music Awards, but it was Beyonce's finale performance -- and on-stage cameos from her husband and daughter -- that became the night's biggest moment.
An emotional Beyonce embraced Jay Z and 2-year-old Blue Ivy (who, wearing a gold dress, could be seen clapping her hands and appearing to say "Yay, Mommy") after they watched from the audience as she performed a medley of her hits at the close of the show.
The family was onstage together as the singer accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award. Jay Z called her the "greatest living entertainer," while she referred to him as "my beloved."
Beyonce, teary-eyed, thanked her fans and looked at her daughter and husband, telling them she loved them.
Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" won the award for video of the year. Unlike last year's VMAs, when Cyrus twerked and danced shockingly onstage, she took a back seat Sunday night and let a young man accept her award to raise awareness for runaways and homeless youth.
Nicki Minaj helped open the VMAs with a "Bang" as she brought her "Anaconda" video to life with a rump-shaking performance and had a wardrobe malfunction when she performed with Ariana Grande and Jessie J.
The rapper first wore a green top and shorts, rapping, dancing and exciting the crowd -- except Rita Ora, who stared blankly when the camera panned by. But when Minaj performed "Bang Bang," the rapper was far more subdued as she held the front of her outfit together after a long split appeared.
Snakes, though, were not part of the Sunday night's performance -- days before the VMAs, a 6-foot-long boa constrictor reportedly bit a background dancer during a rehearsal for Minaj's performance.
Grande kicked off the show with a rendition of her EDM hit, "Break Free" in a Beyonce-inspired leotard. The 21-year-old singer returned to the stage later in the show when she won best pop video for her smash single "Problem."
Katy Perry, wearing an all-denim dress that paid homage to Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake's ensembles from the 2001 American Music Awards, took home the first moonman trophy of the evening, winning best female video for "Dark Horse" with Juicy J.
Taylor Swift, who is fully venturing out into the world of pop music, performed her new song "Shake It Off" for the first time live on TV during the telecast. Other performances came from Maroon 5, Sam Smith, Usher and Azeala, who performed her single "Black Widow" with Rita Ora.
The night featured a serious social message along with the performances. Rapper-actor Common held a moment of silence for Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a police officer on Aug. 9, before he presented the award for best hip-hop video.
"Hip-hop has always been about truth and has been a powerful instrument of social change, from Melle Mel to Public Enemy to Kendrick Lamar," Common said. "Hip-hop has always been presented a voice for the revolution."
Later, a 15-second spot aired alluding to the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, urging viewers to take action to eliminate bias.
There was also a brief tribute to the late Robin Williams with a photo montage set to Coldplay's song "A Sky Full of Stars."
This year, there was VMAs drama before the ceremony even began -- days before the big show, Azalea slipped offstage while performing "Fancy" at a MTV benefit concert. At a rehearsal, a show worker fell from one of the winding, sloping platforms on the stage at the Forum in Inglewood, California, which reopened in January after a $100 million makeover. And rap mogul Suge Knight was injured in a shooting early Sunday at a West Hollywood nightclub for an unofficial pre-VMA party hosted by Chris Brown.
The incidents helped make the popular awards trend on social media even before an award was handed out, though trophies often take a back seat at the VMAs, which are all about the moments -- like Cyrus' twerking during last year's show.
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