The 2017 MTV VMAs at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., kicked off with a lasers, fire and Kendrick Lamar. Break dancers performed amidst the light beams and fog as the rapper performed "DNA." The song culminated with a ninja breakdancing while engulfed in flames. Then, the rapper transitioned to "HUMBLE." and Lamar's backup performers, who were wearing martial arts uniforms, clamored up and down a ladder that was set ablaze.
Audience members sang along as Ed Sheeran took the stage to perform "Shape of You" against a prismatic set. Then, Lil Uzi hopped onstage to add a few rap lines and helped Sheeran close out the song before the two launched into "XO TOUR Llif3."
The show cut to a skit featuring host Katy Perry hatching up a scheme to visit space, asking for advice from Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson, Abbi Jacobson, Kathryn Hahn and Kevin Bacon who reminded Perry, "I wasn't really on Apollo 13." Perry then detailed her fictional trip to space before she floated down to the stage in her holographic space suit.
When she got to the stage, Perry explained to the audience that she has been missing in action because of her trip to space.
She said: "The world is doing so well right? Everything is fine? Great! Maybe not so much."
Perry explained she wanted to change clothes. As she started to disrobe, she went through a rack of clothes. At one point, she took a "Handmaid's Tale" uniform out and asked what it was. She said, "You guys have really been going through it, haven't you? How the f**k are you coping right now?" before she was handed a fidget spinner as an explanation.
Paris Jackson presented best pop video award, but not before giving an impassioned statement against white supremacists.
"Let's leave here tonight remembering we must show these Nazi, white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville and all over the country that as a nation with liberty as our slogan, we have zero tolerance for their violence, their hatred and their discrimination," said Jackson. "We must resist."
Fifth Harmony won best pop video for "Down" and they got teary as they thanked their families and Gucci Mane, who was on the stage with them.
Hailee Steinfeld announced Julia Michaels' performance of "Issues."
The VMAs premiered Perry's frenemy Taylor Swift's video for her new single "." The video opened with a zombie-like Swift emerging from a grave, moving to scenes of her singing from a bathtub filled with jewelry -- which could be a reference to , when she was locked in a bathroom while burglars took her jewelry -- a throne, a swing in a cage and more. Swift also crashed a car and as the door opened, the singer looked startlingly like Perry with bleach blond, side-swept bangs.
Later, Swift stood at a podium in bondage-style clothing inside of a neon room in front of crowds of similarly dressed women. Then, she channeled Beyonce's "Formation" by appearing in a similar outfit to the pop star while standing in front of a row of male dancers dressed in crop tops and knee-high boots.
The video closed with a dozen versions of Swift -- including her early-career appearance with curly hair and a guitar and a 2009 VMAs version -- quibbling with each other. One asked the 2009 VMAs Swift, "What are you doing here, getting receipts," clearly referencing when. Just in case viewers were in doubt, the 2009 VMAs version of Swift said, "I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative," which is exactly what she said in July 2016 when the leak took place.
Yara Shahidi announced Shawn Mendes' performance of "There's Nothin' Holding Me Back." Mendes walked up to fans in the audience and grabbed their hands as he sang.
Perry returned to the stage with a message for people affected by Hurricane Harvey and said, "We are praying for your safety … because we're all in this together."
Later, the VMAs host asked the audience if she could play the voicemails she got while she was "in space." She had an increasingly distressed "voicemail" from a friend at the failed Fyre Festival who kept saying to Perry, "Let me know when you get here."
Alessandra Ambrosio and Jack Antonoff, who sported a prominent Star of David necklace, announced a performance by Lorde.
Lorde opened by turning on a boom box onstage and dancing to her song "Homemade Dynamite." Later, backup dancers joined her to lift her into the air so she could float over the stage. She ended the performance without singing a single word.
Pete Wentz and Teyana Taylor presented best dance, which went to "Stay" by Alessia Cara and Zedd.
The VMAs returned after a commercial break to a skit with Perry consulting with a ponytailed guru, played by Fred Armisen.
"What makes a hit," Perry asked.
Armisen played the riff from "Shape of You" on a xylophone for Perry and called it the secret to a hit. He then squeezed a squeaky toy for Perry and said, "Write it in C-sharp."
Perry returned to the stage with a "social media baby" named Bella, sponsored by Fit Tea. Perry boasted, "She has 1.7 million followers on Instagram."
"She knows all of the lyrics to 'Despacito,' unlike some other babies I know," she said, making fun of Justin Bieber.
DJ Khaled took the stage with his real baby, Asahd Tuck Khaled, who Perry said would obviously win the social media baby contest. He then announced a performance by Fifth Harmony. The girl group started with "Angel" before transitioning into "Down."
Ludacris and Olivia Munn presented best collaboration, which went to "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" by Zayn and Taylor Swift. Jack Antonoff and his "favorite new artist" Sam Dew accepted the award on the singers' behalf.
Jared Leto took the stage to pay tribute to late musicians Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell. He talked about seeing Bennington at Cornell's funeral and said, "Chester said of Chris, 'Your voice was joy and pain and anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one.' Just weeks later, Chester himself was gone. Chester was my friend as he was to so many and witnessing his life taught me important things, especially about working relentlessly, pursuing dreams and being kind and caring while doing it."
He added, "If there's anyone out there who feels like there is no hope, hear me now. You are not alone. There is always a way forward. Reach out, share your thoughts. Do not give up and I promise you this: The absolute biggest breakthroughs in life lie just beyond the darkest days."
Leto then urged audience members and viewers at home to stand up for a performance by Linkin Park.
Perry returned with a skit with Billy Eichner who followed her around with bombarding questions like, "Are you really JonBenet Ramsey?"
She denied the rumor.
Then, Perry announced a performance by Miley Cyrus, who sang "Younger Now" after shouting, "Love you, Katy!"
After Cyrus' performance, Pete Davidson and Tiffany Haddish presented best hip-hop video. But first, the star of "Girls Trip" had to gloat.
"I want to show all of my exes I am killing the game," said Haddish. "I told you I was going to do it. You didn't believe me. Now look at you, watching me looking good."
The award went to Kendrick for "HUMBLE."
Cardi B announced a spirited performance of "Sorry Not Sorry" by Demi Lovato.
Later, Pink appeared onstage in a convertible to sing a medley of her songs, including "Get the Party Started" and "Raise Your Glass" before hopping onto an ATV to sing "So What" as backup singers danced nearly nude with only black bars to cover themselves.
Pink then sang "Don't Let Me Get Me" and "Just Give Me A Reason" against a screen playing her old music videos before she performed her newest single "What About Us."
After Pink's performance, Ellen DeGeneres took the stage to present the Vanguard Award to Pink. She pointed out that she was missing the season finale of "Game of Thrones" to give the award and said, "I love her. I call her my friend. She has had a 17-year career. She has sold almost 50 million albums ... most importantly, she wrote and sings my theme song of my talk show, so I love her for that."
As Pink received her award, she told a story about how her 6-year-old daughter called herself the ugliest girl in school and that she looked like a boy.
She said she told her daughter, "They say that I look like a boy or I am too masculine, too many opinions, my body is too strong ... do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world? 'No, mama.' Do you see me selling out arenas around the world? 'Yes, mama.' ... So baby girl, we don't change."
After thanking her fans and collaborators, Pink gave a shout out to her daughter who was in the audience and said, "And you my darling girl are beautiful and I love you."
Perry returned to the stage with straight blonde hair and snatched her own wig off before introducing rapper Kyle.
"Stranger Things" actress Millie Bobby Brown took the stage to present artist of the year and quipped, "Just last year, I was stuck in the upside down and now I'm here."
The award went to Brown's "personal favorite" Ed Sheeran. Sheeran said it was only his second VMA ever before thanking his colleagues.
Vanessa Hudgens announced a performance by Alessia Cara. Cara sang in a red dress as backup performers, wearing head-to-toe black latex bodysuits, danced around her.
Kesha announced a performance of "1-800-273-8255" by Alessia Cara and Logic. The song title is also the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Kesha said, "The moving piece of film and music that is the video for 1-800-273-8255 brought me to tears. The truth is piercing and the truth is what matters and the truth shows us that none of us are alone." She echoed Leto's earlier comments in his tribute to Chester Bennington and said, "Whatever you are going through, however dark it may seem, there is an undeniable truth and strength in the fact that you are not alone."
Alessia Cara and Logic performed against a backdrop that had "1-800-273-8255" written on it over and over again, and closed off the performance by standing with real-life suicide and loss survivors. Logic accused "mainstream media" of not covering mental health issues and said, "I believe we are born equal but we are not treated equally. That is why we must fight. We must fight for every man, woman, child and every color, creed, sexual orientation … I demand that you rise to your feet and applaud not only for yourselves but for the foundation we all lay for our children."
Perry returned dressed as Daenerys from "Game of Thrones" to offer a recap of the VMAs so far for the fantasy show's viewers who might have just tuned in.
Bebe Rexha and the Chainsmokers presented best new artist, which went to Khalid, who said, "Oh wow, this is ridiculous," before he thanked the city of El Paso, his mom for "supporting [him] when no one else did" and his colleagues.
Thirty Seconds to Mars sang "Walk on Water" and the performance appeared as a heat map for the broadcast.
Reverend Robert Mead IV took the stage and said, "I am a descendent of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America's original sin. Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God's call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women's March in January and especiallyfighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville." Mead then introduced , Heyer's mother.
Bro said of Heyer, "I miss her, but I know she's here tonight. I have been deeply moved to see people across the world, the whole world, find inspiration in her courage." She announced the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, which will provide scholarships to "help people join Heather's fight against hatred."
Bro continued and said, "I want people to know that Heather never marched alone. She was always joined by people of every race and every background in this country." She announced that MTV decided to honor all six nominees for its category, best fight against the system. She said, "I congratulate all these artists on their VMA tonight and I look forward to the important work that they and all of you will do together to make the world a better, kinder place. Thank you."
Hailey Baldwin announced the performance of the "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" reboot by Rod Stewart and DNCE, who put on a colorful and flashy performance from Las Vegas.
"Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot presented video of the year, which went to "HUMBLE." by Kendrick Lamar. It was Lamar's second win of the night.
Noah Cyrus announced a performance by host Perry and Nicki Minaj.
Perry appeared atop a giant basketball to sing "Swish Swish" and later, the hollow basketball turned around to reveal Minaj wearing a latex referee's outfit as the two closed off the VMAs.