Considering how the year 2020 has actually felt like an entire decade, it can be hard to remember the major moments of, say, April, let alone the defining cultural hit makers of the past dozen months. The 2020 VMAs can help jog your memory.
The Artist of the Year field for this year’s awards show — claimed by Ariana Grande at last year’s event — is absolutely packed. DaBaby, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Megan Thee Stallion, Post Malone, and The Weeknd are all up for the coveted prize, and only one can win. If you need a recap of the impressive years each of these six superstars has led, we’ve got you covered below.
This year, the North Carolina rapper continued his incredible streak of features by appearing on a staggering 11 — and also found time to release seven of his own singles, including team-ups with Drake, Camila Cabello, and more. He dropped his third album in 13 months, Blame It on Baby, in April, and saw his Roddy Ricch collab “Rockstar” hit No. 1. That tune has spent 18 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 as of this writing, which speaks to the kind of longevity DaBaby has cultivated in such a short amount of time. At this year’s VMAs, he’s also nominated for Best Hip-Hop and Best Choreography, and his Cabello collaboration, “My Oh My,” also landed one for Best Cinematography. He’ll bring the full expanse of his power to the stage, too, as one of the night’s performers. The man never sleeps.
2020 saw the release of Bieber’s long-awaited new album Changes, which earned him his fifth No. 1 and yielded an entire fleet of gorgeous, wide-ranging visuals courtesy of creative director Nick DeMoura. At the same time, Bieber managed to turn his marriage to Hailey Bieber into an entire lifestyle brand, complete with at-home boat-ride quarantine videos and and in-depth docuseries that probed how their relationship pulled Bieber out of a deep spiral. Couple that with “Stuck With U,” his Ariana Grande stay-home anthem that earned VMA nods for Best Collaboration and Best Music Video From Home, and Bieber’s 2020 has been full of numerous important, you guessed it, changes.
Chromatica, Gaga’s first solo album since 2016, marked a triumphant return to the pop sphere after a season away collecting her first Oscar. The lead-up was filled with plenty of patented Gaga intrigue; she teased the album with mechanized imagery and proclaimed, “I will do whatever it takes to make the world dance and smile,” before making good on that vow with the kinetic “Stupid Love,” the Blackpink collab “Sour Candy,” and of course, “Rain on Me,” an Ariana Grande-powered dance anthem. The two are also tied for most noms this year, with nine each. Together, they’ll electrify the VMAs with a live performance of the tune, so prepare your galoshes.
Megan Thee Stallion
It might be recency bias, but few songs have come to define 2020 as completely as “WAP,” Meg’s blockbuster team-up with Cardi B wherein the duo celebrate and fully own their sexuality. And that one only dropped three weeks ago! Elsewhere in 2020, Meg went from scene-stealing VMA pre-show performer at the tail end of a Hot Girl Summer to a proper force all her own, teaming up with Beyoncé for her first-ever No. 1 single and tightening her grasp on pop culture at large. This year, she’s also nominated for Song of the Year and Best Hip-Hop. Though she’s had her share of struggles, Meg’s proved her resilience through it all.
“Circles” — what a banger! That breezy gem (and Posty’s fourth No. 1) is just one of his many modes, the vast totality of which allow him to have features from Ozzy Osbourne, Halsey, DaBaby, and SZA all on the same album. It’s also what helped his downright exhilarating livestreamed Nirvana tribute raise $500,000 for coronavirus relief in April. That grungy burst, which featured Travis Scott on the drums, earned him a Best Quarantine Performance VMA nomination, along with a separate nod in the Song of the Year category. You might not be able to see it through his increasingly ink-covered face, but Posty’s smiling (even as Hollywood’s bleeding).
In a year marked by several high-profile returns in the music realm, The Weeknd descended to earth and completely rebooted himself (again) at the tail end of 2019 as a toad-licking, Joker-channeling, dangerous Las Vegas thrill shark — and pivoted to synth-pop, because it felt right. He played around with the very idea of press appearances, making disturbing and meta visuals that may have painted him as a psychopath, and he even played a virgin on American Dad in a good bit of self-spoofing. What a year! This year, along with Billie Eilish, he’s tied for the second-most nominated artist this year, having racked up six nods in total. He’ll be bringing his chaotic After Hours vision to life at the VMAs with a performance. As we’ve come to expect, anything can happen.
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.