On Sunday, August 30, host Keke Palmer opened the show with a touching tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who died two days earlier. The late Black Panther star was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016, succumbing after a four-year battle throughout his iconic career. He was 43 years old.
“Before we get into the music tonight, we need to take the time to talk about the devastating loss of Chadwick Boseman, an actor whose talent and passion is a true inspiration to all the fans he touched and everyone he encountered,” Palmer, 27, said at the top of the show. “We dedicate tonight’s show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He is a true hero, not just on screen but in everything he did. His impact lives forever.”
Despite the unconventional circumstances brought upon them amid the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s nominees and winners approached the 2020 VMAs with the same level of excitement as ever. While accepting her second award of the night, Song of the Year for “Rain on Me,” Lady Gaga gave fans a powerful message about staying strong through their hardest times.
“Me and Ariana [Grande] appreciate this so much,” Gaga, 34, began after taking the stage in a green gown and horned protective face mask. “I remember when I wrote the lyrics for the chorus … ‘I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive / Rain on me.’ I remember thinking I had cried so many tears that it felt like unfathomable downpour from my eyes. But even with that much rain, you don’t have to drown … you can still swim.”
The A Star Is Born actress later gave a show-stopping performance of her duet with Grande, 27, marking the first time they’ve sung the hit single together live. The duo danced it out in matching purple outfits after scoring yet another win for Best Collaboration.
Though Gaga, Grande and more lit up the stage with their energetic performances, this year’s awards recognized the challenges facing fans across the country, including the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice. Winners encouraged viewers to stay safe, wear masks and take action, while Palmer introduced an emotional tribute to healthcare heroes who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis from the beginning.
Check out the video above to relive the best moments from the 2020 VMAs!