Ranking the 2021 VMAs performances

Photo credit: Instagram: @vmas

The 40th MTV Video Music Awards (VMA), an annual iconic celebration of the best in music video entertainment, was held on Sept. 12 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The night to remember, hosted by pop-rap goddess and performer Doja Cat, was the first in-person VMAs since before the coronavirus pandemic began.

It would not be the VMAs without signature steamy, high-intensity performances from the biggest in music. This year did not disappoint, with Justin Bieber, Lil Nas X, Alicia Keys and Jack Harlow, among others, taking the stage.

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Some of the night’s biggest winners included Lil Nas X taking home the coveted Video of the Year Award for the controversial “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and Olivia Rodrigo winning Best New Artist, Push Performance of the Year and Song of the Year for her smash hit “Driver’s License.”

Although there were many performances on this historic evening, there can only be so many “favorites.” Below are the top ten of the night you shouldn’t miss.

Busta Rhymes

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New York-native rapper Busta Rhymes performed a series of his all-time biggest hits to liven the event. Within moments, he had the crowd jumping. Joined by his hypeman Spliff Star, Rhymes takes the cake for best performance.

Justin Bieber

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Canadian superstar Justin Bieber performed Billboard number one single “Stay” alongside collaborator the Kid LAROI, followed by a rendition of his own “Ghost.” It was the first time in six years that he’s performed on the VMA stage, elevating the significance of the event.

Alicia Keys

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Alicia Keys, alongside special guest Swae Lee, performed “Lala” 0n a beautiful stage located in front of the New York City skyline. Since the awards were hosted in Brooklyn, everyone anticipated her singing “Empire State of Mind” and when she did, she killed it as usual.


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The former Fifth Harmony member, Normani, is doing incredible as a soloist. Her VMA performance of “Wild Side” highlighted her incredible versatility as a performer. From singing to choreography, Normani had it all down and proved she is THAT girl.

Lil Nas X (w/ Jack Harlow)

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The young, visionary rapper Lil Nas X was the man of the hour at the 2021 VMAs, illustrating the undeniable influence he’s had this year . The performance of “Industry Baby,” alongside Harlow demonstrated his captivating stage presence. The sexy choreography, an attractive sea of backup dancers and bright-pink, scandalous costumes were on point, earning them a top pick.


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Performing her debut single as a soloist, Chloe proved why she deserves a spot in the pop world. Inspired by Beyonce, she delivered her new song “Have Mercy” excellently and showed an aspect of her we have never seen before.


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Brazilian superstar Anitta performed her hit single “Girl From Rio.” Being the first Brazilian artist to attend the VMAs, Anitta made history all while delivering her song beautifully.

Doja Cat

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Doja Cat, the host herself only took the stage to perform once, with tracks “Been Like This” and “You Right” from her summer album “Planet Her.” Already very popular, the crowd loved her as she swung around gracefully from the ceiling of Barclays Center.

Twenty-One Pilots

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The popular rock band hit the stage with a performance of “Saturday.” Lead singer Tyler Joseph announced his second child on the way and gave the VMAs a lot of good vibes.

Camila Cabello

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The second former Fifth Harmony member of the night, Camila Cabello, performed her new single, “Don’t Go Yet.” Inspired by salsa, the choreography complemented her Cuban heritage and matched the aesthetic of her costuming. Always a must-see at awards shows, Cabello proved why her new single is likely to be a future radio hit.

Featured image: Instagram @vmas