Watch on Monday, 9 November on MTV (DStv 130) at 19:10
Watch on Monday, 9 November on MTV (DStv 130) at 19:10

The MTV EMAs 2020 want their fans back!

One of the strongest, sexiest messages from this year’s MTV EMAs was for fans to mask up so we can all go back to enjoying live performances together again soon

MTV’s (DStv 130) music-loving fans in 180 countries around the world have spoken, voting for their favourite music performers and performances from 2020.


One hour before the main show, Becca Dudley and Jamila Mustafa co-hosted the somewhat fragmented Pre-Game Show from their separate social distancing studios, with an audience of MTV superfans – the MTV EMA Fan Walkers – back together again and looking on via video conferencing.

Why Don't We was the first musical act of the night, performing Fallin'. Fans saw Madison Beer (the Instagram sensation with over 21 million followers) performing Baby is a sultry black leather version of that Pretty Woman hooking outfit. (Madison later presented the Best Song EMA). And 24Goldn performed Mood in an upbeat kind of mood.

MTV’s Kevan Kenney introduced the top-10 moments from past EMAs past, with the Nicki Minaj and Little Mix 2018 Good Form/Woman Like Me collaboration taking the number-one spot (Beyonce’s Sweet Dreams performance only came in at number 4).

Little Mix singer Leigh Anne-Pinnock awarded the Generation Change Award and $5,000 to five remarkable women driving enormous social changes: Brazil's Luiza Brasil, Nigeria's Kiki Mordi, the UKs Temi Mwale, Malaysia's Catherhea Potjanaporn, and Raquel Willis from the US.

Johnny Orlando handed out the award for Biggest Fans to the big winners for the night, BTS, who beat out the likes of Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift. and BLACKPINK.

And Jamila announced that the 2021 EMAs will be held in Budapest, Hungary – hopefully live.

On with the show!

Then it was on to the main show. Three new categories were added to the EMAs in 2020 (the 27th EMA): Best Latin and, in the true 2020 spirit, Video for Good and Best Virtual Live.

Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall from British girl group Little Mix co-hosted the evening (Jesy Nelson had to stay home sick. Get well soon, Jesy! – She still got an animated cartoon version of herself doing a superhero-style fly-in to the ceremony).

As happened at the AMAs earlier this year, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions led to performances for the awards being filmed in different locations around the world. Little Mix made their announcements from Cyberspace, which translated into a virtual full circle arena, surrounded by tiers of screens with images of fans on them.

The EMA team did their best creatively, but we missed the fan energy. And so do music artists around the world. At one point in the show, Little Mix turned off the lights, the stage and virtual stadium went black, and they pointed out that at the moment, the music industry is in darkness, since nobody’s playing live anywhere in the world. It was a cool lead-in to Sam Smith’s performance of Diamonds, during which he danced and sang at full energy to the backdrop of an empty theatre.

There were some cool set pieces in the grand EMA tradition. Rapper and singer Doja Cat (2020’s Best New winner) opened the show by crawling out of a TV set in horror movie The Ring style, onto a stage planted with daisies and grass to perform Say So. The MVP of the performance was her guitarist, who shredded her heart out. In the absence of live audience energy, that counted for a lot.

Da Baby brought attention back to the issues of Black Live Matter movement and police brutality in America during his performance of a medley of Rockstar, Blind and Practice. He played out being arrested by a roadblock cop, then moved into a courtroom with masked witnesses, taking the gavel and play-fighting with the judge before walking into a press conference.

Another great high-energy performance came from Best Push winner Yungblud performing Cotton Candy/Strawberry Lipstick at the empty (aside from his band) stage at London’s Roundhouse. Yungblud was lowered onto the stage in a white, tennis playing angel outfit complete with skirt and platform sneakers, before being flown all over the stage on wires. It was both absurd and delightful. Upskirt camerawork revealed he'd gone full commitment to the skirt with white undies. he finally landed on stage, he changed into Union Jack Bermuda shorts and a white ripped punk vest before getting lifted into the sky again while a giant, spiky red coronavirus-looking inflatable that spewed smoke in the background. And the first guitar of the night was smashed. Yungblud lived up to his own words as he told music fans, "Be strange, be weird, be different, never be afraid to do that." And Foo Fighters’ David Grohl jokingly went through a “is this thing working” moment with his remote video call in, he gave a shout out to Yungblud: "Rock n roll is not dead,” he said, before citing, “The unstoppable force Yungblud."

Jack Harlow brough the exact opposite of that energy to his performance of What’s Poppin, which was very “Go girl, give us nothing,” and pretty solidly on brand.

Little Mix (who won Best UK and Ireland Act in the Regional or Local Act EMAs, announced by Canadian Johnny Orlando during the Pre-Game Show on Facebook Live) performed Sweet Melody from their brand-new album, Confetti while dressed in dazzling white and performing on an augmented reality Incan-inspired pyramid.

Alicia Keys started her performance of Love Looks Better while playing her piano in the dark and wearing a non-COVID-compliant full-face white sequined mask. She then unmasked to reveal a gorgeous, pared-down glam look with glittery slicked-back hair in a side plait. And cameras revealed that she and her piano were actually being driven around night-time Los Angeles on their own personal mini-stage complete with lighting and everything – because when you're a star, what is a car?

Maluma gave his first EMA performance from the comfort of his unmade stage bed, which was a 2020 mood.

David Guetta and Raye performed Let’s Love in a dazzling lightshow filmed in the pool at Hungary’s Széchenyi Baths… to an audience of nobody, which was kind of sad, but beautiful to look at and Raye still sang her heart out. David made us really question what was filmed when and how many of the “live” performances were really being performed live, though. The first time we saw him that Let’s Love performance, which was done in a jacket and jeans look, he accepted his Best Electronic award dressed in a very cosy at home style blue sweatshirt. So many MTV Awards he doesn’t dress for them anymore? But when he introduced Little Mix’s performance just 2 minutes later, David was dressed up in a sharp 3-piece suit. In the end it was his message that was the most important thing: "We need to keep sharing our love for music."

That was a sentiment echoed by Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton when he presented the Video for Good award to H.E.R. for I Can’t Breathe and noted, "It's good to see that music is still a unifying force."

Best Alternative winner Hayley Williams gave one of the most touching shout-outs to fans for the night: “The last time I accepted an EMA was 10 years ago when I was with Paramore. I love making art with my fans and wouldn't want to live my life without either of those things”.

And even though other artists seem to have filmed their acceptance moments at all times of the day and not necessarily live during the ceremony, Cardi B could not be there to collect her Best Hip Hop EMA.

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In Memoriam

“Let us pause and remember, they may be gone but their light will go on shining forever," Little Mix said as they honoured stars that went out in 2020 including Chadwick Boseman, Kraft.werk's Florian Schneider, Naya Riviera, Pop Smoke and Ric Ocasek of The Cars. The big honour of the segment went to “The loss of a guitar god and a true rock legend, the sheer greatness that was Eddie Van Halen.” an epic performance montage of his work over the years, singer St. Vincent called Eddie “an inspiration to shredders everywhere”.


The all-out winner at the fashion stakes for the evening was masks – all the backup dancers were wearing them and making them look hot and mysterious! Little Mix had a laugh, too, at one stage donning masks with moustaches and beards printed on them to introduce Best Video winner DJ Khaled.

The hottest look of the night came from Best Latin and Best Collaboration winner Karol G, who, at one stage, wore an eye-watering oversized checked suit that she must have mopped off a colour-blind used-car salesman or lumberjack, complete with fingerless gloves in the same pattern. It was awesome! Later in the evening, she donned the most MTV outfit ever to perform Bichota: Head to toe, it was exquisitely laid baby hairs slicked with glitter and a high ponytail, a cropped white tank top with glitter lettering under a cutaway leather jacket/corset combo, then a deconstructed tartan skirt over jodhpurs and motorbike boots.

Little Mix had several outfit changes, and Perrie Edwards’ suit with a flamenco-style extravagance of ruffles got thoroughly and comically upstaged by Jade Thirwall with her sea urchin-looking spiky social distancing skirt, which kept her Little Mix sisters at an appropriate 1,5m distance from her.

The fit of Maluma's shiny red double-breasted suit with the purple pink lighting made him look like a comic book villain who's into big bad business.

Supermodel Winnie Harlow presented the Best Latin award with gorgeous sleek waist-length black hair and a fitted black one-shoulder gown.

And again, shout out to Yungblud for that angelic tennis player look.

There were also some win/lose looks depending on your taste. Rita Ora dressed as a peachy-beige bath scrubber similar tone to her skin, and one of Little Mix’s costume changes left. them looking like Bridesmaids from 3 different weddings.

The biggest winners

Going into the evening, Lady Gaga led the field at the time of nominations, with her Chromatica studio album scoring nominations in 7 categories. Justin Bieber’s 5th studio album, Changes, saw him scoop 5 nominations, tying with KPop Group BTS, who got 2020 partying with Dynamite, their first song ever fully recorded in English. In the end it was BTS who walked off with the most awards of the night, including Best Song, Best Group, Best Virtual Live and Biggest Fans. Lady Gaga scooped Best Artist.

Africa’s best act!

On Sunday, 8 November, South African voters’ eyes were fixed on Master KG, and Kabza De Small (The Amapiano King who was DStv Mzansi Viewers’ Choice Awards winner for Favourite DJ and Favourite Rising Star) and DJ Maphorisa to see whether they’d bring home the Best African Act EMA – Master KG for Jerusalema with Nomcebo Zikode, and Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa in recognition of their The Return of Scorpion Kings album and other hits.

The Best African Act was announced during the Regional or Local Act EMAs, announced by Canadian Johnny Orlando before the main awards ceremony on Facebook, live. Master KG walked away with the award and a nod to the viral sensation of his Jerusalema dance challenge. “I would like to thank each and every person out there, all over the world, for making this possible. I just won Best African Act at the MTV EMAs 2020, and I’d love to thank my sister, Nomcebo, my team at Open Mic Productions. Everyone who is behind Master KG, thank you guys so much. And all my friends all over the world, without you, I don’t think this would be possible,” said a happy Master KG.

Monde Twala, Senior Vice President and General Manager of ViacomCBS Networks Africa commented, “Master KG’s accolades at this year’s MTV EMAs is a testament to his global popularity which has seen people all over the world unite in dance to his smash hit, Jerusalema, during one of the most unprecedented times in our history. We recognize his great achievement in bringing people together across cultures and congratulate him on this massive win. MTV continues to celebrate all the nominees in the Best African Act category and are proud to elevate local talent across our platforms as we take African pop culture and music to the world.”

All the winners are…

Best Video

Winner: DJ Khaled – POPSTAR ft. Drake starring Justin Bieber
Billie Eilish – everything i wanted
Cardi B – WAP ft. Megan Thee Stallion
Karol G – Tusa ft. Nicki Minaj
Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande – Rain On Me
Taylor Swift. – The Man
The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

Best Artist

Winner: Lady Gaga
Dua Lipa
Harry Styles
Justin Bieber
Miley Cyrus
The Weeknd

Best Song

Winner: BTS – Dynamite
DaBaby – Rockstar ft. Roddy Ricch
Dua Lipa – Don't Start Now
Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande – Rain On Me
Roddy Ricch – The Box
The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

Best Collaboration

Winner: Karol G – Tusa ft. Nicki Minaj
BLACKPINK, Selena Gomez – Ice Cream
Cardi B – WAP ft. Megan Thee Stallion
DaBaby – Rockstar ft. Roddy Ricch
Justin Bieber – Intentions ft. Quavo
Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande – Rain On Me
Sam Smith, Demi Lovato – I'm Ready

Best Pop

Winner: Little Mix
Dua Lipa
Harry Styles
Justin Bieber
Katy Perry
Lady Gaga

Best Group

Winner: BTS
5 Seconds of Summer
Chloe x Halle
Little Mix

Best New

Winner: Doja Cat
Jack Harlow
Roddy Ricch

Biggest Fans

Winner: BTS
Ariana Grande
Justin Bieber
Lady Gaga
Taylor Swift.

Best Latin (New category in 2020)

Winner: Karol G
Anuel AA
Bad Bunny
J Balvin

Best Rock

Winner: Coldplay
Green Day
Liam Gallagher
Pearl Jam
Tame Impala
The Killers

Best Hip Hop

Winner: Cardi B
Megan Thee Stallion
Roddy Ricch
Travis Scott

Best Electronic

Winner: David Guetta
Calvin Harris
Martin Garrix
The Chainsmokers

Best Alternative

Winner: Hayley Williams
FKA twigs
Machine Gun Kelly
The 1975
twenty-one pilots

Video for Good (New category in 2020)

Winner: H.E.R. – I Can't Breathe
Anderson .Paak – Lockdown
David Guetta & Sia – Let's love
Demi Lovato - I Love Me
Jorja Smith – By Any Means
Lil Baby – The Bigger Picture

Best Push

AJ Mitchell
Conan Gray
Doja Cat
Jack Harlow
Lil Tecca
Tate McRae

Best Virtual Live (New category in 2020)

Winner: BTS – Bang Bang Con: The Live
J Balvin – Behind The Colores Live Experience
Katy Perry @ Tomorrow Land – Around The World
Little Mix – UNCancelled
Maluma – Papi Juancho Live
Post Malone - Nirvana Tribute

Generation Change

Winners: Luiza Brasil, Kiki Mordi, Temi Mwale, Catherhea Potjanaporn, Raquel Willis

Best African Act

Winner: Master KG (South Africa)
Burna Boy (Nigeria)
Rema (Nigeria)
Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa (South Africa)
Sheebah (Uganda)
Gaz Mawete (DRC)

Watch the 2020 MTV EMA Pre-show on Monday, 9 November on MTV (DStv 130) at 18:00


Watch The 2020 MTV EMAs on:
  • Monday, 9 November on MTV (DStv 130) at 19:10
  • Tuesday, 10 November on MTV Base (DStv 322) at 19:00
  • Wednesday, 11 November on MTV (DStv 130) at 07:40
  • Thursday, 12 November on MTV Base (DStv 322) at 22:00
  • Friday, 13 November on MTV (DStv 130) at 22:20
  • Saturday, 14 November on MTV (DStv 130) at 06:00
  • Sunday, 15 November on MTV (DStv 130) at 14:50
  • Sunday, 15 November on MTV Base (DStv 322) at 21:00

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