The 2017 MTV Video Music Awards will take place this Sunday, August 27, and they’re sure to bring the usual mix of flashy pop stars, celebrity drama, and innovative performances that have made the annual show a late-summer staple. Hosted by Katy Perry from the Forum in Los Angeles, the awards will air live on both coasts and feature a stacked list of performances from the likes of Perry, Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Pink, and many others. Plus, if the rumors are true, Taylor Swift may make a surprise appearance. Here’s everything you need to know.
How to watch:
When: Sunday, August 27, at 8 pm Eastern/5 pm Pacific (with the pre-show kicking off at 7 pm Eastern/4 pm Pacific). MTV will air the awards live on both coasts.
Kendrick Lamar leads the nominations, followed by Katy Perry and the Weeknd
Kendrick Lamar racked up the most 2017 VMA nominations with a total of eight — including Artist of the Year and Video of the Year for “HUMBLE,” the lead single off his album DAMN.
Lamar’s DAMN has been lauded for its muscular rapping and rich, complex themes. When it was released, all 14 tracks charted on the Hot 100 at once, a feat that had only previously been accomplished by the Beatles, Drake, Justin Bieber, and the Weeknd.
Katy Perry and the Weeknd follow Lamar in total nominations, with five apiece.
Perry’s single “Chained to the Rhythm” is up for Best Visual Effects, Best Pop, and Best Direction. Perry is also in the running for Best Collaboration (for “Feels” with Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, and Big Sean) and Best Art Direction (for “Bon Appétit” with Migos).
Perry’s latest album, Witness, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 but was largely maligned by critics, and its singles haven’t charted with the same omnipotence of her earlier work. The singer, who has in the past been criticized for cultural appropriation, has consciously been working to shed the naive pop star image she built up earlier in her career.
The Weeknd is nominated for Artist of the Year, as well as Video of the Year, Best Direction, Best Editing, and Best Art Direction for the video to his single “Reminder.”
Though the song has only peaked at No. 31 on the Hot 100, the star-studded video has nearly 120 million plays on YouTube, and it includes cameos from A$AP Rocky, YG, and Drake, among many others.
Speculation abounds over whether Taylor Swift will perform — and whether she and Katy Perry will settle their longstanding feud
Taylor Swift is only nominated in one category: Best Collaboration, for her song “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” with Zayn Malik. But with the singer’s recent announcement that she has a new album on the way, many are speculating she’ll make a surprise appearance at the VMAs.
Swift’s sixth record, Reputation, won’t come out until November, but its first single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” just dropped this week, making the VMAs the perfect place to debut the new track live.
Adding to the allure of a potential Swift appearance is the singer’s ongoing feud with VMAs host Perry. The two have exchanged veiled barbs for years, and in a recent interview with NME, Perry accused Swift of trying to “assassinate my character with little girls.”
There are rumors of a potential duet between the two that would squash their longstanding beef, but so far they seem largely unsubstantiated. No matter what, Perry is slated to perform her single “Swish Swish,” which has been widely interpreted as a Swift diss track. A trailer for the single’s as-yet-unreleased video has drawn criticism for its resemblance to Swift’s 2015 video for “Bad Blood,” a song that is widely believed to be about Perry.
The Moonman trophy is now the Moon Person trophy, as the VMAs strive to gender equality and social justice
Amid ongoing discussion in the entertainment industry about whether award shows should maintain a distinction between male and female nominees, the VMAs are following in the footsteps of the MTV Movie & TV Awards by forgoing gendered categories for the first time in the show’s history.
For example, the previous VMAs categories of Best Male Artist and Best Female Artist are no more; they’ve been combined into a single category that’s now titled Artist of the Year. (The six nominees for 2017 Artist of the Year are Lamar, the Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, and Lorde.)
The change also extends to the VMAs’ famous “Moonman” trophy, which will now be referred to as the “Moon Person.”
"Why should it be a man?" MTV president Chris McCarthy said in July. "It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist."
In tandem with ditching gendered categories, the VMAs have also rebranded a previous category, Best Video With a Social Message, as Best Fight Against the System. As an MTV spokesperson told Vox earlier this year, the category is intended to reflect the VMA audience’s “passion and activism around social justice issues such as environmental justice, immigration, LGBTQ equality, and racial justice.” Nominees in the category include the videos for Logic’s “Black SpiderMan,” about accepting and embracing diversity, and Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful,” about body image struggles.
Slated performers include Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Ed Sheeran, and Pink
Rising stars will headline the VMAs pre-show, which will feature performances from 19-year-old R&B wunderkind Khalid, who’s nominated for Best New Artist, and Cardi B, whose single “Bodak Yellow” isn’t nominated for an award (likely due to its June release) but is the highest-charting single by a woman rapper since Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” Producer Jack Antonoff’s solo project, Bleachers, will also appear.
The main show will feature a stacked lineup that includes performances from Perry, Lamar, the Weeknd, Lorde, Ed Sheeran, Miley Cyrus, and 2017 Video Vanguard recipient Pink, among others. Demi Lovato was also a late addition to the bill.
Speaking to Variety, set designer Ric Lipson said this year’s show includes five stages (more than ever before), and that the set will be keep with the show’s outer space theme.
As for Taylor Swift, if she does perform, it’s anyone’s guess what she’ll do.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that the VMAs would begin at 7 PM Eastern. They will begin at 8 PM.