The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards, a night of highlighting music and pop culture, have opened with Madonna paying homage to the network's 40th anniversary, followed by Justin Bieber's high-energy performance.
"They said we wouldn't last," Madonna said on Sunday night.
"But we're still here."
After Madonna pranced off stage, Bieber and The Kid LAROI rappelled from the ceiling of the Barclays Center in New York onto the VMA's stage before the hit song Stay.
The singer, performing for the first time in six years, went solo for his song Ghost. He last took the VMAs stage in 2015 when he performed What Do You Mean?
Bieber leads this year's show with seven nominations, including video of the year for Popstar and artist of the year.
Moments after Olivia Rodrigo performed her hit Good 4 u, she collected the first award of the night for her massive hit song Driver's License.
"This is the most magical year of my life," said Rodrigo, a first-time nominee.
Jennifer Lopez, who three days earlier made her re-kindled romance with Ben Affleck official on the red carpet of his new film The Last Duel at the Venice International Film Festival, presented Rodrigo her trophy.
Moments later, Bieber collected his first award from early MTV icon Cyndi Lauper.
She preached about female equal rights before she handed the Moonman trophy to Bieber, whose song Peaches with Giveon and Daniel Ceasar won best pop song.
"Girls still want to have fun," said Lauper, known for classic melody Girls Just Want To Have Fun.
"But we also want to have funds, equal pay, control over our bodies, you know, fundamental rights."
Megan Thee Stallion enters the show as the second-leading nominee with six nominations. BTS, Doja Cat, Drake, Giveon, Lil Nas X and Rodrigo each have five nods.
Bieber and Megan Thee Stallion will compete with Ariana Grande, Doja Cat, Rodrigo and Taylor Swift for artist of the year.
The Foo Fighters will perform and receive the Global Icon Award, an honour handed out for the first time at the VMAs.
Australian Associated Press