Justin Bieber, Lil Nas X take top prizes at Video Music Awards

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Rapper Lil Nas X and pop star Justin Bieber won the top prizes at MTV’s annual Video Music Awards (VMA) show on Sunday, in a ceremony packed with surprise appearances, live performances and thousands of masked fans.

Newcomer Olivia Rodrigo and K-pop band BTS were also among the big winners at the first major awards shows in New York to be held with a full audience of fans and celebrities since the coronavirus pandemic

Bieber, 27, returned to the VMA stage for the first time in six years and took home Moon Person statuettes for artist of the year and best pop for his single “Peaches.”

“Music is such an amazing outlet to be able to reach people and to be able to bring us all together,” said Bieber, referring to the dark days of the pandemic.

Last year the VMAs took place in New York without a live audience and with most performances recorded in advance because of the pandemic.

Lil Nas X, 22, a gay, black musician who had a breakout hit with “Old Town Road” two years ago, won video of the year for his gay rights anthem “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).”

“Let’s go gay agenda!” said the musician, accepting the award.

Alicia Keys sang “Empire State of Mind” outdoors against the backdrop of the New York City skyline, while Doja Cat, Ed Sheeran, veteran New York rapper Busta Rhymes, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes and Machine Gun Kelly were among those on stage.