While the hard-hitting video "This Is America" about police brutality won three awards, many top nods went to female artists. And Madonna's tribute to the late Aretha Franklin was slammed online for being self-indulgent.
Celebrating her comeback after parental leave at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) was Cardi B. Giving birth to her first child in July, the 25-year-old rapper began the evening as top nominee with 10 nominations and ended it taking home three prizes in the categories best new artist, song of the summer ("I Like It") and best collaboration.
"A couple of months ago people were saying, you're gambling your career by having a baby," Cardi B said holding her best new artist trophy. "I had the baby, I carried the baby and now I'm still winning awards."
Cardi B shared her moment in the limelight with a number of other strong women.
Surprise winner Camila Cabello
Delivering an upset victory over megastars like Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Drake, Cuban-American singer Camila Cabello won in the top categories of artist of the year and video of the year. "I can't believe this is for me," said Cabello, gazing at her trophy.
Ariana Grande took the prize for best pop, while rapper Nicki Minaj took top honors with her song "Chun-Li" in the best hip hop category. Clad as an Ancient Egyptian queen, she delivered a captivating performance at New York's Radio City Music Hall.
Madonna sneaks into the limelight
The most sensational live performance was delivered by Jennifer Lopez. Winning an honorary prize, she delivered a medley of her greatest hits. Afterwards, she expressed gratitude for the award in an emotional speech. "I grew up with MTV, and this is really an incredible honor for me," the pop diva said.
Another pop diva, Madonna, however, stirred up discussion on the internet with her tribute to Aretha Franklin. In her 10-minute speech, Madonna rambled about her own days as an up-and-coming artist and how she was inspired by Aretha Franklin. "She led me to where I am today and I know she
influenced so many people in this room tonight," said Madonna.
The 60-year old artist's appearance became a trending topic on Twitter, where she was accused of being self-serving in her address and not to have focused enough on Aretha Franklin.
"Madonna's tribute to Aretha Franklin is Madonna telling a story about herself," tweeted for instance American writer Michael Arceneaux, slamming the pop diva in a series of tweets.
The largely apolitical event did become political at some points. While he didn't attend the ceremony, Childish Gambino, whose real name is Donald Glover, took three awards for his music video "This Is America" about police violence against members of the African-American community. Within one week after release, the video was viewed more than 100 million times worldwide.
Rappers Logic and Ryan Tedder delivered the most political moment of the evening, bringing immigrant families onstage during the performance of their song "One Day," in a clear protest against the zero tolerance policies of US President Donald Trump. The immigrants wore t-shirts reading "We are all human beings," and a border wall could be seen at stage rear.
rk/rf/eg (AP, Reuters, dpa)