By Jill Serjeant
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Canadian rapper Drake and British DJ Calvin Harris took home early awards at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) on Sunday on a night expected to be dominated by “Lemonade” singer Beyonce.
Rihanna, this year’s VMA lifetime achievement award winner, kicked off the show and was expected to perform some of her biggest hits in two more appearances during the 2 1/2-hour ceremony from New York’s Madison Garden.
But all eyes were awaiting R&B diva Beyonce, who has a career-best 11 nominations for her ode to female empowerment, “Lemonade.”
VMA organizers announced just three hours before Sunday’s show began that Beyonce would perform. The singer arrived on the red carpet dressed in a sheer, white, body-hugging gown accompanied by her 4-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, and the mothers of three African-American men who have died at the hands of police in the past two years.
Beyonce’s politically charged “Formation” will compete for the night’s top prize – video of the year – with Adele’s 2015 comeback single “Hello,” Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Kanye West’s sleeping nude celebrity look-alikes in “Famous.”
The winners are voted on by fans.
Early on Drake won the MTV “Moonman” statuette for best hip hop video for “Hotline Bling,” while Harris won best male video for “This is What You Came For,” which features Rihanna.
In the spirit of surprises and controversy that marks the annual VMAs, it was not clear whether the unpredictable West or sultry eight-time nominated British singer Adele would sing on Sunday.
However, Britney Spears, 34, will return to the VMA stage to perform her latest single for the first time since her humiliating 2007 showing when her personal and professional lives were falling apart. Spears released an album on Friday and it is already a hit.
One of pop music’s biggest names was absent on Sunday. Taylor Swift, who has dominated music award shows for the past decade, did not get a single VMA nomination this year.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Alan Crosby and Bill Trott)