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NEW YORK (AP) – Rihanna kicked off the MTV Video Music Awards, performing a medley of her hit songs in a bright pink ensemble that matched her background dancers and the stage.
She sang songs like “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” – sometimes letting the backing track do most of the work – on Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York, where she’ll receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award.
Rihanna is expected to perform more times Sunday night.
The night will feature surprises from Kanye West and Beyonce.
Hours before the show, MTV confirmed Beyonce, the top nominee with 11 would hit the stage. Angel-winged and green-feathered with daughter Blue Ivy in tow, she arrived on the white carpet along with Sybrina Fulton, Lezley McSpadden and Gwen Carr, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, among others. They appeared in videos for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” visual album and also make up the Mothers of the Movement, women of color who lost children to violence.
West could dominate headlines, too. He famously jumped onstage and stole Taylor Swift’s microphone at the 2009 show and last year gave an 11-minute speech onstage – after being introduced by Swift – and announced he was going to run for president in 2020.
His controversial “Famous” music video – featuring what appears to be naked images of West, Swift, Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump – is nominated for best male video and video of the year. Beyonce’s “Formation,” Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and Adele’s “Hello” are also up for the top prize. Adele, though, won’t attend the show, her representative said. Reps for Drake and Bieber didn’t return emails asking if they would or would not attend the show.
Drake won the first award for the night – best hip hop video for “Hotline Bling.” Puff Daddy, who presented the award, said Drake was stuck in traffic.
Other performers include Britney Spears, Ariana Grande with Nicki Minaj, Future, Nick Jonas and The Chainsmokers.
Presenters include Jimmy Fallon, Alicia Keys, Puff Daddy and the recent Olympian gold medalists Michael Phelps and the four of the Final Five gymnasts – Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman.
Nominees for best female video include Beyonce, Adele, Rihanna, Sia and Grande. The best male video nominees are West, Drake, the Weeknd, Bryson Tiller and Calvin Harris, whose nomination is for “This is What You Came For,” which he co-wrote with former girlfriend Swift.
Coldplay, Desiigner, Fergie and Alessia Cara earned multiple nominations, while David Bowie – who died from cancer earlier this year – nematography, art direction and editing for “Lazarus.” The music video, which shows him looking frail in bed with bandaged eyes, was released just days before the icon’s Jan. 10 death.