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Friday February 26th, 2021 7:13AM

MTV VMAs honor Chadwick Boseman; The Weeknd, DaBaby perform

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, a night highlighting music and pop culture, kicked off with heartfelt words in memory of Chadwick Boseman, as host Keke Palmer told viewers the event was dedicated to the “Black Panther” icon.

“We dedicate tonight's show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He's a true hero, not just on-screen," Palmer said. “His impact lives forever."

At just 43 years old, Boseman died Friday after privately battling colon cancer for four years.

Moments after, the Weeknd brought his “Blinding Lights" music video — where he is bruised and blooded in a red suit — to life. He performed the upbeat No. 1 hit on the side of the New York high-rise building. DaBaby, backed by the dance crew Jabbawockeez, also performed, running through several of his hits, including “Rock Star." During the latter track, he rapped while jumping on top of a police car, as a city burning down behind was his backdrop.

The first televised award for the night — best collaboration — went to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande for “Rain on Me."

“This means the world. Ariana and I really connected through this song," Gaga said. “We are truly soul sisters. ... We turned our tears that felt like endless rainfalls into diamonds.""

Gaga and Grande are set to perform later in the show. Other performers include Miley Cyrus, Black Eyed Peas, Maluma, Doja Cat and CNCO. Some acts backed out, including “The Box” rapper Roddy Ricch and Colombian superstar J Balvin.

Some of the performances will be pre-taped, while others will air live across various stages in New York City. The show was originally supposed to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but plans changed in response to the worldwide pandemic.

Gaga and Grande are the top contenders with nine nominations apiece, most of them for their No. 1 collaboration “Rain on Me," which is nominated for the top prize — video of the year.

The Weeknd and Billie Eilish, the second-most nominated acts, are also up for video of the year with “Blinding Lights" and “everything i wanted." Others nominated for the top award include Taylor Swift’s “The Man,” Future and Drake’s “Life Is Good” and Eminem’s “Godzilla,” which features late rapper Juice WRLD.

The shifts artists have made because of the pandemic are reflected in two new categories: best music video from home and best quarantine performance. Grande and Justin Bieber’s No. 1 hit “Stuck with U” will compete in the music video category along with Drake’s “Toosie Slide,” Legend’s “Bigger Love,” 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Wildflower,” blink-182’s “Happy Days” and twenty one pilots’ “Level of Concern,” which topped the Billboard rock songs chart for seven weeks and features the lyrics, “Will you be my little quarantine?”

R&B duo Chloe x Halle, who have successfully promoted their new album with impressive live performances mostly put on in their tennis court and outside their new home, are nominated for best quarantine performance for “Do It” from MTV’s virtual prom “Prom-athon.” Other nominees include Gaga’s “Smile” from the TV special “One World: Together At Home”; Legend’s “#togetherathome” concert; DJ D-Nice’s “Club MTV presents #DanceTogether”; CNCO’s “MTV Unplugged At Home”; and Post Malone’s tribute to Nirvana.

Protest songs reflecting the Black experience created in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others also earned VMA nominations. R&B star H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” Anderson.Paak’s “Lockdown” and Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” all scored nominations in the video for good category.

Megan Thee Stallion — who topped the charts this year with the Beyoncé-assisted “Savage" and “WAP," her viral song with Cardi B — earned multiple nominations, including one for artist of the year. Her competition includes Gaga, Bieber, DaBaby, The Weeknd and Post Malone.

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