Big things went down at music awards shows in 2015. Kanye West told us he was going to run for president in 2020, Nicki Minaj put Miley Cyrus on blast, and a comeback performance brought Justin Bieber to tears.
And that was just the VMAs! Awards-show moments had a knack for crossing over to the top of the entertainment newsreel this year, and they even gave one breakout star a No. 1 album months after its initial release. Here are our 10 favorite awards-show moments from the past year:
10. Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth’s Big Kiss
No, they aren’t dating, but Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor sure looked like it while closing out their performance of “Marvin Gaye” at the American Music Awards. A kiss on the lips turned into an extended makeout sesh between the two singers, as they did their best to imitate their song’s music video.
9. Beyoncé Performs at the Grammys
Beyoncé shockingly didn’t win Album of the Year for her heavily favored self-titled effort, but she still delivered a memorable performance. And it wasn’t even from her own catalog. Bey’s vocals rose to the Grammy occasion with a stunning cover of the Thomas A. Dorsey gospel classic “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”
8. Annie Lennox Takes Us to Church
By the time Hozier took the stage to perform “Take Me to Church” at the 2015 Grammys, most viewers were quite familiar with his breakout hit. Fortunately, the producers were on point with a killer collaborator. Annie Lennox and her impressive pipes wowed us with a killer performance alongside the Irish songwriter.
7. “FourFiveSeconds” Comes to Life
Decades of songwriting glory coalesced on the 2015 Grammys stage, as Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney performed “FourFiveSeconds” together for the first time. The elder statesman’s presence was felt, yet wasn’t overwhelming; McCartney only provided some acoustic guitar and backing vocals, while Rihanna and Kanye (via AutoTuned glory) delivered the then-new song in all its minimalist glory.
6. Celine Dion Pays Tribute to Paris
The 2015 American Music Awards were held on Nov. 22, making them the awards show closest to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that claimed 130 lives. Celine Dion rose to the occasion. Carrying a Paris Metro ticket in her pocket, the legendary singer wowed the Los Angeles crowd with a performance of the Edith Piaf classic “Hymne a L’Amour.”
5. Taylor Swift Premieres the “Bad Blood” Video
Selena Gomez! Karlie Kloss! Lena Dunham! The “Bad Blood” video had a star-studded cast and leading up to its unveiling at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards, the hype was high. Swift shared the video with the world at the top of the show, and there were surprises. Kendrick Lamar appeared and rapped new verses in the song, which eventually helped send the single to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
4. Justin Bieber’s VMA Performance Leaves Him in Tears
Kanye and Nicki ruled the chatter after the 2015 VMAs, but don’t forget what Justin Bieber did that night. In what will become a pivotal point along Bieber’s redemption narrative, the 21-year-old opened with “Where Are U Now,” segued into “What Do You Mean?” (the first time he played it live), gave the world a spoken-word testimonial on his “journey” and then doubled over in tears.
3. Chris Stapleton Duets With Justin Timberlake, Takes Home Surprise CMA
Chris Stapleton’s showing at the 2015 Country Music Association Awards (CMAs) was a prime example of how an awards show can vault an artist to the next level. Despite entering without a top 40 country single, Stapleton shocked the country by taking home the prize for album of the year. Toss in a killer duet with Justin Timberlake, and Stapleton’s Traveller disc surged atop the Billboard 200 albums chart for the next two weeks, despite being released approximately six months prior. It’s now up for album of the year at the 2016 Grammys.
And like Bieber’s moment, Stapleton’s also featured an outpouring of emotion. During his acceptance speech, Stapleton teared up while explaining how his father’s death inspired Traveller.
2. Miley, What’s Good?
Prior to the 2015 VMAs, Miley Cyrus downplayed Nicki Minaj’s claim that women of color are treated unfairly in the music industry. Minaj spent the beginning of the awards show quashing her initial VMA Twitter beef with Taylor Swift, and when she came onstage to accept her Moonman for best hip-hop video, she took matters into her own very capable hands. “Now, back to this b—h that had a lot to say about me in the press the other day….Miley what’s good?” Minaj shot. Cyrus salvaged a diplomatic rebuttal, as Nicki’s mic cut out. Was it real? Was it scripted? We may never know, but a live television audience still got to see what happens when Minaj stops acting polite and starts getting real.
1. Kanye in 2020!
All Kanye West needs is one mic. The 2015 VMAs presented ‘Ye with the Video Vanguard Award, meaning he’d have ample time to go onstage by himself and say whatever the hell he wanted. He took us on a tour de force. It started with an introduction from Taylor Swift, and some polite joking about his infamous “I’mma let you finish” moment at the VMAs six years prior. Kanye pledged his allegiance to art, being a good person, and questioned the point of awards-show superlatives. He called himself a millennial, even though he’s 38 years old. He is old enough to run for president, and he closed off his speech by saying he planned to run for that office in 2020. The dumbfounded crowd roared, and ever since, we’ve been left to wonder just how serious he actually was…