Justin Bieber was the big winner at the 2015 MTV EMAs, taking home awards for best male, best look and best collaboration for his work with Skrillex and Diplo on “Where Are Ü Now?” Bieber also triumphed in the North American category of the EMAs’ worldwide act award, as well as winning the title for best fans.
“It’s been a long couple of years. I just feel like this is pretty awesome to be recognized for my music,” said the 21-year-old, dressed all in red, on collecting his award for best male. Bieber also performed his Hot 100 topping smash “What Do You Mean?” at the glossy, if not entirely faultless, two-hour show, which was staged in the Mediolanum Forum in Milan and drew over 603 million votes, according to MTV.
“You understand that I don’t take any of these moments for granted. Not one of them. You guys are unbelievable and that’s where I belong. Right there on that stage,” stated Bieber, collecting the worldwide act award.
In contrast, Taylor Swift, who was not present on the night, was victorious in only one category, despite being nominated for a record-breaking nine awards. She won best song for “Bad Blood” (featuring Kendrick Lamar), although didn’t film an acceptance speech. Rihanna and One Direction, who won one award apiece, similarly didn’t appear in person or via video.
Ed Sheeran, Swift’s friend and co-host, had a relatively more successful night, proving to be a characteristically affable and largely entertaining host (“Italy is one of my favorite countries. It does great food, which is why this suit doesn’t fit very well”), while walking away with two awards: best live act and the best world stage.
“Wow. I don’t even know if this was voted for or not, but thank you if you voted,” said Sheeran, collecting the best live award from Mark Ronson. Earlier in the evening, he teamed up with British dance act Rudimental to deliver a high-energy, rousing rendition of “Lay It on Me.”
Other standout live performances included Jason Derulo singing “Want to Want Me” atop an illuminated SwegWay, British troubadour James Bay delivering a knockout take of his breakthrough hit “Hold Back the River” and Ellie Goulding being unveiled from within a crown of giant mirrored crystals for a spirited rendition of “Love Me Like You Do,” backed by a tuxedo clad choir and string section.
The show, which had the theme of ‘cute versus badass,’ also contained a succession of playful references to the host city of Milan and its status as a fashion capital. At one point, Sheeran’s co-host, Ruby Rose, wore a spaghetti dress. Italian model Bianca Balti was among those giving out prizes (oddly enough, so was tennis superstar Novak Djokovic). The stage was laid out in the style of an elongated model runway, while Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed in front of Lambretta scooters for their opening run through “Downtown,” which featured a mustachioed Eric Nally hoisted high above the stage on wires.
The duo subsequently collected the award for best video for “Downtown,” thanking their fans worldwide. “We are not on a major label. We don’t have a big budget, but you guys give to us and we give back to you. The art that we make would not be possible if it was not for you guys,” said a clearly moved Macklemore.
Later in the show, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli delivered a roof-raising rendition of “Time to Say Goodbye” before joining Tori Kelly — who had earlier sang a bombastic mash up of “Should’ve Been Us” mixed with TLC’s “No Scrubs” and the Fugees‘ “Ready or Not” — for a duet of Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason.”
In line with previous editions of the EMAs, the action wasn’t just limited to the Mediolanum Arena, with the broadcast cutting to live performances by Twenty One Pilots and Dutch DJs Martin Garrix and Afrojack that were simultaneously taking place in Milan’s Piazza Duomo. There was also the typical mix of cheesy skits and poorly scripted jokes, including a barely audible opening sketch which featured Sheeran and Rose relaxing on a sofa.
There was, however, a welcome nod to MTV’s roots, when Duran Duran was honored with the first ever MTV video visionary award. “Music lovers around the world, when we started there was us and MTV and we blazed a trail and we were there for each other,” said Simon Le Bon, accepting the award alongside band mates Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor.
Pharrell Williams closed the evening with a rousing version of “Freedom,” accompanied by a troupe of colorfully dressed dancers.
MTV EMAs 2015 Winners – Full List:
Best Song: Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar, “Bad Blood”
Best Pop: One Direction
Best Female: Rihanna
Best Male: Justin Bieber
Best Live Act: Ed Sheeran
Best New Act: Shawn Mendes
Best Video: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Downtown”
Best Rock: Coldplay
Best Alternative: Lana Del Rey
Best Hip Hop: Nicki Minaj
Best Electronic: Martin Garrix
Best Push: Shawn Mendes
Best Collaboration: Justin Bieber, Skrillex & Diplo, “Where Are You Now?”
Biggest Fans: Justin Bieber
Best Look: Justin Bieber
Best World Stage: Ed Sheeran
Video Visionary Award: Duran Duran
Worldwide Act, North America: Canada/Justin Bieber
Worldwide Act, Latin America: Brazil/Anitta
Worldwide Act, Europe: Italy/Marco Mengoni
Worldwide Act, Africa/India: Africa/Diamond Platnumz
Worldwide Act, Asia: China/Jane Zhang
Worldwide Act, Australia/New Zealand: Australia/5 Seconds of Summer