Justin Bieber went into the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards with the most nominations out of anyone — seven, to be exact — so we weren’t too surprised to hear he’d be performing. But we had no idea he’d knock our socks off while doing so! Justin, who performed “Stay” with The Kid LAROI, hasn’t performed the show since 2015, so it was his first time back on the VMAs stage in six years. Obviously, it was a special moment for both the singer and his fans, and we don’t think anyone watching walked away disappointed.
At the start of the show, The Kid LAROI and Justin lowered down to the stage from the ceiling of the Barclays Center. From there, they upped the energy with a performance of the TikTok (and Billboard) certified hit. Afterward, Justin was given the stage for a solo performance, and from there, he delivered a heartfelt live rendition of his song, “Ghost.” The audience – yes, there was a live audience at this event – was on its feet, feeling the vibe that Justin brought. His number one fan, Hailey Bieber (nee Baldwin), was in the audience, dancing and cheering along.
“Stay” hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in early August, giving The Kid LAROI his first chart-topping hit. It was Justin’s eighth No. 1 song and his second of 2021. Earlier in the year, Justin reached the top with “Peaches,” off of his Justice album. “Stay” dethroned BTS’s “Butter,” a song that had dominated the chart throughout the summer, and the collab did exactly that – staying atop the Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks. “Butter,” thanks to a new remix with Megan Thee Stallion, retook the throne in mid-September.
As we said, the last time Justin performed at the MTV Video Music Awards was in 2015, when he performed both “Where Are U Now” and “What Do You Mean?” before breaking down in tears on stage. Following his breakdown on stage, Justin revealed why he really cried. “It was just so overwhelming for me … everything, the performance,” the 27-year-old singer told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. “I worked so hard at the album. I’ve worked so hard at just becoming the man that I want to become and then stepping into situations you can’t help but feel judged,” Justin added. “What was so special about the emotional moment, it was authentic and real. I was just wanting it so bad.”
Other performers at this year’s show included Foo Fighters, recipients of this year’s Global Icon Award, Camila Cabello, Chlöe, Doja Cat, Kacey Musgraves, Shawn Mendes, Olivia Rodrigo, Ozuna, Tainy, and Twenty One Pilots. Lorde and Nicki Minaj were also supposed to appear, but the “Solar Power” singer pulled out due to COVID protocol (and Nicki revealed she was going to be part of the show but had to “pull out” for reasons she wasn’t at liberty to say. I’ll explain why another day. But I love those guys at MTV,” she wrote in a now-deleted tweet, per the New York Post. “Next year, we there, baby.”