Ariana Grande kicked off the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards with “Break Free,” her sophomore album’s collaboration with Zedd. Grande emerged from a spaceship-like contraption before walking to the center of the stage and belting out her hit.
After Grande performed a couple verses from “Break Free,” Nicki Minaj took the stage performing her latest single, “Anaconda,” wearing a sparkly green two-piece, in front of a jungle backdrop. Minaj writhed around the floor with a group of dancers dressed in head-to-toe green. After Minaj raised eyebrows and broke Vevo’s most-views-in-24-hour record with the explicit video for the song, her VMA performance seemed tame in comparison. And despite rumors that a live snake was going to be involved in the performance, there wasn’t one seen onstage.
The two performers then quickly changed into new costumes (though it appears Minaj could’ve benefited from a bit of extra time) to finish off the medley alongside Jessie J with the trio’s first-ever performance of “Bang Bang,” the collaboration set to be featured on Grande and J’s upcoming studio albums.
Ed Sheeran, an early VMA winner for best male video, joked that while he “liked” the opening performance, “there [were] a lot of body parts everywhere.” He was particularly impressed when Grande, Minaj and Jessie J took the stage together at the end, giving a thumb’s up to the “impressive” vocal performance.
Immediately after the trio’s performance, Beats by Dr. Dre and Target debuted the track’s music video online at BangBang.mtv.com. The video was directed by Hannah Lux Davis and includes an easy-to-learn dance that Jessie J made up.
Grande’s “Problem” duet with Iggy Azalea took home the Moonman for best pop video.
After Jessie threw it down with the first verse and a shortened chorus, Grande jumped in to a large round of applause — any doubt who might have the more rabid fanbase of the two? — before both traded off on the chorus, occasionally showing off some powerhouse vocals by deviating from the melody only slightly.
By Kevin Rutherford