The second it was announced that Rihanna would be receiving MTV’s prestigious Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 Video Music Awards, you knew the night would belong to her. Not even a showstopping performance by Beyoncé could steal this night from Robyn Fenty, and the producers of the telecast made sure of it. They gifted RiRi with four performance slots—a first in the show’s history—and why not? The girl’s got more than enough hits (and videos) to fill the time and keep the audience captive.
Rihanna began the night with a medley of some of her biggest, EDM-flavored hits like “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Only Girl in the World,” and “We Found Love.” The all-pink performance was pure swag, as Rihanna got to show off her tropical dance moves in a Hood By Air T-shirt, Dior shades, and leather chaps.
RiRi’s next performance was a sultry shout-out to her dancehall roots, as she remixed “What’s My Name” and “Rude Boy,” before settling into “Work.” Sadly, Drake, who has a verse on the track, was nowhere to be found. Not sadly, that was going to change.
Next, Rihanna showcased some of her darker, druggier tracks with “Needed Me,” off of her latest album Anti, “Pour It Up,” and ending with “Bitch Better Have My Money,” also known as peak Rihanna. At this point, you began to realize what the unique brilliance of the singer is—she’s a chameleon. From EDM to dancehall to trap, she feels comfortable in any genre.
“Needed Me” (trap medley)- Video Music Awards 2016 pic.twitter.com/rjcwuNQHwC— Rihanna Performances (@rihperformances) August 29, 2016
For her final performance, Rihanna reminded everyone in Madison Square Garden and those watching at home that beneath all the sexy dance moves and elaborate costume changes is a girl who can belt. And it’s that unmistakable voice above all else that has gotten her to where she is today. “Stay,” “Love on the Brain,” and “Diamonds” mark some of the most beautiful ballads from the Rihanna catalog, and she did them justice here with the help of a string and horn section and one jaw-dropping gown by Alexandre Vauthier.
“Stay”, “Diamonds”, “Love On The Brain” (ballad medley) - Video Music Awards 2016 https://t.co/jbkEymTOx0— Rihanna Performances (@rihperformances) August 29, 2016
Finally, after rejecting Drake on national television, Rihanna gave a carefree acceptance speech off the top of her dome, giving mentions to her home country of Barbados, women, black women, her best friends, and collaborators. It was a simple, note-perfect speech, and the perfect capper to her night.
Added bonus: Drake tripping on Rihanna’s dress backstage.
Rihanna had a pep talk with herself backstage— Velvet (@TheVelvetRope__) August 29, 2016