Beyoncé celebrated the Year of Lemonade with a striking, emotive performance of tracks from the LP on Sunday night at the MTV Video Music Awards. Her landmark record, released as a visual album on HBO earlier this year, garnered an impressive 11 nominations at the Video Music Awards including one for Breakthrough Long Form Video.
Serena Williams introduced the performance, which started with “Pray You Catch Me.” Beyoncé took the stage accompanied by a large group of dancers; everyone wore white, floor-length, frilly outfits that resembled the ornate dresses featured in the Lemonade visual. With each tap of the drum, dancers fell down in clouds of red as if they had been shot dead.
Beyoncé shed much of her entourage as she sang “Hold Up” — she also incorporated snippets of the brassy throwback “Countdown” here — and then reacquired strength in numbers before “Sorry,” one of the most dynamic moments on Lemonade. As she romped through the guitar-heavy “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” it seemed like every corner of Madison Square Garden erupted in flames. She ended her medley with a vigorous rendition of “Formation,” which she performed earlier this year during the Super Bowl halftime show.
Beyoncé is so dominant in the video medium that she’s even forced to compete with herself at this year’s VMAs. In the Best Choreography category – which she’s won three times in the past – the singer is nominated twice for “Formation” and “Sorry.” “Formation” is also nominated for Video of the Year against videos by Adele, Drake, Justin Bieber and Kanye West.
Beyoncé has come a long way since her first VMAs as a solo artist. In 2003, she took home three Moonman awards for the Jay Z-assisted “Crazy In Love.” She subsequently nabbed wins for “Naughty Girl,” “Check On It” and “Beautiful Liar.” In 2009, “Single Ladies” still took home Video of the Year honors (although Kanye West, memorably, would’ve liked the video to win Best Female Video.) In 2014, Bey was awarded the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award.