Rihanna's mastery of the music video is the theme of the 2016 Video Music Awards, where the Barbadian pop singer is the recipient of the penultimate prize, the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award. The singer performed four separate medleys celebrating various genres throughout the show.
Rihanna opened the show with a dance medley, riffing quickly through a series of fast-paced, beat-heavy hits from her catalog. The medley included brief snippets of "Don't Stop The Music" and "Only Girl In The World" followed by sections of "We Found Love In A Hopeless Place" and "Where Have You Been." The singer was accompanied by a crew of dancers, with the entire ensemble wearing pink.
For her second performance, Rihanna led a scrum of dancers in a dancehall suite that doubled as her homage to Caribbean music. She performed parts of the raggamuffin-inflected "Rude Boy" and "What's My Name?" that segued into her 2016 smash "Work."
Rihanna began her next segment alone singing "Needed Me." She flubbed several notes here, but recovered by moving on to a vigorous rendition of "Pour It Up" as lightning flashed behind her. She wrapped up this section of the performance with "Bitch Better Have My Money;" as she ended the track, the camera cut to a smiling Kanye West, who helped produce the single.
"Needed Me" (trap medley)- Video Music Awards 2016 pic.twitter.com/rjcwuNQHwC— Rihanna Performances (@rihperformances) August 29, 2016
"Pour It Up", "Bitch Better Have My Money" (trap medley) - Video Music Awards 2016 pic.twitter.com/rjVGQWxaYG— Rihanna Performances (@rihperformances) August 29, 2016
When Rihanna returned for her final performance sequence, she focused on the knockout ballads in her catalog — "Stay," "Love on the Brain," "Diamonds" — which she brought to life with the help of a string section and several horn players. After this dramatic ending, the singer was presented with the Vanguard Award by a tuxedo-clad Drake.
"This is such an amazing night, such an amazing moment in my career," Rihanna told the crowd. When I think about the Vanguard award and receiving this tonight, all I could think of is my country — they're gonna be so proud. This is the first Vanguard to land anywhere close to my country."
"My success started as my dream," she continued, "but now my success is not my own. It's my family's, it's my fans', it's my country's, it's the Caribbean's as a whole, it's women's, it's black women's." Rihanna closed the evening by thanking Drake and MTV. "I had so much fun!" she declared.
In addition to winning the Vanguard Award, Rihanna was nominated this year for Best Female Video and Best Collaboration for "Work."