Pat Benatar taught us that love is a battlefield, and to close out the 2020 VMAs pre-show, Machine Gun Kelly reminded us exactly what's at stake with a medley performance of two of his heart-on-sleeve cuts: the chunky-riffed "My Ex's Best Friend" and the pop-punky "Bloody Valentine."
Poised on a pinked-out rooftop and channeling so many modern-rock videos of yore, MGK's energy traversed the cityscape that backdropped him, clutching a guitar and backed up by a spirited band. Of course, he didn't do it alone – Blackbear, perched like a gargoyle on the roof, brought his signature panache to the tune as well. But things were just getting started.
To smash into "Bloody Valentine," MGK's pal and frequent collaborator Travis Barker handled the drums as the pair blasted off high above the city in a Day-Glo purple room. MGK, flashing his crisp gem teeth, and Barker, an octopus of percussion, united in a sweaty wash of neon that made the song feel like a triumphant blur.
Both tunes are slated to appear on his upcoming fifth album, Tickets to My Downfall, due out September 25. Earlier in the pre-show, MGK's "Bloody Valentine" nabbed the VMA for Best Alternative.
The rollicking performance followed a quartet of equally rousing pre-show renditions. First, Jack Harlow delivered his hit "What's Popppin" to an empty basketball court, sporting a Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz jersey that featured "Say Her Name" penned on the back. Then, Tate McRae married a moody, blue, and minimal "You Broke Me First" with big 2020 work from home energy by making a dance partner out of an antiseptic office desk.
Next up, Chloe x Halle — clad in crystalline, futuristically glamorous silver dresses — ran through "Ungodly Hour" singing into vintage radio microphones and swaying in their own gleam. And Lewis Capaldi set a red room ablaze with his lone bellow of "Before You Go" set to light piano accompaniment.
See MGK, Blackbear, and Barker made the city their own in the rockin' performance above.
The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV's linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find the complete winners list here and everything else you need to know at vma.mtv.com.