At last year’s MTV VMAs, Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker turned the pre-show into a pink-hued pop-punk battlefield. This year, the pink is back, the battle is internal, and the whole thing has been moved to the main stage — or in this case, the main grave.
As the pair tore through the more downbeat, melancholy “Papercuts,” a decidedly wounded MGK literally clawed his way through a bed of dirt — a fitting physicalization of the lyrics, which find the artist dancing on his own grave. 2020 was the conflict. 2021 is the recovery.
Jamie McCarthy/MTV VMAs 2021/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS
It’s become custom for Barker to muscle up MGK’s sound, and on the kit, he brought his patented powerful (but in this case, restrained) energy that complemented the raw emotion in MGK’s vocals. Every time he hit a drum, a large flame shot up. It was pretty cool!
MGK sang to a cadre of costumed flower-minions, who circled in and began moshing around the stage, a nice nod to the fury brought by these “Papercuts.” By the end, everyone was on the ground. Same. Oh, also MGK smashed his pink guitar. We’ll see what the discourse around this moment is like.
Naturally, to introduce the performance, the ladies in MGK’s and Barker’s respective lives paired up to call them their “future baby daddies.” Yes, Megan Fox and Kourtney Kardashian were there, and their intro was a moment.
This year, MGK also won Best Alternative for his Blackbear collaboration, “My Ex’s Best Friend.” He’s no stranger to the VMAs stage, having torn up last year’s pre-show and racked up a win in the same category last year for “Bloody Valentine.”
The 2021 VMAs are airing live on MTV from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Find the full list of winners right here and keep up with all of the night’s biggest VMA moments!