Everyone is talking about what happened at the VMAs, but beyond the excited gossip surrounding Drake’s declaration of love and Rihanna’s Barbadian medley, there is a single name on the tongue of everyone who bore witness to the event. That name is, of course, Beyoncé. The consummate artist didn’t just steal the show, she burned the whole stadium to the ground. In fact, at one point it looked, quite literally, like flames were going to engulf the awe-stricken crowd. It seemed like no one was expecting her to bring such a cinematic experience to the stage, made even more effective by the visceral content of the Lemonade album. No one could deny that she took the pressure in her swaggering stride. Never has she looked more powerful or furious, offering an artistic fusion of violence and beauty, whilst launching various veiled, yet also somehow loving, attacks at her unfaithful husband.
The short show began with a performance of ‘Pray You Catch Me’ that had everyone sitting upright, ready to watch the spectacle unfold. It was a rather sombre opening involving several spotlights dropping cones onto backing dancers who suddenly fell dead, one after another, amidst flashes of red light. Then, in a particularly evocative moment, the star embraced a hooded boy, rumoured to represent the black teenager Trayvon Martin, who was gunned down by a neighbourhood volunteer. After that piercing image, the narrative lightened slightly with performances of ‘Hold Up’ and ‘Sorry’, merged together using seamless transitions, creating a fearless and candid portrayal of life inside the mind of one of the world’s most beloved pop stars. A certain standard of genius has come to be expected of the Queen B, but the audience seemed to be visually stunned by her bat-wielding transformation as she peeled through layers of her relationship with Jay Z and unleashed a snarling wildness, spitting flames and swearing angrily, before being showered with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. She concluded the show with the song ‘Formation’, during which she assembled a staggering army of dancers, arranged in the elegant symbol for women. As the applause finally faded, it became apparent that the ceremony had been truly brought to life. No one could’ve predicted that Beyoncé, her reputation notwithstanding, could’ve transcended her own image in such a wild and yet equally considered manner. You can view some of the best moments from the Video Music Awards here.