“Thank you so much,” said Mendes, collecting the award for best male from model Jourdan Dunne at Rotterdam’s Ahoy arena and dedicating it to his fans worldwide.
“You guys are outstanding,” said the singer, who also used the occasion to wish a happy birthday to his mum to loud cheers from the crowd. Earlier in the show, Mendes performed a stirring rendition of his hit “Mercy” from within a inverted holographic pyramid, which slowly lifted to reveal the 18-year-old seated at a piano. He also triumphed in the Canadian category of the worldwide act prize.
Bieber, who was not present in Rotterdam, nabbed prizes for biggest fans, best Canadian act and best song for his Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper “Sorry.”
Drake was another victorious absentee, winning best hip hop, while The Weeknd (real name: Abél Makonnen Tesfaye) did make the trip to the Netherlands and was rewarded with the best video prize for “Starboy” ft. Daft Punk. He also delivered one of the night’s standout performances, singing “Starboy” from inside an enclosed star-filled dome.
Lady Gaga was the night’s other absent big winner, earning trophies for best female and best look, which this year were colored purple in honor of Prince.
“Prince was a genius,” said host Bebe Rexha of the late artist. “He created ground-breaking music and music videos his whole career. Prince, we will always miss you.”
Beyoncé, who led the nominations alongside Bieber but was not present at the show, failed to win in any of her five categories.
In addition to The Weeknd, other memorable performances on the night included Bruno Mars making the debut live performance of his new single, “24K Magic,” walking out on a “Billie Jean”-style illuminated runway dressed in retro hip-hop street wear.
Green Day’s pyrotechnic-laden run-through of “Bang Bang” also was a raucous highlight, even if its lyrics about “daddy’s little psycho” did appear distinctly at odds with the rest of the EMAs‘ slick, glossy and joyful aesthetic.
Rexha — who had 15 costume changes — began the show in style, descending from the ceiling on a glittering red throne. She also performed “I’ve Got U” (while writhing around a giant furry U creature) and teamed up with Martin Garrix for a dramatic run through “In the Name of Love” backed by a full string orchestra.
More memorable was Kings of Leon’s gutsy rendition of “Waste a Moment,” while best push act winners DNCE brought an element of spectacle to the party, performing a two-song medley of “Cake by the Ocean” and “Body Moves” atop a floating steel platform, which sailed over the audience as dancers crowd-surfed on inflatable donuts, cakes and pizza below.
OneRepublic also wowed the Dutch audience, performing “Let’s Hurt Tonight” as rain poured down from the stage, completely drenching the band.
“I’ve got to say one thing, it’s really nice to be in Europe right now,” said Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, collecting the Global Icons Award from British actor Idris Elba.
“Most of all, it’s nice to be out of America, just for a second, because of this horrendous election that’s going on right now,” added Armstrong before Green Day closed the show with a vitriolic rendition of its 2004 single “American Idiot.”