What to Watch for at This Year's MTV VMAs

Rihanna BBMA Getty H 2016
Getty Images

Rihanna BBMA Getty H 2016

Who will take home the Moonman for video of the year? Who will have the best performance? And what will Kanye West do this time around? Here's your guide to the annual awards show, airing Sunday.

The biggest stars in music will come together and take the stage Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, one of New York's most iconic arenas, for MTV's Video Music Awards and to see if Beyonce, this year's most nominated artist, can become the most awarded performer in VMA history. 

The VMAs, which first aired on MTV in 1984, return to New York for the first time since 2013. The winners are decided by fans, who cast their votes online for their favorite artists. The show will not feature a host this year, following Miley Cyrus' polarizing stint as emcee last year, something that has only happened five times in the award show's history.

In terms of mentions, Beyonce leads the pack with 11 total noms, the most by any single artist since Lady Gaga's 13 in 2010, including the night's biggest award, video of the year. Queen B has won 15 total Moonmen and is looking to overtake the only other artist with more career wins than herself, Madonna, who has won 20.  

Of course, the VMAs are not only about who goes home with an award but also who takes the stage to perform or, well, just make a scene. Past years have featured such iconic and shocking moments as Britney Spears and Madonna's onstage make-out in 2003; Fiona Apple declaring, "This world is bullshit," in 1997; and, of course, Kanye West's infamous interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance of the best female video award in 2009.

Speaking of which, West is confirmed to be attending this year's show. Rumor has it that 'Ye also has been given a four-minute slot to do whatever 'Ye pleases, a source close to production tells TMZ. As Billboard noted, "Anytime West is invited to the party, the internet explodes." (His wife, Kim Kardashian West, has been tapped to present.)

But first things first, the preshow: Things will get started when record producer and social media superstar DJ Khaled co-hosts the preliminary ceremony alongside MTV2’s Charlamagne Tha God and MTV’s Wonderland host Lizzo. Preshow performers include Alessia Cara, who will perform a mash-up of her hits "Wild Things" (nominated for best pop video) and "Scars to Your Beautiful"; best new artist-nominated Danish pop-soul group Lukas Graham, performing their hit "Mama Said"; and Nigerian-American singer Jidenna, who will take the stage with his summer jam "Little Bit More."

During the main show, look for a performance by Rihanna, nominated for five Moonmen this year, who also will be receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, the VMAs' highest honor, for her work over the past decade.

Rihanna will not be the only superstar to rock the Garden during the show, as Ariana Grande will be joined by Nicki Minaj to perform "Side to Side," from Grande's album Dangerous Woman, and Nick Jonas will perform his latest hit, "Bacon," nominated for song of summer, with rapper Ty Dolla $ign. 

One of the biggest moments of the night will likely be Spears' return to the VMA stage after 10 years of absence. Britney's last appearance at the VMAs was her ill-fated "comeback" performance of "Gimme More" in 2007. This year, she will debut the first single, "Make Me ...," off her ninth studio album, Glory. She won't be onstage alone, however, as rapper G-Eazy will join her.

Rapper Future also will be making his VMA performance debut, while The Chainsmokers will perform their single "Closer."

Though Beyonce is the year's most nominated artist, and the frontrunner for video of the year, she will face stiff competition in the category from Adele, Justin Bieber, Drake and — who else? — West. 

Adele is no slouch this year, either, as she earned eight nominations, second only to Beyonce. 

Also taking part in the show will be Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and comedians Jay Pharoah and Nicole Byer. Meanwhile, presenters will include Jimmy Fallon, Michael Phelps and the Final Five U.S. gymnasts, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Alicia Keys, Ansel Elgort, Bebe Rexha, Fifth Harmony, Jaden Smith, Rita Ora, Shameik Moore and Tove Lo. 

The VMA ceremony is set to air Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV with a one-hour pre-show airing at 8 p.m.