NEW YORK • Beyonce dominated the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) on Sunday, prowling the stage with a 15-minute medley from her Lemonade album and taking home eight statuettes, including the top prize - Video of the Year.
On a night when women ruled, Britney Spears returned to the VMA stage for the first time in a decade and Rihanna performed four times to mark her lifetime achievement award.
Beyonce, 34, brought the house down at New York's Madison Square Garden, stringing together five of her Lemonade album tracks about betrayal, revenge and female empowerment in a song-and- dance routine that brought a long standing ovation.
VMA organisers had announced only three hours before Sunday's show began that Beyonce would perform.
The singer arrived on the red carpet accompanied by the mothers of African-American men who have died at the hands of United States police in the past two years.
Her politically charged Formation beat Adele's 2015 comeback single Hello, Drake's Hotline Bling, Justin Bieber's Sorry and Kanye West's sleeping nude celebrity look-alikes in Famous for Video of the Year.
She also won Best Female Video and prizes for choreography, editing and long-form video in the awards that are voted on by fans.
Where Beyonce was angry and bold, Spears, 34, dressed in a sparkly gold leotard and matching over- the-knee boots, was slinky retro pop.
It was the Toxic singer's first time on the VMA stage since her humiliating 2007 performance when her personal and professional life was falling apart, and follows the release of a new album last week.
Rihanna, 28, sang 13 of the biggest hits in her 13-year career, including Rude Girl, Diamonds and Only Girl In The World.
She was presented with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award by Canadian rapper Drake, with whom she has often been romantically linked.
"She's someone I've been in love with since I was 22 years old. She's one of my best friends in the world. All my adult life, I've looked up to her even though she's younger than me," said Drake, 29.
Fifth Harmony, the five-girl group that won television talent show The X Factor, took home two Moonman awards.
West, 39, who has often hijacked the live VMA show, presented a new video for his single Fade.
He preceded the video with a rambling, improvised speech that touched on poverty, his wife Kim Kardashian, his long-running feud with singer Taylor Swift and violence in black neighbourhoods.
"We are undeniably the influencers, the thought leaders," he said, before screening what he called a "piece of my art".
Many of pop music's biggest names, including Bieber, Adele and Swift, were absent on Sunday.