INGLEWOOD, California -- With some twerking and shaking, the leading ladies of pop music dominated the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, while an emotional Miley Cyrus and a touching moment between Beyonce and her family led the Moonman award wins of the night.
Cyrus, who set tongues wagging last year with her raunchy "twerking" during her VMAs performance, won the night's top prize for video of the year for "Wrecking Ball," in which she cavorted naked on a wrecking ball.
She opted not to collect her award, instead sitting in the audience and holding back tears while sending a homeless young man named Jesse to collect her award.
"I've cleaned your hotels rooms, I've been an extra in your movies, I've been an extra in your life. Though I may have been invisible to you in the streets, I have many of the same dreams that brought many of you here tonight," the young man said.
Earlier on the red carpet, Cyrus said she "retired" her grinding explicit dance moves. But while Cyrus has retired the twerk, rapper Nicki Minaj brought her rump-grinding to kick off the show with hip hop song "Anaconda," scantily clad and twerking against a jungle-themed backdrop.
Since launching in 1984, Viacom-owned MTV's VMAs have become synonymous with irreverence and unscripted moments that have become part of music history, and all eyes were on whoever delivered the most outrageous or unplanned stunt.
Beyonce, delivered the night's most touching moment when accepting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award for her lifetime achievement in music from her husband, rapper Jay Z, who called her the "greatest living entertainer."
Jay Z, carrying the couple's daughter Blue Ivy, then shared a sweet kiss on stage with his wife, who was overcome with emotion, saying "I have nothing to say, I am so full from gratitude."
The singer, dressed in a sparkly bodysuit and surrounded by large screens and silhouetted dancers, performed a mini-concert of her hits including "Haunted" "Drunk in Love," "Partition" and "Blue," her ode to her daughter.
Beyonce picked up three other awards: best collaboration for "Drunk in Love" with Jay Z, and best cinematography and video with a social message for "Pretty Hurts."
Pop music's ladies delivered high-octane performances throughout the night. Ariana Grande kicked off the show with "Break Free" before joining Minaj and Jessie J for "Bang Bang."
Taylor Swift debuted her upbeat first single "Shake It Off" from her upcoming pop album "1989," while Azalea and British singer Rita Ora performed their sultry track "Black Widow."
In stark comparison to the over-the-top performances by the ladies of pop on the VMAs stage, British newcomer Sam Smith used a bare set to showcase his voice on his hit "Stay With Me," while rockers Maroon 5 performed "Maps" outside of the newly renovated Forum theater in Inglewood, with hundreds of fans.
The presenters also got in on the fun, with Jim Carrey tumbling on stage while announcing best pop video with Jeff Daniels. "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jay Pharoah impersonated Jay Z and Kanye West.
Other top winners of the fan-voted awards included Katy Perry landing the best female video Moonman for the Cleopatra-themed music video for "Dark Horse." British singer Ed Sheeran won best male video Moonman "Sing," Lorde won best rock video for "Royals," and Grande won best pop video for "Problem" featuring Azalea.
In the tightly contested Artist to Watch category, girl group Fifth Harmony's "Miss Movin' On" beat out Australian boyband 5 Seconds of Summer, rapper Schoolboy Q and British singers Sam Smith and Charlie XCX.