With most of music industry's top acts absent, from Beyonce to Bruno Mars, the MTV Video Music Awards lacked star power and felt flat, and some of the winners turned heads for the wrong reasons.

Madonna (R) presents the award for Video of the Year to Camila Cabello (L) onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City.
Madonna (R) presents the award for Video of the Year to Camila Cabello (L) onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City. (AFP)

New York rapper Cardi B kicked off the MTV Video Music Award (VMA) show on Monday, where politics quickly took centre stage with a performance highlighting US President Donald Trump's controversial immigration policies.

Ryan Tedder of One Republic, left, and Logic embrace after performing
Ryan Tedder of One Republic, left, and Logic embrace after performing "One Day" onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Monday, August 20, 2018, in New York. (AP)

Dozens of immigrant children and their families, wearing white t-shirts saying "We are all human beings," joined rapper Logic on the VMA stage in New York City for his song "One Day."

The song and a new music video protest the zero tolerance policy that saw thousands of immigrant children separated from their parents in June after crossing the southern border with Mexico without documents.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance said in a statement that they and two other groups had helped to organise the performance.

Cardi B, Jennifer Lopez, and DJ Khaled accept the award for Best Collaboration onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City.
Cardi B, Jennifer Lopez, and DJ Khaled accept the award for Best Collaboration onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City. (AFP)

Cardi B, in her first public appearance since giving birth to her first child in July, picked up an early win for song of summer for her dance hit "I Like It" with J Balvin and Bad Bunny.

The 25-year-old singer went into Monday's fan-voted ceremony with a leading 10 nominations after a breakthrough year that saw a string of brash female empowerment hits like "Bodak Yellow."

Ariana Grande accepts her award for best pop video for
Ariana Grande accepts her award for best pop video for "No Tears Left to Cry" onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in New York. (AP)

It was also a big night for recently engaged Ariana Grande, 25, who won the best pop video award for "No Tears Left to Cry" and was making her first public outing with fiance Pete Davidson.

Jennifer Lopez accepts the Video Vanguard award at the MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in New York.
Jennifer Lopez accepts the Video Vanguard award at the MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in New York. (AP)

Jennifer Lopez brought the audience to its feet with a song and dance medley of her biggest hits as she was presented with MTV's annual Vanguard Award, named after Michael Jackson, recognising her 20 years in show business.

"It's been an incredible journey of dreaming my wildest dreams, and then watching them come true," said Lopez.

Cardi B and Bruno Mars, Beyonce and husband Jay-Z, and Childish Gambino are competing for the top prize - video of the year - against Grande's "No Tears Left to Cry," Camila Cabello's "Havana," and Drake's "God's Plan."

Post Malone performs with Aerosmith, 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, Radio City Music Hall, New York, US, August 20, 2018 -
Post Malone performs with Aerosmith, 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, Radio City Music Hall, New York, US, August 20, 2018 - (Reuters)

But Beyonce and Jay-Z, along with Gambino, Bruno Mars and Drake were among several top artists not attending the ceremony in New York City.

Performing as The Carters, Beyonce and Jay -Z earned eight nominations for their "APES**T" video, which was shot inside the Louvre in Paris against the backdrop of some of the world's most famous art works.

Algee Smith, Amandla Stenberg, and Sabrina Carpenter present the award for Video with a Message to Sherrie Silver who accepts the award on behalf of Childish Gambino onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City.
Algee Smith, Amandla Stenberg, and Sabrina Carpenter present the award for Video with a Message to Sherrie Silver who accepts the award on behalf of Childish Gambino onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City. (AFP)

Childish Gambino, the music stage name of actor Donald Glover, earned seven nominations for his hard-hitting video "This Is America" about black identity and police brutality.

Madonna speaks during a tribute to the late singer Aretha Franklin, 2018 MTV Video Music Awards,  Radio City Music Hall, New York, US, August 20, 2018.
Madonna speaks during a tribute to the late singer Aretha Franklin, 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, Radio City Music Hall, New York, US, August 20, 2018. (AFP)

The VMAs, the first gathering of top music artists since the death last week of Aretha Franklin, will honour the soul singer during the show, organisers have said, but no details have been given of what is planned. 

Source: Reuters