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Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington honored at VMAs

Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell

NEW YORK — Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, rock stars who killed themselves earlier this year, were remembered at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards.

Oscar winner Jared Leto, who is also the frontman of rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, said he toured with Bennington and Cornell, and spoke passionately Sunday about his friendship with Bennington, who rose to fame as the lead singer of Linkin Park.

“I see his face, which was always smiling … I think about how kindly he treated me, my brother, Tomo, our band … I think about his band, who were really his brothers and I remember his voice,” Leto said at the Forum in Inglewood, California. “That voice will live forever.”

Before announcing a video of Linkin Park performing at the 2010 VMAs, Leto told those who might be struggling at the moment: “Hear me now, you are not alone. There is always a way forward. Reach out. Share your thoughts. Do not give up.”

Cornell and Bennington were close friends, and Bennington was the godfather to Chris Cornell’s 11-year-old son. Cornell hanged himself in May and Bennington hanged himself in July.

It was a touching moment on a night dominated by Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar.

Swift debuted the eye-popping music video for “Look What You Made Me Do,” which featured the singer dressed like a zombie in one scene and surrounded by slithering snakes in another. The video for the track, rumored to be a diss toward Kanye West, also featured Swift in a tub of diamonds, a cat mask, and a car that crashed (she was holding a Grammy). The clip ended with a dozen of Swifts — in memorable outfits she’s worn in the past — portraying how the singer felt the media has portrayed her throughout the years.

Last year Swift and West’s feud hit a new height when Kim Kardashian West released audio recordings that she said proved Swift gave her husband the go-ahead for a Swift reference in the song “Famous.” Swift wiped her social media pages clean last week and caused a frenzy online with video snippets of slithery snake parts.

It was the biggest moment of the VMAs — so far.

Paris Jackson also turned some heads when she spoke about the recent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“We must show these Nazi white supremacist jerks in Charlottesville, and all over the country, that as a nation with liberty as our slogan, we have zero tolerance for their violence and their hatred and their discrimination. We must resist,” Michael Jackson’s eldest daughter said before presenting the best pop video award to Fifth Harmony.

Fifth Harmony, who lost a group member last year, won the prize for their hit, “Down,” featuring rapper Gucci Mane. Ally Brooke and Dinah Jane of the group, who released a new album last week, were in tears as they accepted the award alongside Normani Kordei and Lauren Jauregui.

“This is honestly so unreal. Thank you to God and thank you to our families,” Jane said.

Fifth Harmony started their performance standing on high platforms to sing “Angel,” then falling backward like superheroes. Then followed it with the upbeat “Down,” taking a break from singing to perform some intense choreography. Later, water rained on the four girls, who dropped their microphones at the end of the performance.

Lorde, in tin foil half dress, pants and sneakers, danced throughout the performance of “Homemade Dynamite” instead of singing it because she had the flu, though audience members sang along to the audio of the song.

Kendrick Lamar, who won best hip-hop video, gave an explosive performance featuring his sharp raps and ninjas dancing near fire. The rapper performed the hits “Humble” and “DNA,” sporting a red jacket, red pants and white shirt, with a red lights beaming around him. He worked the stage while Pink, Calvin Harris, Logic and others nodded along.

At one point, one of the ninjas was on fire and danced near Lamar while he rapped.

Lamar is the leading nominee with eight, including video of the year for his anthemic No. 1 hit, “Humble.” Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” DJ Khaled and Rihanna’s “Wild Thoughts,” the Weeknd’s “Reminder” and Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful” are also up for the top prize.

“Despacito,” which was snubbed in the video of the year category, lost the only award it was nominated for: song of summer. Lil Uzi Vert’s Top 10 hit, “XO Tour Life,” won the prize.

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s international hit is the most viewed video on YouTube and currently No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. MTV said Universal Music Latin Entertainment didn’t submit the video, while the record label said they weren’t asked to send in the clip.

Ed Sheeran performed his hit, “Shape of You,” and was later joined by Lil Uzi Vert. Pink, who will also perform, will receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Rod Stewart will sing a reworked version of his hit “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” remotely from Las Vegas with pop band DNCE; Demi Lovato will also perform remotely from Vegas.

Khalid and Cardi B, whose song “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” is No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart, performed during the pre-show. Teyana Taylor — the star dancer of Kanye West’s “Fade” video and one of the video’s choreographers — won best choreography for the clip.

Show host Katy Perry opened the VMAs saying she just arrived from space to Earth and was dressed as a shiny, silver astronaut. Perry will perform later in the show.

MTV eliminated gender categories like best male and female video at this year’s VMAs, and they announced the artist of the year award. Nominees include Lamar, Mars, Sheeran, Ariana Grande, Lorde and the Weeknd.

Transgender members of the military walked the red carpet. On Friday, President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon to extend a ban on transgender individuals joining the military.