Date: September 7, 2008 (MTV Video Music Awards) November 6, 2008 (MTV European Music Awards 2008)
Music performed: “Love Lockdown,” "American Boy"
For both the 2008 MTV VMAs and EMAs, Kanye performed "Love Lockdown" off of 808s and Heartbreak. The VMA performance was the first time the world heard both the song and this new minimal pop direction, where Kanye famously dove into autotune (and as it appears on his subsequent albums through Yeezus, has not stopped). Kanye wore his grey glen plaid suit and broken heart-shaped pin, which became the uniform for this album. Red lights soaked the stage, and live drummers in masks formed the background. It was hard to deny that Kanye's experimentation had all the elements of making him a first-rate popstar.
During the EMAs two months later in Liverpool, Kanye took the stage to another level entirely. Wearing an all-white suit on an all-white stage, with a gleaming spotlight behind him giving off violet hues, Kanye brought the emotional destruction of the song even harder than before. Eventually the dark purple lights come in, projections of nearly formless dancers wrap the circular stage, and it goes stark white again. The audience feels the emotional journey throughout.
After "Love Lockdown" at the EMAs, Kanye and Estelle performed "American Boy," and at the end, a picture of then-U.S. President-elect, Barack Obama, was put on the screens. Kanye did what he had done at the Grammys earlier that year—shown the many sides of his musical and visual selves and that he wouldn't stop innovating anytime soon.
"Love Lockdown" at the VMAs:
"Love Lockdown" at the EMAs:
"American Boy" featuring Estelle at the EMAs: