By Teresa Jue
August 25, 2014 at 02:48 PM EDT
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for MTV

It’s hard to find a Sam Smith performance that doesn’t seem like a honest attempt to wring out everyone’s tears.

It was a night of juxtapositions, as Kim Kardashian West came out to introduce Smith to the stage to perform “Stay With Me.” In a reversal from the glitter and floor-grinding opening number, the stage was notably stripped of extraneous accoutrements, save for an accompaniment on the piano. Smith brought the audience to a gentle sway, delivering a straightforward rendition of the relationship song of the summer. It even brought the typically non-emotive Jenner sisters to their feet without taking a selfie of themselves. If Smith’s performance is any indication, glitter and fireworks are not prerequisites for a great, if not tear-inducing, VMAs performance.

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