Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” music video won the top reward at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, a night filled with surprises.
“This is incredible. “The fact that this award was determined by fan votes means so much to me,” Swift stated in her acceptance speech. “I cannot believe that I announced the ‘Midnights’ album a year ago.”
Swift’s show at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, was nearly hers from the start. Swift was presented with the award for best musical video by none other than NSYNC, who reunited to present the award.
Swift shared the stage with Justin Timberlake, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick, and JC Chasez, all of whom wore matching suits. Bass presented her with a friendship bracelet, just as fans do at the superstar’s shows. “You are the embodiment of pop,” she told the group.
The top nominee of the evening later returned to the stage to accept the awards for Song of the Year for “Anti-Hero” and Best Direction.
Swift won nine of the eleven awards for which she was nominated, including Artist of the Year in a category comprised wholly of female nominees for the first time in VMA history.
Her “Karma (Remix)” collaborator, Ice Spice, earned the award for best new artist. “Oh my God, this is so cool,” she exclaimed. I would like to thank my children.
New music was prevalent throughout the performance. Nicki Minaj performed her most recent single, “Last Time I Saw You,” followed by a brand-new preview of a furious new trap track from her highly anticipated “Pink Friday 2” album.
“I ain’t nothing like you,” she raps, “I’m on a whole other level.”
As much as Swift dominated, the VMAs centered on the global influence of music. The K-pop boy band Tomorrow X Together and the Brazilian superstar Anitta debuted their new retro-pop collaboration, “Back for More.”
Stray Kids performed “S-Class,” while regional Mexicana star Peso Pluma performed “Lady Gaga” and reggaeton era Karol G performed “Oki Doki” and “Tá OK (Remix)”
In the inaugural year of the “Best Afrobeats” category, Tiffany Haddish presented the award to Rema and Selena Gomez for their massive smash “Calm Down.”
“Africa invades the house!” Rema began his acceptance address. “Shout out to Fela (Kuti), who started Afrobeats in the first place…and I want to give a big shout out to the next generation of Afrobeats.”
Gomez stood a few feet from the microphone, but when Rema asked her to speak, she jumped up and told the audience, “I want to send all of my love to Nigeria, thank you.”
Shakira received the Video Vanguard Award and performed a phenomenal bilingual medley of her decades of hits, including “She Wolf,” her collaboration with Rauw Alejandro’s “Te Felicito,” and the viral, record-breaking “Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53” with Bizarrap, in a set introduced by her “Hips Don’t Lie” collaborator Wyclef Jean.
Shakira thanked MTV for being such an integral part of her career since she was 18 years old. She also thanked her parents and children, whom she brought to the program.
“This is for you, my people, my Latin American people, inside and outside of the country,” she stated in Spanish. “Thank you so much for motivating me and infusing me with so much strength and drive to move forward. I adore you.”
She also won the award for best collaboration for “TQG,” a composition she recorded with Karol G. The duo delivered their entire acceptance speech in Spanish. Karol G exclaimed, “If collaborating with the legendary Shakira was impressive, receiving an award with her is something from another planet.”
The Global Icon Award was presented to Diddy by Mary J. Blige and his daughter Chance Combs. After the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2022 and the Foo Fighters in 2021, he is the third recipient of the award.
The legendary rapper also performed for the first time since 2005 at the VMAs. It was an incredible compilation of some of his greatest songs, such as “Bad Boy for Life” and “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” featuring some of his greatest collaborators, including Yung Miami, Keyshia Cole, and, most endearingly, his son, King Combs.
“Love triumphs, you all,” he began his speech. “I began as a paperboy; I had no idea I would end up here.” He then led the crowd in chanting “Bad boy.”
“This is for 30 years,” he added. “I pray to God that you enjoy 30 years of doing what you love.”
Lil Wayne began the performance by performing his new single “Kat Food.” Immediately after, Olivia Rodrigo introduced her “Vampire” music video set to the stage, followed by her pop-punk single “Get Him Back!”
Between the two tracks, excerpts of her sold singles were spoken audibly; at the same time, she was rushed from the stage in a pre-planned “malfunction,” further mirroring the “Vampire” video and symbolizing a transition from her first to the second album.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion brought “Bongos” to life with elaborate choreography; Demi Lovato performed a rock ‘n’ roll medley of her greatest hits: “Heart Attack,” into “Sorry Not Sorry,” and “Cool for the Summer” before Stray Kids won the award for best K-pop artist.
Later, Anitta would win the “best Latin” award for the second year in succession, delivering one of the more endearing acceptance speeches of the night – “I wanna thank myself,” she laughed. “Because I work so hard!”
French Montana used his position as the best R&B performer alongside Ashanti to raise awareness for Morocco earthquake relief, highlighting a relief fund that he pledged to donate to personally. He was raised in Morocco.
The MTV Video Music Awards celebrated the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with a star-studded finale performance. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five began with “The Message,” paving the way for Doug E. Fresh and Slick.
This is Rick’s “The Show.” Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, LL Cool J, and DMC of Run-DMC concluded the event, which was a spirited celebration of multigenerational culture.