LOS ANGELES –
Lil Wayne emerged to open the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards for a performance of his new single “Kat Food.” Immediately afterward, Olivia Rodrigo brought her “Vampire” music video set to the stage, before launching into her cheeky pop-punk single “Get Him Back!”
Between the two tracks, snippets of her sold singles played aloud — at the same moment, she was rushed from the staged in a pre-planned “malfunction,” further mirroring the “Vampire” video and symbolizing a move from her first record to her second.
Tuesday’s show offered plenty of surprises in its opening moments, with the boy band NSYNC reuniting on the stage to present the first award for best pop video, which went to Taylor Swift.
In coordinating suits, Justin Timberlake, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick, and JC Chasez shared the stage with Swift. Bass handed Swift a friendship bracelet just as fans do at the superstar’s shows. “You’re pop personified,” she told the group.
She returned to the stage later in the show’s first hour to pick up the song of the year trophy for “Anti-Hero.”
The live sets were many: Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion brought “Bongos” to life with big choreography; Demi Lovato played a rock `n’ roll medley of her biggest hits: “Heartattack,” into “Sorry Not Sorry,” “Cool for the Summer” before the best K-pop award was given to Stray Kids.
Doja Cat played a medley of new songs from her forthcoming album, “Scarlet”, which takes aim at fame and the parasocial relationships it inspires — “Attention, “Paint the Two Red,” and “Demons” — surrounded by dancers painted red.
French Montana used his position as best R&B presenter alongside Ashanti to draw attention to Morocco earthquake relief, spotlighting a relief fund that he said he would personally donate to. Montana grew up in Morocco before moving to the United States.
For the first time, only women are nominated in the show’s artist of the year category. Swift, Beyonce, Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj, Karol G and Shakira are contenders for the night’s prize. Swift is the top nominated artist of the evening.
The show is packed with stars, with Rodrigo, Cardi B, Offset, Megan Thee Stallion, Haddish and Karol G among the attendees. On the red carpet, Swift was among the last arrivals. Shakira arrived with her sons. Country singer Kelsea Ballerini and “Outer Banks” actor Chase Stokes matched in red outfits, making their relationship red carpet official.
The VMAs, which takes place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey — just outside of New York City — will be hosted by Minaj. Last year, she emceed alongside Lil Wayne and Jack Harlow; this year, she’s solo.
The show will also celebrate 50 years of hip-hop with a star-studded, multi-generational finale performance: DMC, Doug E. Fresh, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, LL Cool J and Minaj will join forces.
The VMAs are airing on MTV and simulcast on BET, BET Her, CMT, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pop, TVLand and VH1. The show will also air in Spanish on UniMas.
Swift’s 11 nominations include seven for her “Anti-Hero” music video. She’s followed by SZA with eight. Swift currently has 14 VMAs to her name, placing her behind Beyonce, who has 28 (including two with Destiny’s Child), Madonna, who has 20 awards, and Lady Gaga, who has 19.
This year features a record number of first-time nominees at 35: including Kim Petras, who has five noms, Metro Boomin’ with four and Rema with three. Aespa, Burna Boy, Davido, Eslabon Armado, FIFTY FIFTY, PinkPantheress, Saucy Santana, Stephen Sanchez and Toosii are also nominated for the first time.
Shakira will receive the Video Vanguard Award and is also expected to perform. Previous recipients include Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, and Missy Elliott.
Diddy will receive the Global Icon Award and perform at the VMAs for the first time since 2005. He will become the third recipient of the award, following the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2022 and the Foo Fighters in 2021.