BEST: J.Lo proves why she's the Video Vanguard
Prior to Jennifer Lopez accepting the Video Vanguard award, she delivered a jaw-dropping performance, giving viewers a taste of her Las Vegas residency with a medley of her greatest hits. The performance paid tribute to some of the biggest moments of her career, including projections resembling her iconic green Versace dress. Other stand-out moments included Lopez being raised above the stage on wires, entering on a subway car while performing “Jenny From the Block” (with an appearance from Ja Rule!), and plenty of her beloved dance moves. Lopez concluded her portion of the evening by accepting the award saying, “I grew up on MTV, and this is a tremendous honor for me. It has been an incredible journey of dreaming my wildest dreams and watching them come true.”
WORST: Aretha Franklin gets no R-E-S-P-E-C-T
The Queen of Soul died last Thursday, but the VMAs neglected to pay tribute to this musical icon in any very meaningful way. At the end of his set, rapper Travis Scott declared, “Rest in peace Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin,” which was the first mention of Franklin in the show. Later, they played a snippet of the video from Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” before Madonna took to the stage to pay tribute to the singer in a cringe-worthy speech that was more about Madonna’s career than Franklin’s legendary contributions to music. This bizarre segment was the closest the show came to honoring the fallen legend, and frankly, Madonna’s tone-deaf story (and apparel) bordered on offensive.
BEST: Logic says 'F--- the Wall'
Logic made a powerful political statement with a performance of his song “One Day” featuring Ryan Tedder. The music video, which dropped last Friday, showcases the story of a young immigrant teenager separated from his parents at the border. Logic took his protest to the next level with a performance featuring immigrant leaders from the National Domestic Workers Alliance, United We Dream, and Make the Road New York and their children. Logic wore a T-shirt that read “F— the Wall” while the immigrant families behind them sported shirts reading “We Are All Human Beings” in direct protest of the Trump administration’s policies at the border.
WORST: Cardi B doesn't give us any money moves
Cardi B’s first post-pregnancy appearance on the VMAs was a hotly anticipated event, and she didn’t disappoint on the red carpet in a body-hugging purple velvet dress by Nicolas Jebran accessorized with emerald jewels. But for fans who were hoping Cardi might perform, the night was a letdown. When she opened the show, she teased she might reveal her daughter Kulture onstage, only to pull out a Moon Person statue out from underneath her pink blanket instead. It was funny, but a disappointment for viewers craving more.
BEST: Ariana Grande takes the VMAs to church
Ariana Grande delivered an out-of-this-world rendition of “God Is a Woman,” the second hit single off her new album Sweetener. Riffing on the song’s religious themes, Grande appeared at the center of a table flanked by backup dancers in Grecian getups made to look like an all-female “Last Supper.” Grande knocked the vocals on her new chart out of the park, while also offering sharp choreography and stellar production values borrowed from her cosmic and Greek mythology-inspired music video, resulting in one of the most impressive offerings of the night. Grande also made a sentimental tribute to girl power and the power of the woman by having her mother, grandmother, and cousin join her on stage at the conclusion of the performance.
WORST: Tiffany Haddish mocks Fifth Harmony
In what amounted to the show’s closest thing to an opening monologue, Tiffany Haddish took a few shots at Fifth Harmony over Camila Cabello’s exit from the band. “Camila Cabello is here nominated for five awards. I’m super proud of her. So, those of you watching at home, hi Fifth Harmony!” Haddish quipped. Cabello shook her head at the joke and Nicki Minaj later stood up for Cabello’s former band members, saying, “Tiff, don’t be coming for Fifth Harmony because Normani is that bitch,” in reference to Normani Kordei. “I’m just saying!”
BEST: Nicki Minaj is a VMAs 'Queen'
Nicki Minaj had one of the major set pieces of the night, performing in downtown Manhattan’s Oculus opening on a glimmering Egyptian-inspired set with a massive pair of gold wings flanking a throne surrounded by enormous metallic unicorns. Performing both “Majesty” and “Barbie Dreams,” Minaj delivered several tracks off her new album for an adoring crowd with the aid of a stellar backup crew and some rocking choreography.
WORST: Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick fail to 'rock-it
Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick took to the stage to promote their new film A Simple Favor in an outright painful bit that fell flat. Unfortunately, not even the Rockettes could save this ham-fisted bit of self-promotion!
BEST: Aerosmith and Post Malone 'Dream On'
In one of the more bizarre collaborations ever seen on the VMAs stage, Aerosmith and Post Malone joined forces to perform some of the rock band’s greatest hits — and it was actually not terrible? Post Malone showed off his guitar chops and took to the microphone alongside Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Similar to J.Lo’s set, Aerosmith’s fiery projections and set pieces felt like a preview of their upcoming 2019 Las Vegas residency — and we mean that in the best way possible. This closing performance was a surprising highlight proving we should all just dream until our dream comes true.
WORST: Push New Artists send us to commercials on a low note
The VMAs tried to squeeze in more live performances with a series of pre-commercial segments designed to feature the nominees in the Push Best New Artist category, like winner Hayley Kiyoko. It’s admirable that MTV wanted to expose audiences to lesser-known talents, but they were all too brief to really get a sense for the artists in question, and many of the performances were pitchy and lackluster.