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2023 MTV VMAs marked by nonstop performances and legacy acts

Screenshot from Shakira’s 2023 VMAs Video Vanguard Performance | Paramount Media Networks

Rapper Nicki Minaj hosted the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey,  on Sept. 12. This year’s ceremony was marked by eye-catching performances, surprise guest appearances, record-breaking award victories and a 50th-anniversary hip-hop celebration.

Colombian pop superstar Shakira arguably had the biggest night. 

The singer made history as the first South American artist to win the Video Vanguard Award. Recipients of the award are highlighted for their contributions and lasting impacts on the music industry.

Shakira’s award was presented to her by rapper Wyclef Jean only after she performed a medley of her greatest hits including “Hips Don’t Lie”, “She-Wolf” and “TQG.”

Hip-Hop was at the front and center at the VMAs to coincide with the yearlong celebration of the genre’s 50th birthday.

Record producer Sean “Diddy” Combs was presented with the Global Icon Award by singer Mary J. Blige and performed some of his hits including  “I’ll Be Missing You,” “It’s All About the Benjamins” and “Bad Boy for Life.”

Minaj, who was also nominated in six categories, delivered a memorable performance and debuted new songs from her upcoming album “Pink Friday 2.”

Rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion performed their new single “Bongos” for the first time. They performed on separate stages with backup dancers and shirtless male bongo players.

Towards the end of the show, rappers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Minaj, Wayne, LL Cool J and DMC got together to perform a mashup  of hip-hop classics. 

Many fan favorites scored huge wins. Taylor Swift, in the midst of a record breaking tour, won nine awards, including Artist of the Year and Album of the Year for “Midnights.”

The singer-songwriter is the first artist to win Video of the Year two years in a row, extending her record for the most wins in that specific category to four. Her previous wins are credited to “Bad Blood,” “You Need to Calm Down” and “All Too Well: The Short Film.”

Swift is now tied for most VMA wins in one night and the second overall wins according to a report from NBC News. Swift’s first award was presented to her by 90s boy band NYSNC who chose to use the VMAs as their reunion moment, causing frenzy among the crowd. 

The group had not been onstage together since the 2013 VMAs. Their reunion is fueled by rumors that they are coming together to work on music for the next installment of the “Trolls” franchise.  

The night’s presenters included “Best New Artist” winner Ice Spice, Emily Ratajkowski, Jared Leto, French Montana and Rita Ora.

Despite the award show’s numerous celebratory moments, controversy was not far behind.

R&B singer SZA, who was nominated for Song of the Year and Video of the Year for “Kill Bill,” pulled out of the VMAs after not being nominated for Artist of the Year , Terrence Henderson, her manager confirmed to the press.

“Obviously, she had one of the best years, if not the best year, of any artist at this point,” Henderson said. “I don’t see why she wouldn’t be nominated for Artist of the Year. It just really didn’t make any sense to me. It’s disrespectful.”

Despite pulling out of the VMAs, SZA did not go empty-handed, as she won Best R&B Song for “Shirt” and was the second artist with the most nominations. 

On the production side, the night ended with Taylor Swift without the ceremony announcing the winners of the 13 other categories. The remaining victories were announced via a social media platform X.

The VMAs saw a boost in audience numbers this year. According to Nielsen ratings, the 2023 VMAs drew a television audience of 913,000, which is a 29.5 percent increase from the 2022 show that had a viewing of 705,000, according to an article from the Hollywood Reporter.

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Jahlil Rush
Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant
Jahlil Rush is a Production Assistant for The Ticker.
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