Taylor Swift cleaned up at Tuesday’s MTV Video Music Awards and won the evening’s top trophy, as Shakira accepted the night’s prestigious Video Vanguard honor with a hip-shaking, career-spanning performance.
Swift continued her global reign by scooping awards including Best Song, Best Pop and Best Direction, as well as the top competitive award for Video of the Year, which she won for her hit “Anti-Hero.”
Turn-of-the-millennium teen heartthrobs NSYNC reunited onstage for the first time in a decade to present her with the Best Pop award, leaving Swift, who is poised to post the first billion-dollar tour, fanning her cheeks.
“This is unbelievable,” Swift said as she accepted the night’s top prize, which she also took home in 2022. “I just want to say that the fact that this is a fan-voted award means so much to me.”
But she didn’t perform on the night known far more for its spectacle than its awards, instead sipping her drink as artists including Olivia Rodrigo, Anitta and Doja Cat took the stage.
The made-for-broadcast show, held this year in Newark’s Prudential Center, frequently panned to Swift who was seated near the main stage next to Ice Spice, the viral Bronx rapper who has collaborated with the pop phenom and who won the evening’s prize for Best New Artist.
A camera operator was reportedly tasked with filming Swift for the show’s entire duration.
The nearly four-hour show that included some 20 performances ended without handing out awards in a number of categories, however, including for Artist of the Year, which for the first time was an all-women slate including Swift, Shakira and Beyonce.
Lil Wayne opened the show in a nod to this year’s 50th anniversary of hip hop, and Sean Combs—known by his stage names Puff Daddy, Puffy, P. Diddy and Diddy—delivered a career-spanning performance as he accepted the night’s Global Icon lifetime achievement award.
“This is so surreal,” said the 53-year-old from Harlem. “I started out as a paper boy.”
And it was Shakira who scored the night’s most prestigious honor for lifetime achievement, the Video Vanguard award that celebrates music video innovations.
The Colombian performer, 46, stole the show as she performed her signature hip swings and pops, singing a bilingual medley including “She Wolf,” “Te Felicito,” “Objection (Tango),” “Whenever, Wherever” and “Hips Don’t Lie.”
Wearing a glittering, nude ensemble, the artist finished her set by crowd-surfing to a platform that then elevated her high above a screaming crowd of fans and peers.
“Thank you MTV. Thank you for being such a big part of my career since I was only 18 years old,” she said.
Afrobeats and Bongo
Rapper Nicki Minaj hosted the event for the second consecutive year, also debuting live her newest single, “Last Time I Saw You,” which is slated for release on her album “Pink Friday 2” in November.
She won the night’s award for Best Hip Hop, for “Super Freaky Girl.”
Minaj also participated in the evening’s tribute to five decades of hip hop, which also saw Lil Wayne return to the stage for a medley performance that included pioneers Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, LL Cool J, DMC of Run-DMC, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Earlier Doja Cat ignited the crowd as she performed a medley of “Attention,” “Paint The Town Red” and “Demons,” donning a sexy skirtsuit situation she slowly loosened as she danced, meanwhile unfurling a long blonde mane.
Best R&B went to SZA, who did not attend, while South Korea’s Stray Kids won the award for Best K-pop and later performed.
Nigeria’s Rema won the prize for Best Afrobeats, a new category, for his remixed single “Calm Down” featuring Selena Gomez.
The song surpassed a billion streams on Spotify over the weekend.
“This means so much seeing Afrobeats grow this big,” Rema said while accepting the trophy.
Brazil’s Anitta dropped a booty-shaking dance party of a show with hits including “Funk Rave,” which earned the evening’s prize for Best Latin.
Colombian Karol G was also among the evening’s top performers, and she scored a prize with Shakira for Best Collaboration.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion debuted their live performance of “Bongos,” their latest collaboration that follows the resounding success of “WAP.”
Cardi entered the stage from the ceiling on a disco ball, her hair in loose waves a la Donna Summer. Megan joined her from another stage, and after their respective verses the pair led the audience through a high-energy, twerkified dance breakdown.
Pop-punk band Fallout Boy rounded out the millennial nostalgia tour that began the night with NSYNC.
The emo rockers performed their updated version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” hitting major moments of the past three decades in a revamp that includes the line: “YouTube killed MTV.”