When Taylor Swift made a not-so-surprise appearance on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday night at Prudential Center, one thing was clear: She would own the night.
And after already setting the record for the most Video of the Year wins with her third Moon Person in the top category last year, T-Swizzle leveled up again to pick up the ultimate prize for a fourth time.
But with no Beyoncé, no Harry Styles and no Miley Cyrus, Swift — who is on break from her epic Eras Tour before it hits South America in November — knew exactly whose party this was when she showed up as the top nominee with eight nods.
And you have to give her credit for bringing all the energy to a show that needed it, whether she was sipping and shimmying in the audience, fan-girling over *NSYNC when she won Best Pop Video, or BFF-ing up with “Karma” collaborator Ice Spice after that whole mess with Swift’s ex Matt Healy mocking the young rapper.
If Swift shows up to an awards show — as she has done more consistently than any of her superstar contemporaries — she’s going to be all of us as if we somehow snagged seats alongside all of our pop idols.
The “Shake It Off” singer could barely contain her giddy glee when she received her first Moon Person of the night — Best Pop Video for her No. 1 smash “Anti-Hero” — from a reunited *NSYNC. Yes, including Justin Timberlake.
WORST: The *NSYNC reunion
It had been 10 years since the boy band had shared the stage together at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, when Timberlake was the Video Vanguard recipient — and, well they all seemed much, much younger.
But time doesn’t stop — even for former teen-pop heartthrobs — and they looked more like the dads that they are than the pinups of the past. Although props to the blue-haired Lance Bass for at least making an effort to pretend to be hip!
And it was ultimately a disappointment that their reunion, announced just hours before the ceremony, didn’t include a performance.
BEST: Diddy bops to the Global Icon Award
Unlike *NSYNC, all of the dads didn’t disappoint: Diddy received the Global Icon Award from his 17-year-old daughter Chance after a career-spanning performance — from his smash “I’ll Be Missing You” to the Keshia-assisted “Last Night” — that reminded the kids just how it’s done, moving and grooving just like he did back when he was known as Puff Daddy.
And being the “hustler” that he is, he even worked in a shameless plug for his new LP, “The Love Album: Off the Grid,” out Friday.
Now that’s how to make mo money.
WORST: Lil Wayne opens the show
Lil Wayne has been around longer enough to now have elder-statesman status at 40. And in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, it’s fitting that a rapper would open this year’s VMAs.
But “Uproar” — a relatively minor hit from 2018’s “Tha Carter V” — and the new single “Kat Food” didn’t exactly take us back to the classic Weezy vibeology of “A Milli” (which he did return to perform in the hip-hop finale) and “Lollipop.”
Thankfully, Olivia Rodrigo — who, 20 years younger than Wayne, would have made more sense as the opener in 2023 — swooped in to help save the opener in the end with “Vampire” and “Get Back.”
BEST: Doja Cat brings the feline fire
Two years ago, Doja Cat hosted and performed at the VMAs back when she seemed a little green to be pulling double duty. But a gig is a gig — and she stepped up when the pandemic was still making it problematic.
But in 2023, the VMAs simply needed an artist with her star power and stage presence. And she delivered with a medley of “Attention,” “Demons” and her new No. 1 single “Paint the Town Red” that brought some much-needed relevance to the VMAs.
Consider her promotion duties well done before her next album, “Scarlet,” drops Sept. 22.
BEST: Shakira makes a Video Vanguard statement
The original Colombian sensation has seen many of her gente follow in her hip-shaking wake — from J Balvin to Maluma to Karol G. In fact, the latter was just one of the Latin artists — from Brazil’s Anitta to Mexico’s Peso Pluma — who rocked the Prudential Center stage.
And just like Diddy, a 46-year-old Shakira showed the younger generation that they still had work to do, bringing her superstar presence and performance skills after being introduced by her “Hips Don’t Lie” partner Wyclef Jean.
When she was done, she had left no crumbs as the first South American recipient of the Video Vanguard Award.
WORST: Fall Out Boy doing Billy Joel
Let’s make this perfectly clear: When and if “We Didn’t Start the Fire” should ever be performed, it should only be done by Billy Joel.
But to have Fall Out Boy — yes, Fall Out Boy — cover the Piano Man’s 1989 hit 34 years later at the VMAs was a true WTF moment.
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