On September 12, 2023, MTV’s 2023 Video Music Awards (VMAs) took place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Hosted by multi-platinum superstar Nicki Minaj, the ceremony was a star-studded affair that brought artists and fans from all over the world together to celebrate music and videos. In case you missed it, EnVi compiled the night’s top must-see moments.
Stray Kids Win Big
What’s better than attending your first VMA ceremony? How about attending, winning, and performing all the same night in front of an audience of artists you’ve looked up to?
K-pop group Stray Kids had the most memorable win of the night as they were visibly shocked to hear they’d won the Best K-Pop award. As they gathered on stage Australian-born leader Bang Chan accepted the award, thanking MTV for the invitation. Member Felix then jumped in to thank their labels JYP and Republic Records and last but not least, their fans—Stays.
Toward the end of the show, the group took to the main stage to perform the single “특 (S-Class)” from their 2023 Billboard #1 album★★★★★ 5 Star. The performance brought the energy back into the show including a hard-hitting dance break that even had Taylor Swift stunned.
Latin Music Domination
Reigning Latin music superstars Shakira, Anitta, Karol G, and Peso Pluma had everyone’s attention when they hit the stage. Brazilian singer Anitta performed her singles “Funk Rave” and “Used to Be,” before taking the award in the Best Latin category. She then returned to the stage accompanied by K-pop group TXT to present their collaborative track, “Back for More.”
Meanwhile, La Bichota, Karol G, made her VMAs debut with a medley of “Oki Doki” and “Tá OK.” Proving the undeniable rise of Colombian musicians to the global stage, she later joined Latin American legend Shakira to accept the award for Best Collaboration. In her speech, Shakira proudly shouted out to her and Karol G’s hometowns. “I will only say three things: Long live Barranquilla! Long live Medallo! Long live Colombia!” she said in Spanish.
Breakout star Peso Pluma, who was nominated in the Best New Artist category, brought Mexican representation to the stage. Dressed in an all-black look and surrounded by musicians, the música Mexicana exponent performed his track, “Lady Gaga.”
Latin representation extended to the audience, presenters, and complementary acts. Mexican legend Thalía and Latin artists Fat Joe, Danna Paola, Anuel AA, and Selena Gomez were in attendance, and Mexican rock band The Warning performed on an extended play stage presented by Doritos.
It was a big night for Latin American stars at a moment of never-seen-before success for Latin music. As Thalía acknowledged, in 2023 Latin music grossed over a billion dollars in streaming revenue for the first time ever, so this rightful recognition felt particularly well-timed.
Hip-Hop 50 Forever
2023 has been all about celebrating hip-hop’s fiftieth anniversary at every turn and the VMAs were no different. Starting with pioneers of the genre, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five performed “The Message,” while Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick performed their iconic collaboration “The Show.”
In a whiplash move, we fast forward to the 00s with Nicki Minaj and her recent chart toppers, while Lil Wayne gave a snippet of his 2008 track “A Milli.” LL Cool J came out to bring it back to the 80s with DMC of legendary hip-hop trio Run DMC, closing out the performance with their historic crossover collaboration “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith.
After weeks of speculation, rumors, and strategic hints, pop legends *NSYNC returned to the VMAs for the first time in 10 years. The quintet graced the stage to give away the first award of the night to Taylor Swift for Best Pop Music Video. Swift was speechless as she looked at *NSYNC and asked them what we all have been thinking, “What are you doing next?”
The group has confirmed the release of their first new song in 20 years, as part of the soundtrack for the Justin Timberlake-led animated movie Trolls: Band Together. Members Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Timberlake have all avoided answering questions about a rumored upcoming reunion tour set for 2024.
Cardi B + Megan Thee Stallion
The iconic rapper dynamic duo, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, ignited the stage for their debut live performance of “Bongos” styled in sequined blue dresses beating up the stage (bong-bong-bong-bong). As performers banged bongos alongside them, this duo sashayed along the stage, sending shockwaves of energy and body to the audience as they sat back and watched the duo do their thing.
Nod to Nostalgia
From Ashanti and Nelly reuniting as a couple, NSYNC’s surprise appearance, iconic hit-making duo Nelly Furtado and Timbaland presenting, to replaying Britney Spears’ iconic 00s Pepsi commercials, the VMAs relied on millennial nostalgia. Hip-Hop icon Diddy gave a fun tribute performance featuring his biggest hits of the 90s to celebrate 30 years of his music career, even throwing in a little TikTok dance.
Shakira Video Vanguard Award/Performance
Don’t call it a comeback! After a year that would send even the toughest of soldiers into their shell, Shakira stood tall on stage accepting MTV’s prestigious Video Vanguard award. Following a very public divorce and move across the world, Shakira topped global charts with her collaboration with Argentinian DJ and producer Bizarrap, “Bzrp Music Session Vol. 53.” The song collected a myriad of accolades and recognitions worldwide, “in a way no song before it ever has.”
But it was her decades-long string of hits that she celebrated tonight. As friend and collaborator Wyclef Jean mentioned in his introduction, Shakira has sold over 95 million records worldwide during her 32-year career, becoming an icon across generations. In her performance, the Colombian star effortlessly rocked Prudential Center as she glided from stage to stage performing globally acclaimed hits like “Wherever, Whenever,” “She Wolf,” and “Hips Don’t Lie.”
TXT and Anitta Debut New Single
Gen Z icons TOMORROW X TOGETHER (TXT) and Brazilian sensation Anitta teamed up for one of the most awaited performances of the night. Making history as the first K-pop act to team up with a Latin star for an award performance, TXT premiered “Back for More.” The disco-infused song belongs to TXT’s upcoming album The Name Chapter: FREEFALL and mixes elements from Latin pop with a groovy baseline and a tightly choreographed dance.
Dressed in looks that nodded to the current Americana revival; Yeonjun, Soobin, Beomgyu, Taehyun, HueningKai, and Anitta turned the stage into a dancefloor. Smooth vocals, sultry dance moves, and the catchiest tune melded in a music crossover we didn’t know we needed so desperately.
Olivia Rodrigo’s Fake-Out Performance
Filipino-American pop artist Olivia Rodrigo hit the stage in a vibrant crimson outfit, set against a lush forest background as she sang her heart-wrenching ballad, “Vampire.” During her performance, what seemed to be an unexpected stage malfunction briefly caused worry among the audience, including Selena Gomez. However, it soon became evident that the brief mishap was a planned part of the show, referencing the song’s music video, as Rodrigo seamlessly transitioned into a choreographed performance of “get him back!” the second single from her recently released sophomore album, GUTS.
Metro Boomin, Future & Swae Lee
American rapper and producer Metro Boomin descended on stage, dressed in a violet suit, while Future strolled onto the stage, kicking off their performance of the chart-topping track “Superhero.” Boomin then followed up with a performance of “Calling” from his critically acclaimed soundtrack for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Swae Lee joined the stage, singing the opening chorus of the song, followed by NAV who carried on the performance. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie was the final guest appearance, as he joined the stage to deliver his verse.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR – Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”
ARTIST OF THE YEAR – Taylor Swift
SONG OF THE YEAR –Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”
BEST NEW ARTIST – Ice Spice
SHOW OF THE SUMMER – Taylor Swift
GROUP OF THE YEAR – BLACKPINK
SONG OF THE SUMMER – Jung Kook ft. Latto – “Seven”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR –Taylor Swift – Midnights
PUSH PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR – TOMORROW X TOGETHER – “Sugar Rush Ride”
BEST COLLABORATION – KAROL G, Shakira – “TQG”
BEST POP – Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”
BEST HIP-HOP – Nicki Minaj – “Super Freaky Girl”
BEST R&B – SZA – “Shirt”
BEST ALTERNATIVE – Lana Del Rey ft. Jon Batiste – “Candy Necklace”
BEST ROCK – Måneskin – “THE LONELIEST”
BEST LATIN – Anitta – “Funk Rave”
BEST K-POP – Stray Kids – “S-Class”
BEST AFROBEATS – Rema & Selena Gomez – “Calm Down”
VIDEO FOR GOOD – Dove Cameron – “Breakfast”
BEST DIRECTION – Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY – BLACKPINK – “Pink Venom”
BEST ART DIRECTION – Doja Cat – “Attention”
BEST EDITING – Olivia Rodrigo – “vampire”
If you’re looking for more live event breakdowns, check out our Concert Recaps here!