J.Lo’s big medley, Madonna’s rambling misfire and more from the show’s 35th annual installment
Joy, tedium, awkwardness, earnestness, Marshmello: Monday’s VMAs had it all. Fortunately, there were quite a few bright spots — Jennifer Lopez’s wildly energetic medley followed by a classy Video Vanguard acceptance speech; Nicki Minaj owning the Oculus; adorable mom moments aplenty — mixed in with the steady procession of face-palm moments. Here, we look back on the highs and lows of the show’s 35th annual edition.
Best of the Night: Jennifer Lopez Nabs the Video Vanguard Award — and Works for It
“Music, acting, performing,” J.Lo said, Moon Person in hand, “this career has always been an obsession for me. When people said to me, ‘You do too much, you can only do one thing!’ I was always the person [to be] like, ‘Why not?’” Case in point: Her dazzling, epic performance from just minutes before. The 49-year-old Nuyorican icon took to the stage Monday night in blue-and-gold brocade, powering through no fewer than a dozen hits, from 1999’s “Waiting for Tonight” to 2018’s “Dinero,” with snazzy choreography and set changes aplenty. Midway through her medley, Lopez stripped down to a sparkling gold bodysuit that would be the envy of Donatella — then slipped on a fur coat for a momentary snowfall, evoking the holiday breakup anthem “All I Have.” She promptly vanished behind a makeshift brick wall, so that a replica of an NYC 6 train could come crashing through, with Lopez in tow as she sang the chorus of “Jenny From the Block.” And somewhere in there, surprise guest Ja Rule resurfaced from a long, post-Fyre Festival hiatus for a quick cameo. Ever the Instagram artiste, Lopez’s beau Alex Rodriguez stood by with pursed lips and his iPhone camera at the ready, as the star popped her legendary booty in gold spandex. Not even a gracious introduction by a soft-spoken Shawn Mendes could contain the uproar of her fans who cheered well into her acceptance speech.
Best: Nicki Minaj Returns to the Throne
Performing from a previously undisclosed location (spoiler: it was the Oculus in downtown NYC, and it was packed with her extremely enthusiastic fans) Nicki Minaj appeared in gold, backed by gold-clad dancers, in front of an imposing golden throne. She performed a quick-moving medley beginning with a brisk “Majesty,” forgoing the Eminem verse in favor of moving on to “Barbie Dreams,” the song filled with a series of (good-natured) shots heard round the world when she dropped it on Queen’s release day last week. She then rounded out the performance with an a capella verse from album opener “Ganja Burns,” before closing with her 6ix9ine collaboration — and current Number 5 single — “FEFE.”
Worst: Madonna’s Aretha Tribute Goes Off the Rails
Honoring Aretha Franklin is no easy task, but the VMAs’ tribute was an unequivocal failure. The show-runners recruited Madonna to give a speech — potentially a major coup — but unfortunately it had little to do with the Queen of Soul. The star began her address by saying that “Franklin changed the course of my life”; she ended it by noting that “none of [my career] would’ve happened … without our Lady of Soul.” In between, there was a story about failed auditions, an assertion of Madonna’s rebelliousness, a “bitch I’m Madonna” joke and a bad, possibly offensive imitation of a French accent, but nothing more than a passing mention of Aretha. Needless to say, Twitter was none too pleased.
Best: Logic Takes a Stand
Logic isn’t subtle. And, when you want to get a point across quickly and effectively with a single song performance on a nationally televised awards show, that’s a strength. Taking to the stage wearing a black “Fuck The Wall” T-shirt and followed by a stream of children, some of whom were displaced by our country’s immigration laws, Logic (alongside Ryan Tedder) used his “One Day” performance to make a blunt, powerful and necessary statement.