Viewers of the three-ring circus that was the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, lead by hosts Nicki Minaj, LL Cool J and Jack Harlow, were forced to take the good with the bad.
From Nicki Minaj’s mesmerizing showcase to Måneskin lead singer Damiano David’s — censored, boo — ass-less chaps, the production, which was broadcasted live from Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center, and its wild twists and turns kept pop culture and chaos zealots alike on the edge of their seats Sunday, Aug. 28.
Here’s a look at the best and worst moments of the night.
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Worst: Johnny Depp’s deep-space mess
Whether you count it a comeback or a catastrophe, Johnny Depp’s eye-popping portrayal of MTV’s Moon Person astronaut sent VMAs viewers into a tizzy. Resurfacing for the first time since winning his defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard in June, Depp, 59, donned a silvery spacesuit to mimic the look of the network’s trademark trophy figurine. The display prompted a chorus of cheers from the audience. But critics on social media disagreed with the move.
Best: Three hosts
They say “three’s a crowd” but the trio of hosts who lead tonight’s festivities proved that adage to be false. The band of MCs, comprised of rappers Nicki Minaj, 39, LL Cool J, 54 and Jack Harlow, 24 successfully kept the ball rolling during the three-hour production. And in addition to helming the production and performing for screaming fans, Nicki and Harlow both took home awards for their cherished contribution to music.
Best: Nicki’s pole-arizing performance
Rather than sitting her royal rump on her much-deserved throne, Nicki Minaj bounced, twerked and worked it on a pole while slaying a medley of her greatest hits at the VMAs. The “Queen” emcee wowed show watcher with performances of chart-toppers including, “Moment for Life,” “Superbase,” “Anaconda” and her latest single “Super Freaky Girl.” Her showcase immediately preceded her accepting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. During her acceptance speech, she thanked fellow musicians Kanye, Beyoncé, Madonna, Mariah Carey and Drake. And she then paired homage to the late Jackson and Whitney Houston. “I wish that Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were here. I wish people understood what they were going through. I wish people took mental health seriously,” she said before honoring her late father, saying “Rest in Peace, daddy.”
Worst: Måneskin showed too much skin
As Italian glam rockers Måneskin took center stage with their showing of “Supermodel” at the VMAs, singer Damiano David, 23 showed a bit too much of his butt in the black chaps he wore over a jock strap. MTV ultimately censored shots of the musician’s hind-parts — and Twitter users were outraged by the editing. In fact, cyber rioters deemed the censoring “pathetic.”
Best: Lizzo’s shady speech
While accessing her moon man as the “Video for Good” winner, Lizzo, 34 carved out some time to address her detractors. “To the b- -tches that got something to say to me in the press,” she began before deciding not to “clap back” at her many haters and body-shamers — the most recent being “Mad TV” vet Aries Spears. Last week the comedian made disparaging comments about Lizzo’s shape, likening it to the poop emoji. But rather than get even with Spears, 37, the “About Damn Time” trendsetter said she refuses to strike back because, “B- -tch, I’m winning!,” as she proudly waved her trophy.
Best: Snoop and Eminem
This Sunday belonged to hip-hop demigods Snoop Dogg, 50, and Eminem, 49, who joined forces for the first time on the VMAs stage for a metaverse-inspired performance of collab track, “From the D 2 the LBC.” The veteran rappers — who, back in February, rocked the Super Bowl LVI halftime show with a medley of hits alongside Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar— left MTV audiences gawking with a hybrid showcase of real-life and web3 wildness as they represented for their respective “213” and “313” area codes on the song. Snoop, a 13-time VMAs nominee from Long Branch, Calif., and Eminem, a 13-time winner raised in Detroit, brought their out of this world production to a mind blowing climax Sunday when they transformed into Bored Ape-looking avatars.
Worst: Album of the Year
As much as we love “Music for a sushi restaurant,” by Harry Styles, who took home the coveted Album of the Year Award for smash anthology “Harry’s House,” the award should have went to Bad Bunny.
Styles, 23, bested his stiff body of competitors including Billie Eilish, 20, Drake, 35 and Bad Bunny — who would have been the first ever non-English performing artist to take home the enviable nod. The “As It Was” heartthrob accepted his moon-man via video just before touching the stage in his “Love On” tour show at Madison Square Garden.
Best: Bad Bunny
He got it hoppin’ in the Bronx. Teleporting VMAs audiences to the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium Sunday, “Tití Me Preguntó” emcee Bad Bunny, 28, virtually offered a hip-shaking presentation of his chart-topping ditties as part of his “World’s Hottest Tour.” Bunny’s remote performance marked the first time the VMAs conducted a live broadcast from the legendary sports arena. And Bunny, who earned the Artist of the Year trophy, sealed his high-flying moment with a kiss, locking lips an unknown man.
Best: Taylor takes the top trophy
Winning the much-desired Video of The Year honors for “All Too Well,” Swift, 32, acknowledged her fellow female nominees in the category, including Doja Cat, 26 and Olivia Rodrigo, 19, for their impressive visual efforts. “For the first time, four of the directors nominated in the Video of the Year category are women.” And after celebrating the history-making moment, the “Lover” luminary revealed that she’ll be dropping her new album on October 21.