The Best and Worst Moments of the 2022 MTV VMAs: From Taylor Swift’s Surprise to Johnny Depp’s Confusing Cameo

·8-min read

That’s a wrap on the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards! Sunday night’s show kicked off with a bang as co-host Jack Harlow surprised audiences with Fergie as the night’s first performer, and ended just as big with Taylor Swift announcing a new album on the way.

In between, the night offered plenty of meme-orable moments including Lizzo’s video for good acceptance speech which included the standout one-liner: “Bitch, I’m winning hoe!” Cheech and Chong also provided audiences with some laughs as they struggled to read the Teleprompters while introducing Global Icon Award recipients Red Hot Chili Peppers. Anitta, who gave a sultry performance of “Envolver,” teased audiences by shouting “VMAs! Did you think I wasn’t gonna shake my ass tonight?!”

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The metaverse was a recurring theme of this year’s show, with plenty of references to the new technology both on and off the main stage. Eminem and Snoop Dogg gave a hybrid in-person and “otherside” performance of their collab “From the D 2 The LBC” as Bored Apes. And while most of the performances were filmed on location at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, Bad Bunny made history performing “Titi Me Pregunto” from New York’s Yankee Stadium where he accepted the award for artist of the year.

Harry Styles was also mere miles away from the VMAs, performing one of his many Madison Square Garden shows in New York, but was able to make a virtual appearance for his album of the year acceptance speech for “Harry’s House.”

The most memorable VMA moments came courtesy of seasoned performers and the forgettable moments were somewhat inexplicable considering the size and reach of the MTV stage. Keep reading for the five best and three worst moments of the 2022 VMAs.

BEST

A Swift Surprise

Among the show’s biggest moments was Taylor Swift shocking fans with the announcement of an all-new album set to drop on Oct. 21. The reveal came while she was accepting the award for video of the year, which she won for “All Too Well (10-Minute Version).”

Taylor Swift at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards held at Prudential Center on August  28, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey.
Taylor Swift at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards held at Prudential Center on August 28, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey.

“You guys, I’m just so proud of what we made, and I now that every second of this moment that we wouldn’t have been able to make this short film if it weren’t for you, the fans,” she said, with her team and “All Too Well” star Dylan O’Brien standing behind her. “Because I wouldn’t be able to re-record my album [‘Red (Taylor’s Version),’ which included the winning song] if it weren’t for you. You emboldened me to do that. And I had sort of made up my mind that if you were going to be this generous and give us this, I thought it might be a fun moment to tell you that my brand-new album comes out Oct. 21. And I will tell you more at midnight.”

Fergie’s First-Class Return

As one out of three emcees of the night’s show, Harlow had a lot to show up for, but he definitely brought the heat when he surprised audiences with Fergie for the night’s opening performance. The singer, who hasn’t performed publicly in years, appeared on stage dressed in a glitzy outfit stamped with a “First Class” logo, and sang “Glamorous” alongside Harlow.

The rapper opened the performance of the “Glamorous”-sampling “First Class” from an airplane set, dressed as an airline steward, strutting past Avril Lavigne, Becky G, Lil Nas X, Jimmy Fallon and more before quickly losing the outfit for a glittery black ensemble and a red-carpet backdrop. He quickly joined Fergie on stage as the two rounded off singing “Glamorous.” When the track earned Harlow the song of the summer award, he thanked Fergie for clearing the sample and called her 2007 hit one of the “biggest songs, most important songs of my childhood — it influenced my whole style so ‘First Class’ is me!”

Nicki’s Monster Medley

The VMAs stage was all shades of pink this year for Video Vanguard Award recipient and VMAs co-host Nicki Minaj’s medley. The rapper gave a theatrical performance of “All Things Go,” “Roman’s Revenge,” and delivered a short a capella rendition of “Monster.” The performance concluded with some R-rated choreography for her latest single “Super Freaky Girl,” which the Barbs were front and center for, singing along — sometimes louder than Minaj herself.

Måneskin Singer’s Cheeky Chaps

It wasn’t the first time ass cheeks made an appearance on the VMAs stage (see Christina Aguilera’s 2002 performance of “Dirty”), but Måneskin singer David Damiano brought to mind historic moments from MTV of yore — recalling Bowie, Madonna and David Lee Roth — and possibly precipitated the cameras panning out momentarily. The Italian arena-rock revivalists always put on a show, and a leather-chaps number baring a butt mid-verse is most certainly that. Side-note: there was far too little Victoria De Angelis shown during the broadcast, so here she is below.

Ethan Torchio, Victoria De Angelis, Damiano David and Thomas Raggi of Måneskin at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards held at Prudential Center on August  28, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey.
Ethan Torchio, Victoria De Angelis, Damiano David and Thomas Raggi of Måneskin at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards held at Prudential Center on August 28, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey.

Bad Bunny Reigns Supreme

Bad Bunny made VMAs history on two counts this year. First, he delivered his best Latin-nominated hit song “Tití Me Preguntó” live from Yankee Stadium — marking the first remote broadcast by MTV from the iconic location — and it’s worth noting that the artist kissed one of his male dancers during the performance. And secondly, Bad Bunny is the first-ever non-English language artist to win a Moon Person for artist of the year. Moments after performing, the Puerto Rican superstar gave a brief speech thanking MTV and told his audience what the feat meant for “el orgullo Latino.” Bad Bunny was nominated alongside Drake, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, Jack Harlow, Lil Nas X and Lizzo.

WORST

Lip-Sync Snafus

Live awards shows are tricky and there’s no denying the amount of work put in to make them work — dump button abuse aside — but it seems at this year’s awards, the most conspicuous blunder was the obvious lip-syncing. Among the repeat offenders are artists like Blackpink, Anitta and Flo Milli — who devoted attention to their killer dance routines but left little room for the actual singing.

Johnny Depp Takes a Dive

Add this to the list of what we didn’t need to see at this year’s MTV VMAs. Depp made a questionable appearance as a Moon Person, popping in for a few random one-liners as the awards show returned from commercial breaks. Though Depp was not at the VMAs in his physical form, his face appeared digitally in the helmet of a Moon Person floating above the stage. “And you know what? I needed the work,” Depp said during the beginning of the show. “Hey VMAs, let’s get back to the fucking music, shall we?” he said in another appearance, though his f-bomb was bleeped out for the broadcast. And in a clip posted to his Instagram, Depp said, “I just want you guys to know that I’m available for birthdays, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings, wakes, any old thing you need.” This may be the actor’s attempt at easing back into the light-hearted persona he once presented to the world pre-Amber Heard trial, but the move certainly felt confused at best.

Flea’s F-Bomb Parade

On a night when the bleep button was working overtime, it didn’t help that some speeches were just plain unintelligible. To wit: Flea from the Chilli Peppers who, while accepting the award for best rock for their 2022 song “Black Summer,” rattled off so many names, themes and thoughts that he seemed to throw off the designated dump team. For the record, here are the parts we could make out:
“To my bandmates: I love you so much. To my wife, Melody, I love you. To my children, Sonny and Clara, I love you. To everyone of you out there watching on TV in here, I love you. I love cockroaches and dirt and trees and every human being and fish.  And deer and deer antlers and birds and sky and love. And everything that isn’t love is cowardice. I love you. Thank you so much for your support.”

John Frusciante, Flea, Tommy Chong, Cheech Marin, Anthony Kiedis and Chad Smith at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards held at Prudential Center on August  28, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey.
John Frusciante, Flea, Tommy Chong, Cheech Marin, Anthony Kiedis and Chad Smith at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards held at Prudential Center on August 28, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey.

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