Screams for Taylor Swift, Confusion Over Johnny Depp, and More You Didn’t See on TV During the VMAs

·5-min read

There was plenty of action on, around and above the MTV VMA stages at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Sunday night: Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance and not only took home the prize for Video of the Year (for “All Too Well”), she also announced her forthcoming new album, “Midnights”; Nicki Minaj took home the Video Vanguard award and delivered a performance that ranged from pink pop to torture-porn; and Latin had a bigger look than ever before, with eye-popping performances from Bad Bunny, J Balvin and Anitta, the latter of whom became the first Brazilian artist to win Best Latin Artist for her song “Envolver.”

Yet there was plenty of action off-camera as well. On the red carpet in the hours before the show, Jack Harlow arrived early, clad in a leather-ish dark grey suit (which would have been suffocatingly hot if the Tri-State area was in one of its crushing bouts of summer humidity; lucky for him it was a cool evening). Big cheers also erupted for BlackPink, who stopped for a few quick photos.

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Lil Nas X slayed the carpet in characteristic fashion, going shirtless with a feather head dress and matching hoop skirt. Rapper Yung Gravy hit the carpet with his date, Sheri Easterling, mother of Tik Tokker Addison Rae.

Blackbear and Kane Brown, who collaborated on the song, “Memory,” shared a quick hug and photo on the carpet before separating for interviews. Blackbear, who released his latest album, “In Loving Memory,” on Friday, was in a celebratory mood, showing off iced bling on his nails.

A ripple of excitement passed through the entire carpet area when Taylor Swift, whose appearance had not even been rumored, arrived. All knew she wasn’t just there to accept an award, and the singer did not disappoint, announcing a new album during one of her acceptance speeches later in the evening.

MTV Star Justina Valentine of Wild N’ Out vamped it up on the carpet in a colorful bodysuit, joking “If I have to pee, I’m in trouble!”

Australian singer Betty Who spilled tea on serenading Franke and Hale Grande at their recent wedding, singing Donna Lewis’ ‘90s hit “I Love You Always Forever.” “They got married earlier this summer and had  a party for their New York friends celebrating, so Frankie asked me to come and surprise Hale.”

Nominee Mae Muller showed support on the carpet for “American Psycho” collaborator Marshmello ahead of his performance with Khalid: “He’s such an incredible artist and so talented, and we got to perform at Isle of MTV in Malta, and it was fun. So I’m looking forward to seeing him [tonight].” Muller, who is putting the finishing touches on her album, also praised Nicki Minaj as a “powerhouse, and it’s really inspiring for girls to look up to people like her.”

Maneskin walked the carpet moments after winning “Best Alternative Award.” Singer Damiano David” said the band was surprised. “We didn’t expect to win because we were nominated with so many great artists with longer careers than ours, so it’s a huge surprise.” Bassist Victoria de Angelis, who also alarmed MTV’s production team with pasties on her nipples, spoke of inspiring female musicians. “There is still much work to do for equal representation in the music industry, so if I could be a part of it and be an example, it’s amazing.”

Snoop Dogg brought his son, Cordell, to the show. While Snoop posed for pictures with presenter Bebe Rexha and did interviews, Variety asked Cordell what he thought of Snoop on “America’s Song Contest”: “I didn’t even watch it, to be honest with you,” he admitted. Though he missed his dad’s jokes on the show, Cordell did say when it comes to work, father knows best: “He’s very business-minded. How to invest, how to move forward.” His hot tip: FazeClan just went public.

Inside the arena, attendees were given special glowing LED bracelets, which lit up strategically in multiple colors during performances.

Taylor Swift was in characteristic awards-show form, dancing during Lizzo’s performance and rapping along with Minaj’s “Superbass.”

Speaking of Nicki Minaj, the crowd roared when she dropped the verse to “Monster” a capella. She had a chance to catch her breath, fix her hair and get her phone with speech notes delivered on stage before receiving the Video Vanguard Award from four specially chosen Barbz. Fans chanted her name so loud the arena was shaking, especially after the rapper invoked Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson in a plea for mental health awareness.

Two of the show’s major performances were non-traditional — Eminem and Snoop Dogg’s semi-metaverse duet on their new song “From the D 2 The LBC,” and Bad Bunny’s being beamed in from across the river in Yankee Stadium — the audience was instructed to keep enthusiasm levels high, especially when Em and Snoop took the stage after the virtual portion of their song.

A loud murmur was heard when Bad Bunny channeled the VMAs’ Britney Spears-Madonna moment by kissing one of his male dancers full on the mouth.

A combination of confusion and cheers greeted another oddly virtual appearance, Johnny Depp’s controversial cameos with his face projected onto the VMAs’ signature moon person floating above the arena, as he made cryptic comments. While some audience members cheered — his rumored appearance was hardly a secret — the sound of confused murmurs was louder. “Was that Johnny Depp?” one audience member was heard saying about a minute after the first sequence was over.

The crowd’s response was more respectful when, amid the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ goofy acceptance of the Global Icon Award, drummer Chad Smith’s paid tribute to his friend, late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, saying “Fly on, brother.”

However, the audience erupted into more VMA-style screams when Harry Styles accepted his VMA for “Album of the Year” via pre-taped video (he was playing across the river at Madison Square Garden), and Dove Cameron dedicated her Best New Artist award to “all the queer kids out there.”

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