It’s been 33 years since MTV aired the first ever Video Music Awards and the cable network still manages to keep people talking, even if that means failing to deliver a stellar production. The VMAs returned to New York City’s Radio City Music Hall Monday (Aug. 20) for a three-hour show that felt bloated with performances and presenters, with no host to keep things on a cohesive track.
From awkward jokes to surprise collaborations, socially conscious statements, and a shiftless attempt at honoring Aretha Franklin, the 2018 VMAs was an emotional roller coaster.
Check out some of the memorable moments below.
1) Tiffany Haddish Riles Up Fifth Harmony Fans
Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart exchanged a few jokes ahead of presenting the award for Best Hip-Hop Video. Things stared off innocently enough, until Haddish dissed Fifth Harmony prompting a few boos from the audience and a response from Minaj.
2) Jennifer Lopez Reunites With Ja Rule
Jennifer Lopez took the VMAs through 20 years-worth of hits in celebration of her Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award honor. Choreography has always been J. Lo’s sweet spot, but the Ja Rule reunion was icing on the cake.
3) Travis Scott Travels To ‘ASTROWORLD’
Travis Scott lit up the VMAs with “Sicko Mode” off his Astroworld album. Interestingly, the Houston native was the only VMAs performer to pay homage to Aretha Franklin.
4) Cari B Trolls The Audience
Cardi B hit the VMAs stage while holding what fans probably assumed was her newborn daughter, Kulture. The “bundle of joy” turned out to be a Moonman trophy wrapped in a blanket.
5) Ariana Grande Reminds Us That “God is A Woman”
Ariana Grande brought female empowerment to her performance of “God is A Woman.” The 25-year-old singer took the stage with an all-female dance troupe and closed her performance by bringing her mother, aunt and grandmother on stage.
6) Madonna Pretends To Honor Aretha Franklin
Madonna’s alleged tribute to Aretha Franklin was suspicious from the start. The Material girl rambling attempt at honoring the Queen of Soul quickly derailed into a self-serving monologue on her early career, and struggle to be taken seriously as a “skinny white girl.”
7) Lenny Kravitz Rocks A Gold Poncho
Lenny Kravitz lookin like somebody bougie Aunt #VMAs pic.twitter.com/1MejrIupuy
— Michelle Welch (@MichelleGWelch) August 21, 2018
Lenny Kravitz left the internet perplexed by the gold mesh poncho that he wore to the VMAs. Kravitz made a rare appearance at the awards show to introduce Post Malone’s performance, although some people were wondering why he didn’t pay homage to the Queen of Soul, instead of Madonna. (For the record, Kravitz regarded Franklin as an aunt, so he may not have been ready to give her a public tribute.)
8) Nicki Minaj Takes ‘Queen’ Downtown
Nick Minaj delivered the night’s only VMAs performance that didn’t go down inside Radio City Music Hall. The “Barbie Dreams” rapper took over Oculus in downtown Manhattan where she performed a medley of tracks from the Queen album. The performance was apparently prerecorded a day before the VMAs (Minaj announced a special free show for fans in New York City on Sun. 19).
9) “This Is America” Wins Big
Congrats to #ChildishGambino for winning Best Video w/ a Message for #ThisIsAmerica #VMAs pic.twitter.com/OzbRcU6KGa
— MTV (@MTV) August 21, 2018
Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” walked away with three VMAs, including the award for Best Video which was accepted by Sherrie Silver, the video’s 23-year-old choreographer. Silver, who was born Rwanda, gave a shout out to the motherland in her acceptance speech. “It means so much to me to see African dance on such a platform.”
10) Post Malone Performs With 21 Savage and Aerosmith
Here’s an unexpected mashup: Post Malone shared the stage with 21 Savage and Aerosmith, in the same night. The “Rockstar” rapper performed his hit single with 21 Savage before slipping on his guitar for Aerosmith’s 1973 hit “Dream On.”
READ MORE: 2018 MTV Video Music Awards Winners: Complete List