Taylor Swift dominates MTV VMAs as show highlights music's global power

Taylor Swift took home the top prize at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards for her Anti-Hero music video on a night full of surprises.

K-pop, hip-hop and Latin jams awarded heavily during music video awards

A woman holds a silver trophy and rests her hand on her heart.
Taylor Swift accepts the award for video of the year for Anti-Hero during the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Charles Sykes/The Associated Press)

Taylor Swift took home the top prize at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards for her Anti-Hero music video on a night full of surprises.

"This is unbelievable. The fact that this is a fan-voted award means so much to me," Swift said in her acceptance speech. "I can't believe it was a year ago that I announced the Midnights album."

The show, held at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., was Swift's from nearly the beginning. The night's first presenters were none other than NSYNC, who reunited to hand the best pop video award to Swift.

In co-ordinating suits, Justin Timberlake, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick and JC Chasez shared the stage with Swift. Bass handed her a friendship bracelet, just as fans do at the superstar's shows. "You're pop personified," she told the group.

The night's top nominee later returned to the stage to pick up the song of the year trophy for Anti-Hero and also the best direction award.

Swift took home nine of the 11 awards she was up for, including artist of the year in a category made up entirely of women nominees for the first time in VMA history.

Her Karma (Remix) collaborator, Ice Spice, won best new artist. "Oh my God, this is so cool," she said. "I just want to thank my munchkins."

New music was abundant throughout the show. Host Nicki Minaj performed her latest single, the dreamy Last Time I Saw You before jumping into a brand-new tease of a fiery new trap cut from her highly-anticipated Pink Friday 2 album.

"I ain't nothing like you," she raps, "I'm on a whole other level."

K-pop bands Tomorrow X Together, Stray Kids perform

As much as Swift dominated, the VMAs centered on music's global power. K-pop boy band Tomorrow X Together and Brazilian superstar Anitta premiered their new collaboration, the glossy retro-pop of Back for More.

Another K-pop group, Stray Kids, brought S-Class to the stage, regional Mexicana star Peso Pluma performed Lady Gaga and reggaetonera Karol G delivered Oki Doki and Ta OK (remix).

A five-person boy band performs on a stage in front of a crowd.
Tomorrow X Together performs during the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday. (Charles Sykes/The Associated Press)

Comedian Tiffany Haddish presented the award for Best Afrobeats in the category's inaugural year, given to Rema and Selena Gomez for their massive hit Calm Down.

"Africa in the house!" Rema started his acceptance speech. "Shout out to Fela [Kuti] who started Afrobeats in the first place and I want to give a big shout out to the next generation of Afrobeats."

Gomez stood a few feet from the microphone but jumped in when Rema asked her to, telling the crowd: "I want to send all of my love to Nigeria, thank you."

Shakira and Diddy win career awards

Colombian icon Shakira received the Video Vanguard Award and performed an incredible bilingual medley of her decades of hits — She Wolf, her collaboration with Rauw Alejandro Te Felicito, the viral, record-breaking Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53 with Bizarrap among them — in a set introduced by her Hips Don't Lie collaborator Wyclef Jean.

"MTV, thank you for being such a big part of my career since I was only 18 years old," Shakira said, also thanking her parents and her children, who she brought to the show.

"This is for you my people, my Latin American people, inside and outside this country," she said, switching to Spanish. "Thank you for inspiring me and for injecting me with so much strength and so much desire to move forward, I love you so much."

WATCH | Shakira accepts MTV's Video Vanguard Award on Tuesday: 

She also took home the award for best collaboration for TQG, her song with Karol G. The duo gave their acceptance speech entirely in Spanish. "If collaborating with the legendary Shakira had been impressive, having an award with her is something from another planet," Karol G exclaimed.

Diddy received the Global Icon Award from Mary J. Blige and his daughter Chance Combs. He is the third recipient of the award, following the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2022 and the Foo Fighters in 2021.

The legendary rapper also performed at the VMAs for the first time since 2005. It was a collection of some of his biggest hits like Bad Boy for Life and Mo Money Mo Problems, joined by some of his collaborators: Yung Miami, Keyshia Cole, and his son, King Combs.

"Love wins, y'all, love wins," he started his speech. "I started out as a paper boy, I didn't know I was going to be here." He then led the audience with a chant of "bad boy."

"This is for 30 years," he continued. "I pray to God that you get to do what you love for 30 years."

Lil Wayne, Olivia Rodrigo take the stage

Lil Wayne opened the show with a performance of his new single Kat Food. Immediately afterward, Olivia Rodrigo brought her Vampire music video set to the stage, before launching into her cheeky pop-punk single Get Him Back!

Between the two tracks, snippets of her sold singles played aloud — at the same moment, she was rushed from the staged in a pre-planned "malfunction," further mirroring the Vampire video and symbolizing a move from her first record to her second.

A man smiles and holds his hand up in a peace sign.
Lil Wayne poses in the press room at the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday. The singer-rapper performed during the awards. (Evan Agostini/The Associated Press)

The live sets were many: Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion brought Bongos to life with big choreography; Demi Lovato played a rock 'n' roll medley of her biggest hits: Heart Attack, into Sorry Not Sorry, Cool for the Summer before the best K-pop award was given to Stray Kids.

Later, Anitta would win the Best Latin award for the second year in a row, delivering one of the more endearing acceptance speeches of the night — "I wanna thank myself," she laughed. "Because I work so hard!"

WATCH | Olivia Rodrigo performs a medley of new songs at the VMAs: 

French Montana used his position as best R&B presenter alongside Ashanti to draw attention to Morocco earthquake relief, spotlighting a relief fund that he said he would personally donate to. Montana grew up in Morocco.

Near the end of the show, the MTV Video Music Awards celebrated 50 years of hip-hop with a star-studded finale performance. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five started with The Message, which led to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick's The Show. Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, LL Cool J and DMC of Run-DMC closed it out — an energetic celebration of a multigenerational culture.