The 2018 MTV Video Music Awards—held Aug. 20 at New York's Radio City Music Hall—didn’t have a host or any massively controversial moments, but the show had some of the best performances at the VMAs in recent years. Performers at the show included Aerosmith, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, Logic with OneRepublic leader Ryan Tedder, Shawn Mendes, Maluma, Travis Scott, Post Malone with 21 Savage, Panic! At the Disco and Jennifer Lopez, the recipient of this year's Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. A welcome addition to the show was the first PUSH Artist stage to showcase emerging artists at the VMAs. Bazzi, Hayley Kiyoko, Jessie Reyez, Juice WRLD and PRETTYMUCH were the artists to get this spotlight on the PUSH Artist stage.
Camila Cabello won two of the top prizes: Video of the Year (for "Havana" with Young Thug) and Artist of the Year. Cardi B, who had the most nominations (12) going into the show, ended up winning the most (three): Best New Artist, Best Collaboration (for "Dinero" with Lopez and DJ Khaled); and Song of the Summer (for "I Like It," her collaboration with J Balvin and Bad Bunny). Childish Gambino's "This Is America" also won three VMAs: Best Video With a Message, Best Direction and Best Choreography.
The show's presenters included Backstreet Boys (who also performed at the VMA pre-show), Millie Bobby Brown, DJ Khaled, Jimmy Fallon, G-Eazy, Gucci Mane, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Keegan-Michael Key, Kyle, Karlie Kloss, Lenny Kravitz, Blake Lively, Madonna, Shay Mitchell, Olivia Munn, Rita Ora, Liam Payne, Bebe Rexha, Shanina Shaik, Amandla Stenberg and Teyana Taylor.
Here's a look at the five best moments of the 2018 MTV VMAs:
1. Jennifer Lopez's performance and speech for the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award
Without question, the best performance of the night was Lopez's show-stopping, high-energy, over-the-top dance extravaganza that included eye-popping lighting, fireworks, and the stage transformed into a winter wonderland and then a New York City No. 6 subway, in a nod to Lopez's debut album On the 6. She did a medley of her hits, including "Waiting for Tonight," "On the Floor" "Ain't Your Mama," "Love Don't Cost a Thing" and "Get Right." "All I Have," "Jenny From the Block," and was joined on stage for a shout-out by DJ Khaled and later by Ja Rule for "I'm Real" and "Aint It Funny." She concluded her powerhouse performance with "Dinero" and "El Anillo." Lopez proved that no matter what people think of her as a singer, she definitely knows how to entertain.
During her emotional acceptance speech for the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, Lopez gave expected thank-yous to family members, friends and business associates, but she also opened up about taking risks and how having her twins Max and Emme changed her life. "Music, acting, performing, this career has always been kind of an obsession for me," Lopez said. "But it wasn't until I had two little angels come into my life that everything changed. I knew I had to be better. I knew I had to go higher. I knew I had to be stronger than I had been before. It was through that unconditional love that my career, my whole life became clearer in every way. And now today, I stand here stronger and better than ever."
2. Madonna's tribute to Aretha Franklin
Before presenting the award for Video of the Year, Madonna took to the stage to give a deeply personal tribute to Aretha Franklin, who died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 16. Madonna and Franklin both grew up in the Detroit area, and Madonna talked about how Franklin affected her life: "I left Detroit when I was 18, $35 in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer. After years of struggling and being broke, I decided to go to audition for musical theater."
An audition for a French singer could have gone badly because Madonna forgot to bring sheet music. "Fortunately, one of my favorite albums was Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin," Madonna said, and because Franklin's song "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" transcended language barriers, Madonna performed the song at the audition and was able to get the job in Paris, but ultimately decided to move back to America when she realized that she wanted to write and perform her own songs, not sing for anyone else. "The rest is history," Madonna said. "None of this could have happened without our lady of soul. She led me to where I am today and I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight ... Long live the queen."
3. Nicki Minaj's Egyptian-themed performance at the Oculus
Nicki Minaj can now lay claim to being the first artist to do a VMAs performance at the Oculus train station/shopping center near New York City's World Trade Center. Her elaborate, Egyptian-themed performance included Minaj dressed in a Cleopatra-inspired outfit and doing a passionate medley of "Majesty," "Barbie Dreams," "Ganja Burns" and "fefe." From start to finish, Minaj had the audience enthralled with her vocal delivery and her charismatic stage presence, making it one of the most memorable highlights of the show.
4. Aerosmith's collaboration with Post Malone
In 1986, Aerosmith made rock/rap crossover history by teaming up with Run-DMC to record a remake of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." At 2018, MTV VMAs, Aerosmith continued that rock/rap legacy by performing Aerosmith's "Dream On" and "Toys in the Attic" with a guitar-playing Post Malone. Although the performance was sometimes off-key, it was loud and raucous—Aerosmith's Joe Perry at one point plunged one of his guitars in an amp—which is what the attitude of rock and roll is supposed to be. With so many MTV VMA performers either relying too much on pre-recorded vocals, not playing their own instruments or having an army of backup dancers or hired extras, the Aerosmith/Post Malone matchup was a much-needed reminder that hard rock deserves a prominent place at the MTV VMAs too.
5. Cardi B's comic relief
While most of the VMA performers and winners' speeches were serious and played it safe, Cardi B's sassy sense of humor always delivered some comic relief to the ceremony. In her first award-show appearance since giving birth to her daughter Kulture on July 10, Cardi B opened the MTV VMAs by appearing on stage holding something cradled in her arms and wrapped in a blanket. "I got a little surprise for you," she teased. As she dropped the blanket before introducing Mendes' performance, she revealed that instead of a baby, it was an MTV VMA trophy that she was carrying. Before the reveal, she joked, "It's a full house. Everybody's here. No wonder my Internet is going slow. Y'all taking all the service!" Cardi B also wasn't afraid to put her naysayers on blast when she won the award for Best New Artist: "A couple of months ago a lot of people were saying you're gambling your career, you're having a baby, what are you doing ... I carried a baby, and I'm still winning awards! I want to thank all of my friends, my family that supported me."