The MTV Video Music Awards show is known for drama – but aside from one seriously weird Aretha Franklin tribute from Madonna, this year’s ceremony was actually pretty tame. Even the feud between Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott didn’t result in any on-screen awkwardness.
If you didn’t catch the 2 ½-hour telecast Monday night, here are all the highlights you need to know.
1) That Madonna speech.
Madonna apparently missed the memo that when you honor someone … you have to talk about them more than you talk about yourself. That did not happen during the pop star’s tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, as she went on about her own career struggles and triumphs, while her few mentions of the Queen of Soul looked like an afterthought.
2) Plenty of footage of Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson.
Did you know that pop star Ariana Grande and “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson are in love? If this fact somehow escaped you this summer, you would have no doubts after their PDA at the VMAs. Still acting like two crazy kids who got engaged after dating for three weeks, they were all over each other on the red carpet and cuddled together in their seats. The camera crew noticed, and made sure to get lots of reaction shots.
“Pete Davidson, thanks for existing,” Grande said when she accepted the award for best pop video. “Love you.”
3) Cardi B’s return to the spotlight.
The breakout rap star – nominated for 10 VMAs, the most of any artist – returned to the spotlight for the first time since the birth of her daughter, Kulture. After opening the show with a bit where she carried a VMAs trophy in a baby blanket, she also accepted the prize for best new artist.
“I am so happy to receive this award!” Cardi B said. “A couple of months ago, a lot of people were saying, ‘You are gambling your career. You about to have a baby, what are you doing?’ You know, I had a baby, I carried a baby. And now I am still winning awards.”
4) Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish’s monologue got slightly political.
Though there weren’t any actual VMAs hosts, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish (co-stars of the new movie “Night School”) took on the monologue at the beginning of the show.
“We are live coast to coast right now. I’m looking at this like it’s game day, people. But do not worry, cause at this game, you guys are allowed to kneel,” Hart said. “You can do whatever the hell you want. There’s no old white man that can stop you.”
With the NFL zinger out of the way, they moved on to jokes about DJ Khaled, “Jersey Shore” and singers who have face tattoos. Then Haddish drew gasps when she took aim at Fifth Harmony, the pop group from which Camila Cabello had a very chilly departure.
“(Camila) is nominated for five VMAs tonight. I’m super proud of her,” Haddish said. “So those of you watching at home: Hi, Fifth Harmony!”
“Ohhhh,” said the audience. Cabello just shook her head.
“Tiffany went there. Oh God, that just happened. See, you never know what’s gonna happen at the VMAs,” Hart said. “I mean, beefs pop off, bad language, people run to the bathroom and send out crazy tweets – it’s basically like your typical day at the White House. In your face, (President Donald) Trump, suck it!”
5) Nicki Minaj did not address her tweetstorm.
The rapper was very upset that her new album, “Queen,” landed at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, behind Travis Scott’s “Astroworld.” In a long string of tweets, she blamed Spotify, Apple Music, the media, and Scott’s perceived unfair advantage because his girlfriend, Kylie Jenner, promoted the album to her millions of followers.
However, this did not come up at the VMAs. When Minaj won best hip-hop video, she thanked her fans and all the artists who made cameos on the album. She also defended Fifth Harmony and group member Normani Kordei from Haddish’s dig: “Don’t be coming for Fifth Harmony, because Normani is that b–.”
Later, Minaj performed a medley of songs (“Majesty,” “Barbie Dreams,” “Ganja Burn,” “FEFE”) amid lots of gold backup dancers.
6) Logic and Ryan Tedder.
In the most political moment of the night, Logic (performing “One Day,” accompanied by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder) had a U.S. Border Patrol image behind him on a giant screen. They brought kids onstage, whose T-shirts read, “We are all human beings.” Logic also wore a T-shirt extremely critical of Trump’s border-wall plan. At the end, everyone held up candles.
7) The Jennifer Lopez medley.
As the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, J-Lo earned a career retrospective, and she delivered with a killer medley – the first set of songs included “Waiting for Tonight,” “On the Floor,” “Dance Again,” “Ain’t Your Mama,” “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” and “Get Right.”
Then, as she shrugged on a massive fur coat, she segued into “All I Have,” followed by “I’m Real” and “Ain’t It Funny,” with a guest appearance by Ja Rule, of course.
She ended with “Dinero,” her collaboration with DJ Khaled and Cardi B. Khaled yelled his usual encouragement in the background: “J-Lo! Jenny from the Block! New York! VMAs! Put your hands up!”
Afterward, J-Lo gave an emotional speech about going from the Bronx to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars: “I grew up on MTV, and this is really a tremendous honor for me,” she said. “It has been an incredible journey of dreaming my wildest dreams and then kind of watching them come true.”
She teared up when she talked about her kids (“it wasn’t until I had two little angels come into my life that everything changed”) and her boyfriend, Alex Rodriguez: “You are like my twin soul. We are like mirror images of each other. My life is sweeter and better with you in it.”
8) Travis Scott.
The rapper performed “Stargazing,” “Stop Trying to Be God” and “Sicko Mode,” with Kylie Jenner politely bopping along in the audience. At the end, he gave a shout-out: “Rest in peace, Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin!”
And in case anyone didn’t know, he added, “‘Astroworld’ No. 1 right now!”
9) Camila Cabello won the night’s most coveted prize.
No one really cares about the VMA categories – except for video of the year. In a surprise victory, it went to Cabello for her ultra-catchy “Havana,” as she won over Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Drake, Childish Gambino and more. (Unlike social media, Cabello was thrilled to accept her award from Madonna.)
“I am fully aware that you never know when you’re gonna get a moment like this again. You never know when it’s gonna be your last time on this stage,” Cabello said, as she addressed her fans: “You guys have been here for me since the beginning, and I’m gonna be here for you till the very end. I love you so much.”
10) Post Malone and Aerosmith.
To close the show, they collaborated for “Dream On” and “Toys in the Attic.” No, we don’t really get it, either.