Brutally honest reviews of every VMAs 2023 performance, including Shakira, Nicki Minaj and Demi Lovato

VMAs 2023 The MTV VMAs 2023have never shied away from drama, and the 2023 show was set up for a kinetic evening with a performance lineup that included a sassy new collaboration between Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, pop-rock fireworks from Olivia Rodrigo, Demi Lovato, and Fall Out Boy, and the muscular musings of Mneskin.

VMAs 2023, which were broadcast live from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on September 12, also persuaded a few MTV veterans to take the stage one more. Sean “Diddy” Combs, winner of the Global Icon Award, who hadn’t performed on the program since 2005, and Shakira, MTV Video Vanguard Award winner, who performed at the VMAs 2023 for the first time since 2006.

The closing performance by Doug E. Fresh, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, LL Cool J, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Lil Wayne, and VMAs 2023 host Nicki Minaj gave the 50th anniversary of hip-hop a prominent place on the performance schedule.

Here is a ranking of all the performances.

1. Shakira

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The attractive Colombian firebrand, who was performing live at the VMAs 2023 for the first time since 2006, seemed roughly 20 years younger than her actual age of 46 as she bounced through a 10-minute medley of classics in both Spanish and English. The winner of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for this year threw her hair back and howled through “She Wolf” and playfully punched the camera as she entered a drum circle for “Objection,” which featured some seductive caressing of her mic stand and Shakira strapping on an electric guitar to rip out some rock chords.

Even though it was hard to tell how much of her vocals were live, the attention was typically on her hips, which weren’t lying when they did all the work in her gold-fringed skirt during “Whenever, Wherever.” Hips Don’t Lie was followed by “BZRP Music Sessions, Vol. 53,” a vicious diss of her ex-boyfriend Gerard Pique, which was accompanied by powerful pounding drums. Shakira’s sparkling return was capped off by this song. Shakira performed a crowdsurfing maneuver during the song before getting on a hydraulic lift to be elevated above the cheering audience.

2. Demi Lovato

Lovato and her all-female band used a lot of rock tropes to emphasize the potency of her new album, “Revamped,” which was released on Friday and features rock versions of many of her hits. Cardiovascular failure” was a furor of white lights and pyro deserving of any field show, while “Sorry Not Sorry” found Lovato’s guitarist at her feet to tear out a performance. However, the bi-curious “Cool for the Summer,” her third album, benefited the most from this muscular rework. Before the song exploded into a fireball of vocals, Lovato, her long black hair slicked back to match her form-fitting dress, slunk through the first verse. Lovato’s happiness toward the finish of the melody – a radiating grin and kisses blown toward the group – was a charming sight.

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3. Olivia Rodrigo

The current pop-rock It-girl delivered a double-shot of songs from her new “Guts” album to her audience. In a blood red bikini top and cheerleader skirt with matching lipstick, Rodrigo performed “Vampire” while seated among fake flora, rocks, and dry ice that flapped like a stream. Her voice was strong and irritated throughout. Her transition to “Get Him Back!,” one of the funnier songs on “Guts,” was jarring, but she soon found her groove as a group of girls in matching (pink) attire walked the stage beside her as she pointedly shouted the words into the camera.

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4. Nicki Minaj

Since her initial welcome, the evening’s emcee had not been seen; however, she was back to give a sneak peek of “Pink Friday 2,” which would be released on November 17. The delicate, refined pop song “Last Time I Saw You” gains intensity as it progresses from its muted opening. To underscore this, Nicki Minaj pulled back her floor-length billowing black cape, exposing a fishnet-stockinged thigh. As the song transitioned back to sweetness, pink illumination organically tinted the background.

Minaj made use of her platform to release a brand-new song. “It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t give you a ‘Pink Friday 2’ exclusive,” she stated. Now dressed in pure black, Minaj read a few lines from the new rap song, saying, “You said you look up to her, but really, you look up to me!” while jabbing her finger into the air. Therefore, Minaj’s edges have not been softened.

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5. Tomorrow X Together and Anitta

The K-pop band debuted their glossy pop single, “Back for More,” whose catchy chorus immediately caught listeners’ attention. Anitta appeared in the video wearing thigh-high boots to bring a touch of sexuality to the song while the splashing water in the background contributed to its allure. For a lively, enjoyable performance, a group of additional quick feet replicated Tomorrow X Together’s amazing dancing routines.

6. Kelsea Ballerini

The country singer’s ballad “Penthouse (Healed Version)” served as her VMAs 2023 debut performance. The introspective singer added a lot of emotion to the lovelorn song while it was being supported by piano and a string section. When Ballerini took a pause that felt a beat too long, the cheers from the audience were audible thanks to the background’s quietness, but the moment was also used for some wardrobe magic as her long white dress changed into a short black one out of a cloud of light.

7. Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

Before suffering an injury, the recipient of the Global Icon Award stated in his acceptance speech that his dream was to play football for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He appeared on stage for a medley that brought back memories of his over two-decade reign in hip-hop. Diddy, dressed in a red costume, and dancers launched into “I’ll Be Missing You,” his heartfelt ode to Notorious B.I.G., with the undertone of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”

He performed a circle dance for “It’s All About the Benjamins,” sang “Bad Boy For Life” with his son Christian (twin daughters Jessie and D’Lila joined as dancers), and stumbled across the platform to meet Keyshia Cole so they could trade lines on their 2006 smash “Last Night.”

8. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion

Cardi B, who isn’t one to back down from a spectacular entrance, was lowered on a huge crystal ball to land among shirtless guys playing congas (sure, the song is called “Bongos,” but why pick?). Cardi ran down a set of marble stairs in the tropical backdrop that acted as a playground while she danced to the sensual new song. Megan Thee Stallion, her companion in rhyme, handled her quick-fire verses from a catwalk, which she patrolled while swaying her dancers until the two rap heavyweights met in the middle. As they made their way back to the main stage to dance together in what was effectively a part strip show, half awards presentation performance, they strolled arm in arm, the driving beat a marching rhythm.

9. Måneskin 

The Italian rock quartet began their performance of their new hit “Honey (Are You Coming?)” with singer Damiano, who consistently brings the energy. David makes his way to the stage while carrying a handheld camera from the audience. The ever-attractive bassist Victoria De Angelis and guitarist Thomas Raggi played off of each other as the naked David roamed the stage, shorn and blonde (to match the recently platinum hair of drummer Ethan Torchio). Even though “Honey” isn’t their best song, Mneskin always makes an awards event more entertaining VMAs 2023.

10. Karol G

The woman behind the first No. 1 Spanish record by a female artist made her VMAs 2023 debut on one of the coolest stages of the program, performing on a neon-lit production surrounded by dancers wearing pink and purple plaid skirts. While periodically being lost within her enormous dance team, Karol G writhed her way through “Oki Doki” and “Tá OK (Remix)” with a mix of sensuality and confidence, VMAs 2023 eventually finding herself in the heart of the production by the end of her performance.

11. Doja Cat

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With her hair in a bun, glasses, and a tailored gray skirt suit, the rapper-singer went for a sultry librarian image for her summer single “Attention.” But as soon as the finger-snapping “Paint the Town Red” began, the jacket was hurled, and her dancers surrounded her in full zombie mode so she could let loose with her flowing blonde hair and appear to be in a wind tunnel for “Demons.” Papers flew all over the stage as Doja unzipped her white shirt to reveal a bright red bra that matched her ankle boots. The scene reminded one of the chaos of an urban environment.

12. Anitta

One of the three songs from the Brazilian beauty’s new EP, “Funk Generation: A Favela Love Story,” which honors her own country, was made available. Because she used background tracks so frequently, it didn’t seem like Anitta ever sang live. Even though the mic wasn’t even close to her mouth, the words that were heard on stage were somewhat obvious. But what did it matter? After all, most people were probably happy to watch her silky dancing skills while the tune pulsed and breathed.

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13. Stray Kids

The K-pop phenomenon debuted their expertly timed dancing skills on the track “S-Class,” a fusion of rock, hip-hop, and an upbeat chorus. The octet commandeered the stage with the help of additional dancers as they blasted through the brazen song from their third album, “5-Star,” with each member’s personalities and unique appearances highlighted throughout.

14. Peso Pluma

The suave Mexican hotshot walked around a group of musicians while bobbing his head to “Lady Gaga” among columns of white light. Pluma was intense even with his ebony sunglasses on, shooting between the rays. The song, a success from his third album, “Genesis,” was colored by lively horns and an upright bass.

15. Lil Wayne

Weezy, who was hailed as “the best rapper alive,” opened the night with a hyped-up rendition of “Uproar” and “Kat Food.” For the first minute of his performance, Lil Wayne had a sweatshirt covering his face. A group of scantily dressed female dancers supported him as he bounced to a side stage while peers like Fat Joe watched. Lil Wayne’s appearance seemed to be cut short to transition to the second section of the segment with Olivia Rodrigo because of the clumsy, chaotic introduction.

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16. Metro Boomin’, Future, Swae Lee, NAV and A Boogie Wit da Hoodie

VMAs 2023 Future was lowered from a floating altar to begin a hip-hop conglomerate performance while Metro Boomin’ handled the majority of “Superhero (Heroes & Villains).” Swae Lee, NAV, and A Boogie Wit da Hoodie appeared on the lava-lit stage to perform “Calling” as the quartet walked around in front of a huge speaker, the song’s carefree attitude keeping the crowd’s hands bouncing in slow motion.

17. 50th anniversary of hip-hop

This year VMAs 2023 has seen many spotlights on the five-decade anniversary of one of the most fascinatingly developing genres, including an all-star party at the Grammy Awards. Unfortunately, the VMAs 2023 homage appeared rushed and haphazardly put together despite the participation of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Doug E. Fresh, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, LL Cool J, and Run-DMC’s Darryl “DMC” Simmons VMAs 2023.

There is much to be liked about VMAs 2023 LL’s muscular arms sticking out of his glittery suit as he smashed through “Mama Said Knock You Out,” his turntable abilities in “The Message,” and the beat-boxing in “The Show.”

It was brought home by the contemporary additions of Minaj (“Red Ruby Da Sleeze”) and Lil Wayne (“Get It Right”) that it is difficult to top the classics VMAs 2023. Even LL’s mic switches with DMC on “Rock Box” and “Walk This Way,” which were executed a nanosecond off the beat, were more of a trudge than an upbeat ending VMAs 2023.

18. Fall Out Boy

The emo rockers performed their modernized rendition of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which they cleverly accompanied by a row of flames that burst into pyrotechnic plumes. Although the band’s version of the song VMAs 2023, which they released in June, is commendable for its attention to current events VMAs 2023, touching on everything from the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series to “YouTube killed MTV,” the singer Patrick Stump’s disorganized timeline makes it toothless in comparison to Billy Joel’s 1989 original VMAs 2023.

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