The VMAs Go Global

Shakira crowd surfing during her Video Vanguard medley.
Shakira crowd surfing during her Video Vanguard medley.
Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone

On Tuesday, September 12th, MTV hosted the 2023 Video Music Awards (VMAs) in New Jersey. With a strong focus on music’s global impact this year, artists from all over the world were nominated for awards and asked to perform. While the VMAs has always served as a way to highlight musical artists’ achievements throughout the year by gifting them a coveted “Moonman” trophy, newer awards such as “Best Afrobeats” and “Best K-Pop” serve as ways to diversify the music scene and unite genres and the general public.

With the theme of globalization, the prestigious Video Vanguard award was awarded to iconic Latina performer Shakira for her impactful music videos throughout the course of her career. Being the first South American artist to ever receive this award, the achievement served as a big deal to the entire Latin community and was a common topic that other Latina artists were asked about on the red carpet, such as award winning singer Anitta, who said, “I know for me and a lot of young Latinas, Shakira was a big role model for us.” Anitta later went on to win the Best Latin award for her song “Funk Rave.” This year was also regarded as “the first time ever in America that Latin music made a billion dollars.”

K-Pop group Stray Kids performed their song “S-Class” and won the award for Best K-Pop for that same song. Later in the night, fellow K-Pop group TXT premiered their long-awaited collaboration stage with Anitta, singing their new song “Back For More.” Before the show began, they won the Best Push Performance award and their stage showed why with their impeccable dance skills and stable vocals. They gave a high energy, Micheal Jackson inspired performance with Anitta. Korean girl group Blackpink won the award for Best Group and Jungkook of the world renowned K-Pop group BTS won Song of the Summer for his solo song “Seven” featuring American rapper Latto.

Winning the new category of Best Afrobeat, Nigerian singer and rapper Rema thanked all his fellow nominees and pioneers in African music, “Big shoutout to Fela who started Afrobeat in the first place. 2Baba, Don Jazzy, D’Banj, D Prince, Runtown, Timaya, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido. And I want to give a huge shout-out to the new generation of Afrobeats. We are here to take it to the rest of the world.”

This year proved to be a big year for collaboration and for culture representation with the combinations of Rema and Selena Gomez on “Calm Down,” TXT and Anitta on “Back For More,” Jungkook and Latto on “Seven,” and Karol G and Shakira for their song “TQG” which snagged the award for Best Collaboration.

The exemplary teamwork didn’t stop there, with famous rappers Cardi B and Megan The Stallion pairing up once again after their hit song “WAP” to give an electrifying performance of their new single “Bongos”. With voluminous hair and lots of hard hitting choreography, they set the crowd on fire. World renowned artist and producer Diddy accepted his Global Icon award by doing a medley of some of his biggest hits. After being introduced by his long-time friend and mentee, Mary J Blidge, he put on a performance with appearances from his son and fellow rapper King Combs, girlfriend Yung Miami, and singer Keysiha Cole.

Other standout performances of the night include Shakira’s medley as acceptance for her Video Vanguard award, singing her career-defining hits such as “Whenever, Wherever,” “She Wolf,” “Objection,” and of course “Hips Don’t Lie.” She had full audience attention and participation with not a single corner of the venue going quiet during her extremely lively performance where she did elaborate choreography, shredded a guitar, and even surfed the crowd from one stage to another.

Host of the VMAs for the second year and Best Hip-Hop winner showed off her versatility as an artist by giving a soothing and heartfelt vocal performance of her new song “Last Time I Saw You,” before transitioning into her trademark flow and rapping “Big Difference” from her upcoming album “Pink Friday 2,” and performing her hit songs “Red Ruby Da Sleeze” and “Itty Bitty Piggy.”

Pop singer Taylor Swift won a whopping nine awards at the VMAs. She took home six moonmen for her song “Anti-Hero” including Best Pop, Song of the Year, Best Visual Effects (by Parliament), Best Cinematography (by Rina Yang), Best Direction (by Swift herself), and the most momentous award, Video of the Year. Swift also won Show of the Summer for her Eras Tour, Album of the Year for “Midnights,” and Artist of the Year. In her various acceptance speeches she thanked her fans for giving her a platform and relating to her music and all of her creative collaborators. Swift happily said that she’s “so excited to get to direct and write more music videos.”

The 2023 VMAs proved to be a truly star-studded night, uniting people from all different walks of life to celebrate their shared love and passion for music. With these steps taken towards inclusivity and bonding within the music industry, things can only go up from here.

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