VMAs: 10 Memorable Moments From the MTV Awards Show

9:18 PM 8/20/2018

by Lauren Huff and Sydney Odman

A few of the highlights include a showstopping performance from Jennifer Lopez, a teaser for an upcoming reboot of 'The Hills' and a controversial Aretha Franklin tribute from Madonna.

Michael Loccisano/Getty

The 2018 Video Music Awards aired Monday night from New York's Radio City Music Hall, and featured several memorable, moving and entertaining moments.

Notable events at the show include a showstopping performance by Jennifer Lopez, who was also honored with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. She sang a compilation of her greatest hits, including “On the Floor”; “Love Don’t Cost a Thing”; "Booty"; “Dance Again”; and her most recent single featuring DJ Khaled, “Dinero.”

Castmembers of MTV's reality hit The Hills — including Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, Audrina Patridge, Jason Wahler, Frankie Delgado, Justin Bobby Brescia and Stephanie Pratt — appeared on the red carpet to tease big news, which later in the show was revealed to be a reboot of the program, titled The Hills: New Beginnings. A teaser aired during a commercial break.

Toward the end of the show, Madonna detailed what the late Aretha Franklin, who died Aug. 16, meant to her and her career. Critics and Twitter users slammed the singer for telling a self-indulgent story, rather than truly honoring Franklin's legacy, and Madonna's traditional African garb sparked accusations of cultural appropriation.

The show also featured performances by Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, Logic featuring Ryan Tedder, Travis Scott and Panic! At the Disco. 

Read on for a roundup of the show's most memorable moments.

  • Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart Get Political

    Night School co-stars Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart were on hand to present the first award of the night to Nicki Minaj (best hip-hop), but they also managed to crack a few edgy jokes in the process. "It's like if LeBron [James] somehow teamed up with LeBron," Hart joked of the show. "But don't worry, at this game y'all are allowed to kneel. There's no old white guy telling y'all what to do," Hart said, referencing the controversy over NFL players protesting during the National Anthem. President Trump has repeatedly criticized those who have demonstrated on the sidelines by taking a knee, and the NFL recently passed a rule that players would be fined if they were on the field and not standing during the National Anthem this season. Later Hart got in another shot at Trump, saying of the VMAs, "You never know what's going to happen at the VMAs. I mean beefs pop off, bad language, people sending out crazy tweets. It's basically like your typical day at the White House. In your face, Trump — suck it!" 

  • Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick on Why Their Movie "Will Get You Laid"

    Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick took to the stage to present best pop video, but not before plugging their upcoming film A Simple Favor. The Rockettes came out onstage to dance while the co-stars were talking about their Paul Feig-directed thriller, but they were "oblivious" to the dancing going on behind them. When the group stopped dancing Kendrick finished with "and that's why this movie will get you laid!"

  • Logic Makes Pro-Immigration Statement During "One Day" Performance

    Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for MTV

    In the performance of his newest single "One Day," rapper Logic took a stance against the Trump administration's family separation and detention policy. 

    The rapper took to the stage in a t-shirt that read "F*ck the wall," as he was joined on-stage by dozens of children, youths and families that were impacted by immigration issues. The on-stage guests all donned white t-shirts with the phrase "we are all human beings" written across the chest. 

    Similarly to the message of the song's music video, the performance depicted children being separated from their families at the border by means of a human-made wall. Near the end of the performance, the wall fell, as families embraced and reunited. 

    The track also features OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, who lent his vocals to the performance. 

  • Nicki Minaj Performs Medley of Songs From 'Queen'

    Kevin Mazur/Getty

    Although the awards marked Nicki Minaj's debut performance following the release of her new album Queen, the rapper didn't perform at the actual show. Instead, MTV televised Minaj taking the stage at the Oculus hub for the World Trade Center transit station — a first for a major awards show. Minaj, who grew up in Queens, opened her set with performances of "Majesty" and "Barbie Dreams," initially donning a giant pink cape and carrying a scepter to match the golden throne onstage. She also rapped an a capella snippet from "Ganja Burn" before finishing with "FEFE," a song she's featured on by rapper 6ix9ine.

  • Video Vanguard Recipient Jennifer Lopez Gives Showstopping Performance

    Following a grand performance, Jennifer Lopez made VMA history by becoming the first Latin star to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. 

    In her first VMAs performance since 2001, Lopez performed a medley of her greatest hits over the years, including "On the Floor," "Love Don't Cost a Thing," "Booty," "Dance Again" and her most recent single, "Dinero." 

    In a brief rendition of her hit single "Jenny From the Block," Lopez paid homage to her Bronx upbringing as she performed beside a mock New York subway. The audience also received an unexpected surprise when Lopez was joined by Ja Rule for a nostalgic mashup performance of their hits "I'm Real" and "Ain't That Funny." 

    Throughout the number, Lopez showed off her impressive dancing skills, while former professional baseball player and Lopez's boyfriend Alex Rodriguez danced along in the audience. 

  • 'The Hills' Gets a Reboot

    Castmembers of MTV's hit reality show The Hills — including Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, Audrina Patridge, Jason Wahler, Frankie Delgado, Justin Bobby Brescia and Stephanie Pratt — appeared on the red carpet pre-show to tease big news, which later in the awards was revealed to be a reboot of the show, which will be titled The Hills: New Beginnings. A teaser for the revival aired during a commercial break. Neither original star Lauren Conrad nor famous foe Kristin Cavallari, who replaced her for the last season and a half of The Hills, were in attendance at the VMAs.

  • Ariana Grande Takes a Feminist Perspective to 'The Last Supper' in 'God Is a Woman' Performance

    Kevin Mazur/WireImage

    Best Pop Video Award recipient Ariana Grande performed her latest single "God Is a Woman," off her recently released album Sweetener

    Grande was joined by a group of 50 diverse female backup dancers during the performance, as previously reported

    Similarly to the song's music video, the performance gave a feminist twist to a traditional Christian artwork. While the "God Is a Woman" music video recreated images from Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, the VMAs performance opened with Grande and the background dancers sitting along one side of a long table, reminiscent of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. 

    At the end of the performance, Grande was joined by her mother, aunt and grandmother onstage. 

  • Madonna Pays Tribute to the Late Aretha Franklin

    Prior to announcing the winner for Video of the Year, Madonna recalled a tale from her past to pay tribute to the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit following a battle with pancreatic cancer. 

    Speaking in front of a projected image of Franklin onstage, Madonna began to tell the story of her musical origins and the struggles she faced as an up and coming artist. 

    Madonna then recalled an audition in which she performed a rendition of Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." 

    Though an attempt to be a touching honor, audience members were not pleased with the singer's tribute to Franklin. Critics and Twitter users slammed the singer for telling a self-indulgent story, rather than truly honoring Franklin's legacy. 

    Madonna was also dressed in traditional African garb, which sparked accusations of cultural appropriation.

  • Camila Cabello Takes Home the Award for Video of the Year

    Camila Cabello accepted the award for Video of the Year from VMA legend Madonna, following a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Cabello took home the award for her hit single "Havana" featuring Young Thug. 

    In this year's category, Cabello was up against contenders like Drake ("God's Plan"), Childish Gambino ("This Is America") and Ariana Grande ("No Tears Left To Cry"). The video received a total of nearly 668 million views on Youtube. 

    In her acceptance speech, Cabello thanked her fans, in addition to dedicating the award to Madonna. 

  • Aerosmith Closes Out the Show

    Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for MTV

    Aerosmith closed out the show Monday night, with frontman Steven Tyler singing hits such as "Dream On" and "Toys in the Attic" after Post Malone's performance of "Rockstar." The rapper stayed on stage and played guitar with the iconic rock band.