Photo: Christopher Polk // Getty Images
  /  08.30.2015

Los Angeles, CA — Sunday night’s (August 23) MTV Video Music Awards included plenty of surprises, some of them planned, but of course the best ones were off-the-cuff. From Nicki Minaj’s opening performance with Taylor Swift to her offering host Miley Cyrus a call-to-action after the latter’s recent critiques in the New York Times. Let’s start from the beginning shall we?

Just after the Queens rapper seemed to make amends with Swift onstage, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed their latest track “Downtown” with a little help from some hip-hop pioneers —Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee and Melle Mel, all dressed in black leather. It was great to see legends on today’s MTV although their appearance drew some mixed reviews on social media. Still, there’s something to be said about the OGs holding it down with a pop act at the VMAs.

Iggy Azalea made a brief appearance during Demi Lovato’s performance of “Cool For the Summer.” And we mean, brief. The “Trouble” creator was in and out, with a cameo performance that didn’t seem to stand out amongst viewers or stick in their minds.

The performances came quickly all night. Next up was The Weeknd, whose vocals were thin onstage, but the energy of his “Can’t Feel My Face” was enough to get Kanye West out of his seat and moving. Pyrotechnics and slippery dance moves also seemed to save the Toronto crooner from an otherwise dreadful live performance.

It wasn’t long after the flames went out from The Weeknd’s pyro, that Nicki Minaj brought her own fire to the VMA stage. After winning the award for Best Hip Hop Video with “Anaconda,” the Queens’ native thanked her fans and her pastor. Within 30 seconds, she turned in Cyrus’ direction and spouted, “And now back to this b—- that had a lot to say about me in the press the other day. Miley, what’s good?”

The host was clearly caught off guard, she managed to force out the following line before quickly changing the subject: “Hey. We’re all in this industry. We all know how they manipulate s— [in the media]. Nicki, congratulations.”

Yeah, aight.

Justin Bieber made his return to the spotlight a quiet one with his two latest — “Where Are Ü Now” and “What Do You Mean?” His dance steps were smooth enough, although his vocals didn’t seem to shine as brightly as they once did. Bieber could be a little rusty or maybe he was just that moved by the reception of his doting fans. Either way, close to the end of his two song set, the lights went out and the singer levitated under one neon beam. As he was lowered to the ground, he sobbed into his hands.

Another emotional moment — sans the tears — was Big Sean’s acceptance of his first VMA for “One Man Can Change The World.” He thanked Kanye for putting him on a platform that would allow him to help others, but beyond Yeezy, Sean’s grandmother was the star of his speech. “She was one of the first black captains in World War II, first black female police officer in Detroit, always made sure dinner was on the table…”

Yeezy’s acceptance speech for his Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award was full of emotion as well — although it all seemed to stem from his last tumultuous run-in at the VMAs six years ago. That was the year of his infamous “I’ma let you finish…” speech opposite Taylor Swift.

This year, the “Bad Blood” singer presented West with the award, a shrewd move by the MTV production team, which Ye was sure to reference during his speech. He also referenced his behavior in 2009 and how it has haunted his every move over the last six years, even while out with his daughter. According to the G.O.O.D. Music founder, it’s taken people actually meeting him, for them to let their guard down. “And people say, ‘Oh. You aren’t so bad.’”

The audience was losing focus as Ye stammered on, pushing out ‘bro’s’ once every few lines and referring to himself as a part of the ‘millennial’ generation. He claimed martyrdom for artists. He spoke on the importance of protecting artistry by any means, “It’s about ideas, bro.” The “All Day” creator was seemingly nervous, bubbling with some unknown energy from beginning to end, before finally admitting to having smoked some weed beforehand to “take the edge off” and announcing his plans to run for president in 2020.

After two years without a host in place, the MTV VMAs were full of moments tonight — a mishmash of energies and unexpected results.

Check out the full list of Moonmen winners below.

Best Male Video

Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”

Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

The Weeknd – “Earned It”

Nick Jonas – “Chains”

Best Hip-Hop Video

Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”

Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”

Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth – “See You Again”

Big Sean ft. E-40 – “IDFWU”

Best Female Video

Beyoncé – “7/11”

Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”

Sia – “Elastic Heart”

Ellie Goulding – “Love Me Like You Do”

Video With a Social Message:

Jennifer Hudson – “I Still Love You”

Colbie Caillat – “Try”

Big Sean ft. Kanye West and John Legend – “One Man Can Change the World”

Rihanna – “American Oxygen”

Wale – “The White Shoes”

Artist to Watch:

Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”

Vance Joy – “Riptide”

George Ezra – “Budapest”

James Bay – “Hold Back The River”

FKA Twigs – “Pendulum”

Video of the Year

Beyoncé – “7/11”

Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood”

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”

Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

Pop Video

Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

Beyoncé – “7/11”

Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”

Maroon 5 – “Sugar”

Rock Video

Fall Out Boy – “Uma Thurman”

Hozier – “Take Me to Church”

Florence + the Machine – “Ship to Wreck”

Walk the Moon – “Shut Up and Dance”

Arctic Monkeys – “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”

Song Of The Summer

5 Seconds of Summer – “She’s Kinda Hot”

Fifth Harmony – “Worth It”

Major Lazer – “Lean On”

OMI – “Cheerleader”

Taylor Swift – “Bad Blood”

David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj – “Hey Mama”

Fetty Wap – “My Way”

Jack U ft. Justin Bieber – “Where Are U Now”

Silento – “Watch Me”

Demi Lovato – “Cool For the Summer”

The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”

Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky – “Good For You”

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