NEWARK, N.J. — Rapper Jack Harlow took flight to open the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, while Johnny Depp made a surprise float above the audience as the Moon Man.
Harlow kicked off his performance inside a mock airplane walking down aisle while performing his hit song “First Class," which was sampled by Fergie's “Glamorous.” The rapper joined Fergie onstage - wearing a sparkling silver dress with the red words “First Class” - who sang her 2006 jam.
“Thank you to Fergie for coming out with me tonight and clearing this song,” said Harlow after “First Class” won the award for song of the summer later in the show. “The beauty of this song is that people don't realize it's so hip-hop because of the sampling. To bring Fergie into the mix in this way means the world to me. It's truly full circle. ‘Glamorous’ was one of the most important songs of my childhood.”
During the show, Depp made a surprise appearance nearly three months after the verdict in his defamation trial with his former wife Amber Heard. The 59-year-old actor floated from the ceiling while wearing the iconic astronaut outfit with his face digitally inserted into custom's helmet.
“And you know what? I needed the work,” Depp told the audience at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Lizzo had Taylor Swift dancing out of her seat while she performed her new single “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)."
Harlow's name was called to come right back onstage to collect the show's first award for his guest appearance on Lil Nas X's song “Industry Baby," which won for best collaboration. Both Harlow and Lil Nas X are tied for leading nominees with seven apiece.
“This one is for the champions,” said Lil Nas X before Harlow thanked him for the collaboration on the chart-topping single. The song propelled their nominations, landing them in competition for artist of the year along with Drake, Bad Bunny, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles and Lizzo.
Kendrick Lamar entered the show with seven nominations with Harry Styles and Doja Cat closely coming behind with six nods apiece. Sheeran, Billie Eilish, Drake, Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd each have five.
Swift accepted the award for best long form video for her “All Too Well: The Short Film.” The singer spoke about creating her first short film, giving thanks to several including actors Sadie Sink and Dylan O'Brien who starred in the project.
“We put our entire hearts into this," Swift said.
Styles won album of the year for “Harry's House.” He was unable to attend the awards due to his show at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Harlow is pulling double duty, joining LL Cool J and Nicki Minaj as the show’s emcees.
Minaj performed a medley of her career's biggest hits from “Roman's Revenge,” “Chun-Li,” “Moment 4 Life,” “Beez in the Trap,” “Anaconda” and “Super Bass.” After her set, the rapper accepted the show's Video Vanguard award, which MTV has said she’s receiving for her artistry, barrier-breaking hip-hop and status as a global superstar. The honor is named after Michael Jackson.
During her acceptance speech, Minaj paid tribute to other music icons such as Jackson, Whitney Houston, Lil Wayne and Kanye West. She spoke about the importance of mental health.
“I wish people took mental health seriously, even when you think they have the perfect lives," said Minaj, who later won best hip-hop for her song “Do We Have a Problem?” featuring Lil Baby.
Eminem and Snoop Dogg brought the metaverse to the VMAs as the duo performed “From the D 2 The LBC,” which was featured on Eminem's greatest hits album “Curtain Call 2.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage as the recipients of the Global Icon award after being introduced by Cheech & Chong as their “favorite band of all time.” The band - which consists of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith and John Frusciante - performed several songs including their hit “Can't Stop” from the the group's 2002 album “By the Way” and “Black Summer” from this year's “Unlimited Love” album.
Flea made a speech about his love for human beings along with cockroaches, trees and dirt. Smith, the band's drummer, dedicated the award to Taylor Hawkins, the late Foo Fighters drummer who died early this year.
“I dedicate this to Taylor and his family,” he said. “I love them and I miss him every day.”
Madonna, who is the most awarded artist in MTV history with 20 wins, becomes the only artist to receive a nomination in each of the VMAs five decades. She earned her 69th nomination for her 14th studio album “Madame X.”
Lamar returns to the VMAs as a nominee for the first time since 2018, with nods for best hip-hop, direction, visual effects, editing, and a category known as video for good, while his songs “family ties” and “N95” are competing for best cinematography.