Some of the awards at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, which were presented on Tuesday (Sept. 12) at Prudential Center in Newark. N.J., were entirely predictable. Taylor Swift’s sweep, including video of the year, song of the year, album of the year and artist of the year, was hardly a surprise, given the year she has had.
“Anti-Hero” logged eight weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, setting a new personal best for Swift; Midnights (a 2022 release) and Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) became her 11th and 12th No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200; and her The Eras stadium tour was a triumph.
Swift even beat the mighty Beyoncé in three categories – artist of the year, album of the year and show of the summer. Beyoncé remains the artist with the most career VMAs (30, counting Destiny’s Child and The Carters). With her nine awards this year, Swift zoomed into second place on the all-time winners list, with 23. Beyoncé added no wins to her tally this year.
Swift wasn’t the only artist whose VMA wins were predictable. Who could be surprised that Nicki Minaj, who served as emcee for the show, won in best hip-hop for her No. 1 Hot 100 smash “Super Freaky Girl”? She had won four times previously in the category – more than anyone else.
SZA’s win for best R&B for “Shirt” was also expected, given the fact that her SOS album topped the Billboard 200 for 10 weeks in late 2022 and early 2023. Rema & Selena Gomez’s win in the new best Afrobeats category for “Calm Down” was also a lock. The song climbed as high as No. 3 on the Hot 100.
But the show also included a few genuine snubs and surprises. Take a look.
Snub: Miley Cyrus
Cyrus received six nominations, a total topped only by Swift and SZA, but was shut out. Nine years ago, Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” won video of the year. Two other artists who went into the ceremony with six nominations each received just one technical award. Doja Cat won for best art direction; Olivia Rodrigo won for best editing. (At the VMAs, artists win in technical categories even if they weren’t the craftspeople responsible for the work.)
The Italian band won best rock for “The Loneliest,” defeating four superstar rock bands – Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica. The Foos and the Peppers each won the Global Icon Award in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Snub: Sam Smith and Kim Petras
The pair’s No. 1 Hot 100 hit “Unholy” was nominated in five categories, but lost them all. It lost in four categories to Swift’s “Anti-Hero” and in one category to Blackpink’s “Pink Venom.” The song was such a history-maker – the first song by a non-binary artist (Smith) and a trans artist (Petras) to top the Hot 100 – that it seemed likely that it would win something, but Swift at her pinnacle is hard to get past.
Surprise: Global pop
A record 10 VMAs went to acts from outside the U.S. – five to acts from South Korea alone. Blackpink won group of the year and best choreography for “Pink Venom”; Jungkook won song of summer for “Seven” (featuring Latto); Tomorrow x Together won Push performance of the year for “Sugar Rush Ride”; and Stray Kids won best K-pop for “S-Class.”
Two awards went to acts from Colombia – Shakira took the Video Vanguard Award and best collaboration for “TQG,” a pairing with fellow Colombian superstar Karol G. One award each went to acts from Italy (Måneskin, best rock for “The Loneliest”), Brazil (Anitta, best Latin for “Funk Rave”) and Nigeria (Rema, best Afrobeats for “Calm Down,” with Selena Gomez).
Snub: Bad Bunny
The VMAs have presented best Latin every year since 2018. So how many times would you guess Bad Bunny has won? Would you believe, none? Bunny has amassed seven nominations in the last five years in that category and he has lost every time. (The fact that he has competed with himself twice may have hurt his chances of winning those years.) His nominations were for: “Mia” (featuring Drake, 2019); “Yo Perreo Sola” (2020); “Dakiti” (collab with Jhay Cortez, 2021); “Un Día (One Day)” (collab with J Balvin, Dua Lipa and Tainy, 2021); “Tití Me Preguntó” (2022); “Where She Goes” (2023) and “Un x100to” (collab with Grupo Frontera, 2023).
Surprise: Karol G and Shakira
“TQG” by Karol G and Shakira won in the all-genre best collaboration category. It beat such high-powered hits as “I’m Good (Blue)” by David Guetta & Bebe Rexha and “Calm Down” by Rema & Selena Gomez.
Oddly, Smith and Petras were not nominated in this category for their smash collab “Unholy” – even though “Unholy” was the only collaboration nominated for video of the year. That may have helped Karol G and Shakira land a win here.