1. In the days leading up to the VMAs, it seemed odd that only a handful of performers had been announced. Now we know why – because these were really the BMAs once Beyonce signed on.
Her "surprise" performance was anything but in our carefully leaked social media world, but it was unexpected that Beyonce commandeered the show for nearly 20 minutes with a presentation of a good chunk of her "Lemonade" album.
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“Pray You Catch Me” launched the spectacle, which looked like a fever dream from which she emerged to shake for “Hold Up.” Then came “Sorry,” followed by a fur-coat-wearing, lip-licking “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and, of course, “Formation.”
Whatever you think of Beyonce, she’s an exceptional stage performer. She runs through a dozen personas, from savage to vulnerable, and barely breaks a sweat – then ends it all with a sly grin that reminds you that even if “Becky with the good hair” existed, she wouldn’t last three seconds under a withering Beyonce gaze.
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2. What we did hear about for weeks before the show was the highly touted return to the MTV stage for Britney Spears. You have to root for Spears considering all that she's overcome. She looks great and her new album, "Glory," is surprisingly solid.
But as one Twitter user aptly summarized, “Britney following Beyonce is like eating a steak and then soup.” Why would the MTV producers put Spears in such an unenviable position? She’s never been a commanding performer; her kewpie doll act wore thin around 2001. It’s not as if she’s trying to hit Streisand notes in her songs, yet she still has to fake it with obvious lip-syncing.
Poor G-Easy. Not only did he have, essentially, a cardboard cutout of a pop singer to play off of, but he looked as if he wanted to make a move and go in for a real kiss, only to be rebuffed on a rather public stage.
Now THAT’S a move out of the Beyonce playbook, Brit!
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3. Kanye West was given four minutes to ramble, and he used every second. God bless the person who could figure out his stream-of-consciousness babbling, which included in part, the following: "I am Kanye West and that feels really great to say, especially this year. I came here to present my new video, but before I do that, I'mma talk. Later tonight, 'Famous' might lose to Beyonce. I can't be mad 'cause I'm always wishing for Beyonce to win. But for people to understand just how blessed we are, it was an expression of our now, our fame right now, us on the inside of the TV, you know, just the audacity to put Anna Wintour next to Donald Trump. I mean, I put Ray J in there, bro. This is fame, bro. I see you Amber (laughs and points at his ex). My wife is a G, not a lot of people wise to what I'm saying… We came over in the same boat, now we all in the same bed, well, maybe different boats, but if you think about last week it was 22 people murdered in Chicago. Like people come to me like ... 'That's right, take Taylor,' and I'm like, 'Bro, I love all y'all, that's why I called her' … I know times for me, I sit down and talk to older rich people, you know, aka white. They tell me don't compare yourself to Steve Jobs, don't compare yourself to Walt Disney ... My role models are artists, merchants, less than 10 that I can name in history: Truman, Ford, Hughes, Disney, Jobs, West."
And then he premiered the “Fade” video.” And … scene.
>> Click here to watch the speech
4. Rihanna received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, but first she performed multiple times throughout the night. She opened the show with a medley (OK, it was 90 percent dancing, 7 percent lip-syncing and 3 percent actual singing) that included "Don't Stop the Music," "Only Girl in the World" and "Where Have You Been."
Her second appearance was an homage of sorts to Caribbean music and featured much popping and one-legged dance moves as she and a cadre of dancers gyrated through “Rude Boy,” “What’s My Name?” and “Work.”
Round three included a painfully off-key “Needed Me” as well as “Pour it Up.”
>> Watch Drake present the award to Rihanna
5. Alicia Keys made a poignant reminder that Aug. 28 marked the 53rd anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and to commemorate, Keys unveiled her own poem, which she turned into an a capella song, as well: "So we can fear each other, hate each other, we can make these walls. We can build these walls between each other, baby, blow by blow and brick by brick. Keep yourself locked in, yourself locked. Or maybe we could love somebody. Maybe we could care a little more. Maybe we could love somebody instead of polishing the bombs of holy war."
The singer also made headlines for going to the show makeup-free.
>> Watch the moment here
6. Now we know that Michael Phelps was listening to "Stick Talk" by Future when he made the now-famous Phelps face before one of his races at the Olympics. The medal king introduced the rapper's performance and admirably delivered the cringing line, "I might have all the golds, but this guy has all the platinum."
>> Watch Phelps introduce Future here
7. Nick Jonas irritated any potential customers of the Tick Tock Diner near Madison Square Gardens as production shut the place down so he could stroll through a restaurant full of fake customers – including brother Joe and his DNCE crew (winners for best new artist!) – to croon "Bacon." Get it? Ha ha.
>> Watch the performance here