From Normani To Big Sean: We Rank The 2019 VMAs Performances
MTV pulled together a very impressive list of performers at last night’s (August 26) VMAs. Fresh off the release of Lover, Taylor Swift opened the main show. After that, we were treated to impressive on-stage moments from the likes of Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, Normani and Lizzo. There were also some last-minute surprises including an emotional and (surprisingly) stripped-back set from Miley Cyrus. But who had the best performance of the night? Dive into our rankings below and let us know if you agree.
15. Big Sean feat. A$AP Ferg – “Bezerk”
Big Sean pulled out some very new material for his set at the 2019 VMAs. The “I Don’t Fuck With You” rapper premiered “Bezerk” mere hours before taking the stage. The latest taste of his forthcoming album contains some lyrical gems (“shake that booty. I know it’s little, but it’s unique”), but the A$AP Ferg-assisted performance didn’t yield as many memorable moments.
14. Shawn Mendes – “If I Can’t Have You”
In a surprise move, Shawn Mendes took the stage twice last night. First to perform solo single “If I Can’t Have You.” And while his rendition of the bop was technically clean and visually gorgeous, it feels a little forgettable in the mix. Thankfully, his second set (more on that later) left us more satisfied.
13. Queen Latifah, Naughty By Nature, Redman, Fetty Wap and Wyclef Jean – Medley
MTV closed out their biggest night in music programming with a tribute to New Jersey’s music scene. And it was a choice. Queen Latifah riding to the stage on a motorcycle before breaking into “U.N.I.T.Y.” was admittedly great. But there wasn’t much else to write home about. As we approached the third hour of the main show, this didn’t feel like enough to keep viewer eyes glued to their screens.
12. Lil Nas X – “Panini”
Lil Nas X came through with one of the biggest surprises of the night. Instead of playing the record-breaking and Song Of The Year-winning “Old Town Road,” he utilized one of his first major awards show performances to promote “Panini.” Opening with a clever tribute to the reign of “OTR,” he then served futuristic costumes and some pretty impressive choreography.
11. Jonas Brothers – “Sucker” / “Only Human”
The Jonas Brothers reunion remains one of the most exciting things to happen to pop music in 2019. Thus, one would expect that their return to the VMAs to be equally iconic. However, their set (which took place off-scene at Ashbury Park) felt a little safe. Of course, the best part was a beach-side fireworks show that capped off a rollicking rendition of “Only Human.”
10. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello – “Señorita”
All eyes were on celebrity couple Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello at the 2019 VMAs. Earlier in the day, Billboard confirmed that they had snatched the top spot on the Hot 100 and they celebrated by highlighting their (lack of) chemistry during a candle-lit rendition of the chart-topping “Señorita.”
9. J Balvin and Bad Bunny “QUE PRETENDES”
Latin music took center stage at the 2019 VMAs with eye-popping performances from some of the industry’s biggest names. And one of those sets came from J Balvin and Bad Bunny. The duo’s rendition of the streaming sensation received some very graphic staging. It also saw them float above the stage, making for one very good showing.
8. Taylor Swift – “You Need To Calm Down” / “Lover”
Taylor Swift was one of the biggest winners last night. The 29-year-old picked up two awards (Video Of The Year and Video For Good) during the main show. She also opened the night with a larger-than-life rendition of “You Need To Calm Down,” which included many of the guest-stars from the viral video. After the rainbow-hued theatrics, she slowed it down for current single “Lover.” There were a couple audio issues throughout, but the latter made for a particularly cute moment.
7. CNCO – “De Cero”
Latin boy band CNCO is our honorable mention from MTV’s pre-show. Why? Because the hitmakers put on one hell of a show during a performance of “De Cero.” They showed off their dance abilities with a tightly choreographed routine that had them dancing down the red carpet before laying it all out on a stage. We really have to stan.
6. H.E.R. – “Anti”
Best New Artist nominee H.E.R. made a statement about society’s perceptions of beauty with a powerful rendition of her new song “Anti.” After walking the red carpet with a snake as an accessory, she made use of interesting staging and showed off a wealth of abilities during a critically acclaimed performance.
5. ROSALÍA feat. Ozuna – “A Ningun Hombre,” “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi” and “Aute Cuture”
ROSALÍA proved she has everything it takes to become a global sensation during a bop-filled performance. The Spanish mega-talent showed off her vocals during a stunning rendition of ballad “A Ningun Hombre.” But the fun really began after she ripped off a gem-encrusted robe and broke into her new Ozuna collab “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi.” The visually arresting performance picked up even more steam during a heavily choreographed rendition of “Aute Cuture.” Talk about a star-making moment.
4. Miley Cyrus – “Slide Away”
Miley Cyrus and her foam finger made for one of the most iconic moments from the VMAs in recent memory. However, this year her surprise addition to the lineup proved that less is sometimes more. Stripping back the theatrics, she delivered a black-and-white rendition of breakup anthem “Slide Away” alongside a live band. The addition of a string section was absolutely magical, and her vocals were incredible.
3. Lizzo – “Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell”
Lizzo took us to church in front of a supersized ass during her performance at New Jersey’s Prudential Center. The breakout hitmaker opened her set with a high-energy rendition of sleeper hit “Truth Hurts” before showing love to another retro anthem – “Good As Hell.” Serving vocals, choreography and a bedazzled bottle of tequila made for one of the most unforgettable moments of the night. The only thing missing was Sasha Flute.
2. Missy Elliott – Medley
Missy Elliott had a lot to celebrate going into the 2019 VMAs. Fresh off the release of her EP Iconology, the 48-year-old was also the first female rapper to pick up the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. And she pulled out all the stops for her accompanying performance. There were futuristic alien vibes for new single “Throw It Back.” After that, we were treated to a medley of hits including “Get Your Freak On,” “Lose Control” and “Pass The Dutch.” One of the best moments? Seeing Alyson Stoner recreate her “Work It” choreography all these years later. Bold and incredibly staged, this served as a fantastic reminder of why Missy deserved the night’s highest honor.
1. Normani – “Motivation”
No one delivered a more jaw-dropping moment onstage at the 2019 VMAs than Normani. The Fifth Harmony alum rode into the show on a wave of positive energy following her ’00s-referencing “Motivation” video. And she proved that she deserved all the hype and then some by recreating the spectacular visual onstage. There was a minor wardrobe malfunction, but the professional didn’t let that get in the way of a truly eye-popping performance that is strong enough to go head-to-head with some of the best in VMAs history. All hail our newest pop princess. Long may she reign.