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.
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, Tayler 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 will perform hits from throughout her career and accept 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.
Eminem, Snoop Dogg, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bad Bunny are also set to perform.
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.