Unlike the 2018 MTV VMAs, which clocked in at about three hours, this year’s MTV EMAs — celebrating the music and pop culture of Europe and beyond — only lasted for roughly 120 minutes. That made for a lean, well-paced show full of energizing performances — but the program wasn’t without a few awkward moments, either.
From eye-catching dance moves to cringe-worthy banter, here are the best and worst moments of the 2018 MTV EMAs.
BEST: Rosalía, “Malamente”
When was the last time you actually discovered a new artist through an awards show? Flamenco-pop singer Rosalía is already a star in her native Spain — you could hear the Bilbao Exhibition Centre crowd singing along with her during the telecast — and in these post-“Despacito” times, it’s probably not long before she and her Spanish-language music are famous everywhere else, either. With sultry vocals and sharp choreography, her performance of “Malamente” was capital-P Pop Star material. No wonder artists like Dua Lipa and Charli XCX are already obsessed.
BEST: Nicki Minaj & Little Mix, “Good Form”/“Woman Like Me”
If you’ve read about Little Mix’s new collaboration with Nicki Minaj, “Woman Like Me,” in the headlines recently, it probably wasn’t just because the track is a certified banger: the girl group found themselves caught in one of the year’s most high-profile beefs when Cardi B claimed that Little Mix had offered her the featured spot first before Minaj. (The group later released a statement on Twitter affirming their love for Cardi while acknowledging that their label had actually contacted Minaj first.)
At the EMAs, however, tabloid intrigue was far from their minds as the artists joined forces for a colorful celebration of Girl Power that provided a worthy kick-off to the show.
BEST: Bebe Rexha, “I’m a Mess”
Perhaps no artist took better advantage of the EMAs’ open, in-the-round stage at the ceremony than Rexha, who packed in plenty during her performance of “I’m a Mess.” She emerged from a bathtub, ran around and through a small army of dancers in hospital gowns, stomped around a giant moving platform and then got back into the tub — all in about three minutes, with live vocals to boot. Not bad, considering Rexha made her EMAs debut two years ago getting a little winded as she basically humped a giant furry letter “U.”
BEST: Janet Jackson
Janet’s already received an icon award earlier this year, but if she keeps delivering performances and speeches like the one she gave here, there’s no reason to stop this parade of trophies. The singer first burned through a lively rendition of her Daddy Yankee collab “Made For Now” (with bits of “All For you” and “Rhythm Nation” thrown into a dance break, ‘cause why not?), then took the stage later in the evening to accept the Global Icon Award with a speech that called on men to support gender equality and expressed solidarity with survivors of abuse and harassment.
WORST: The Writing
Hailee Seinfeld is an affable, enthusiastic host, which means she totally deserved better than the overwrought, cringe-worthy bits the teleprompter kept feeding her — and she wasn’t the only one who suffered. From the stilted, faux-edgy political banter between Best Artist presenters Michael Peña and Diego Luna to the half-baked “here are the nominees” script that Anitta and Sofía Reyez were saddled with while presenting Best Hip Hop, it was clear: if no one was performing, you might as well have hit the mute button. (One exception: Camila Cabello, who charmed her way through not one but three separate acceptance speeches with off-the-cuff ease.)
WORST: Muse, “Pressure”
Go ahead and blame the camerawork. Pre-recorded segments are never anyone’s favorite part of an awards show, but Muse’s performance of “Pressure” from Bilbao’s San Marmés Stadium failed to capture the song’s energy and felt out of sync with the rest of the performances, as if it were a totally different broadcast that got mixed up during the commercials.
WORST: David Guetta, Jason Derulo & Nicki Minaj, “Goodbye”
Despite the trio of stars involved this performance, it never quite achieved a sum greater than its parts. Jason Derulo seemed most concerned with repeatedly showing off his abs. David Guetta tried his best to look busy as he pretended to meaningfully work the DJ booth during his few seconds of screen time. Minaj skipped her earlier singing parts on the track to only show up for her guest verse, leaving viewers briefly confused about whether she was even joining the others at all.
WORST: Jack & Jack, “Rise”
If you’re going to attempt something that’s already been done at awards shows before, you either have to do it better or put your own spin on it — like Halsey did when she splashed through water and rain (a la Bieber and Beyoncé before her) inside a glass box (not unlike the one that was a fixture of Lorde’s Melodrama tour).
But Jack & Jack didn’t really do either when they flew through the air, Pink-style, during their performance of “Rise.” Pink unquestionably soars through arenas, displaying an athleticism as powerful as her voice, but Jack & Jack resembled fish out of the water, barely mastering a basic spin as they hung above the stage. Even *NSYNC marionettes had more life back in the day.