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Big pop stars got long overdue recognition at the MTV Video Music Awards last night


The MTV Video Music Awards are back. And though the ceremony faced some length, some pacing issues, NPR's Isabella Gomez Sarmiento reports that the VMAs packed a serious punch last night.

ISABELLA GOMEZ SARMIENTO, BYLINE: A couple of big pop stars got long overdue recognition from MTV last night for their trailblazing roles in music. Shakira became the first South American artist to win the video vanguard award, which she celebrated with a 10-minute medley of her career-spanning hits.


SHAKIRA: (Singing) Oh, baby, when you talk like that, you make a woman go mad.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: Sean Diddy Combs also took the stage with a mashup of his own, appearing at the VMAs for the first time in over a decade.


SEAN COMBS: (Rapping) What y'all want to do? Want to be ballers, shot callers, brawlers...

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: Diddy received the global icon award. Taylor Swift took home nine awards. But Billboard deputy editor Andrew Unterberger says who wins isn't necessarily what makes the VMAs exciting.

ANDREW UNTERBERGER: What people are tuning in for now is the performances.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: This year, the growing influence of global music and mainstream pop became clear as artists from around the world performed at the ceremony. Peso Pluma brought Mexican regional front and center.


PESO PLUMA: (Singing in Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: And K-pop band Tomorrow X Together collaborated with Brazilian pop sensation Anitta.


TOMORROW X TOGETHER: (Singing) I can see you coming back for more, coming back for more, if you walk out that...

ANITTA: (Singing) Door.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: Another important nod to international stars came when Nigerian singer Rema won the inaugural best Afrobeats award for his song "Calm Down," featuring Selena Gomez.


REMA: This means so much - seeing Afrobeat grow this big and being here on this stage representing Afrobeat tonight. I'm so happy.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: But Unterberger says the ceremony had one big problem.

UNTERBERGER: Yeah, well, I mean, nearly four hours is just too long for any award show.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: It wrapped up with a 50th anniversary of hip-hop tribute, including Grandmaster Flash and LL Cool J.


GOMEZ SARMIENTO: Unterberger says it might have been a missed opportunity, in a year of so many hip-hop tributes, for the VMAs to look forward - giving GloRilla, Kaliii, or best new artist winner Ice Spice a chance to perform instead.

UNTERBERGER: And these are the artists that are sort of going to, you know, create the vanguard for the next generation. And this would have been a great moment for the VMAs to take the point to sort of show them off and say, OK, here's what's coming next.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: There's always next year.

Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, NPR News.


LL COOL J AND DARRYL MCDANIELS: (Rapping) ...Up to the ceiling. We groove it, you move it, it has been proven. We calm the savage beast because our music is soothing. We create it, relate it and often demonstrate it. We'll diss a sucker MC, make the other suckers hate it... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Isabella Gomez Sarmiento is a production assistant with Weekend Edition.