This year, the VMAs returned to New York City for a homecoming at Madison Square Garden. As with all awards shows, though, the perfectly manicured glam you see on television isn’t the whole story – there are make-up touch-ups, visual gaffes and, most importantly, a crew of dudes swiftly mopping up the stage between the commercial breaks. Here’s what you didn’t see on TV.
1. The Commercial Break Crew
The show’s true stars are the posse of black-shirted men whose job it was to mop up dust and pyro detritus from the stage each time the show cut to commercial. They were swift, diligent, and tasked with a thankless job, especially when they raced out after Rihanna’s show-opening performance to roll up the pink vinyl that carpeted the platform’s gleaming black surface. Don’t even get us started on their attempt to mop up the Chainsmokers’s plastic snow explosion! Hug a custodial hero today.
2. Desiigner: Most Entertaining Audience Member
Even from our seats in the nosebleeds, we could see the charismatic 19-year-old Brooklyn rapper losing his mind about 90 percent of the time; rarely sitting, always with his hand up dancing, exploding with enthusiasm. Even when he lost out to DNCE for the Best New Artist Award — Unfair! They have a Jonas! — Desiigner was up in his seat, giving praise and paying respects to his peers.
3. Frankie Grande: Second Most Entertaining Audience Member
Ariana’s brother’s front-row seat was well-deserved for his blatant shows of fandom — we swear he mimed the “worship you” arms every time Rihanna appeared. But particularly once his sister completed her tribute to great American sports institutions — USA Gymnastics and Soul Cycle, we think? — Grande catwalked his way from his seat to the back of the stage, snapping the whole way there.
4. DJ Nasty’s Between-Break DJ Sets
DJ Nasty, working alongside Khaled to keep the MSG crowd pumped each time the show cut to commercial break, was in fact the best. He played summer jams by attendees — “All the Way Up,” “All I Do Is Win” (of course) — and selected exactly which classic tracks would work to unite 20,000 restless New Yorkers. Which is what led to…
5. The “Poison” Singalong
Who doesn’t love 1990 Best New Artist nominees Bel Biv Devoe? No one, apparently, considering the vehemence with which the arena belted “It’s driving me out of my miiinnd.” We’ll kiss her, miss her, love her until we are a nation united.
6. The Show Has a Secret Host: Allison Hagendorff
That magical voice you hear from above right before commercial, announcing what awards will be given and who will perform when we return? That’s Allison Hagendorff, a television host and live announcer whose job is as important and unseen as any. Speaking to Rolling Stone on the carpet before the show, she explained: “I’m alone in a recording booth, so it’s the least glamorous part of the show, but it’s pretty awesome. I see everything that goes on, and I’m the voice of the show. Every time you hear someone announcing the nominees in different categories, or introducing Kanye to the stage, that’s me. … It’s air conditioned, I’m seated, I’m comfortable and having the best time.”
7. It Looks Glam, But It’s Hard Work
“I got here Wednesday and rehearsals were starting; everyone is working so hard for this one performance that will never happen again. Everything is special for tonight,” on-air-personality Nicole Byer told Rolling Stone on the red carpet. “A lot of work goes into it. I feel like a lot of people watch it and think, I can do that. And it’s like, No you can’t, sorry about it! I brought my clothes with me and did hair and makeup inside Madison Square Garden. It’s so hectic, and if you’re someone like Amber Rose, people are just screaming at you. Turn left!“
8. Fat Joe Learned How to Pronounce “Balmain”
Remy Ma was wearing the brand, of course. From the carpet, Fat Joe told us, “I always thought it was ‘Bal-mayne.’ I realized today, she told me it’s pronounced ‘Bal-mahn.'” Remy smirked a little in response: “I don’t know.”
9. Tove Lo Prepared For the Awards by Listening to Rihanna’s Anti
“You just have a little champagne and kind of like, get in the mood,” said the Swedish singer, whose forthcoming album Lady Wood is due in October. “It stands for a female hard-on,” she explained. “It’s for girls with balls.”
10. Fabolous’ Son Just Found Out Summer’s Almost Over
The rapper brought along his eight-year-old son Johan, dressed in full Pokémon gear and a sparkling bomber jacket. As he spoke about his forthcoming mixtape, Summertime Shootout 2, and how it’s not necessarily about the season but the vibe of it, Jonas interrupted: “Wait… summer’s almost over?” “Summer’s almost over,” his dad responded. “You’re about to go back to school, man!” Johan frowned. We are all Johan.