All images: Getty

Every year, in the swamp-assiest armpit of summer, the MTV Video Music Awards rollerblade into our lives, a string of musicians, reality stars, and “influencers” in tow. This summer being the most swamp-assiest in recent memory, it makes sense that 2018's VMAs lineup is more of a confused fever-dream than usual: Cardi B is appearing but not performing, J.Lo is getting the Vanguard Award, Madonna’s doing something-something-something, and Aerosmith is closing out the show for some ungodly reason that does not square for me at this very moment but perhaps will become clear as it unfolds.

Making these types of decisions scrutable is not our goal here, though. What we’re doing here is gushing and being judgey about all these peoples’ outfits! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Above, Cardi B is a brand new mom and straight-up already got that mom haircut! Lean into it, Cardi! With your stunty burgundy velvet.

Frankie Grande always ends up somewhere, no? He kept it casj with a disco-sequins jacket and matching sparkly sneakers, the kind of fun you want from a VMAs carpet. Morgan Saint’s sheer white suit is very chic and now, which is to say also 1998, as is that sort of disaffected, glum vibe she’s emitting.

Vinny and Pauly are dressed like you’d expect, although I wish Vinny’s Keto diet would rub off on Pauly’s hairdo. Winnie Harlow stuns in anything, but I’m just really so done with the post-Givenchy 2012 sheer embroidered/beaded red carpet gown. Six years is enough!

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Jersey Shore’s Deena is looking very bridal shower, while her compatriot JWoww’s look is quite CATCH ME IN THE CLUB. Jillian “Lion Babe” Hervey’s swim coverup is perhaps more flattering not among pap flashes—I would have appreciated a more monochrome leotard, particularly because the hem length and shoes are so sharp and modern. Close! Kyle’s brooch is not quite identifiable but it’s giving me miniature Questlove ca. 2016, when he only wore black suits and that Dee & Ricky Lego heart pin.

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Madison Beer and Shanina Shaik flipped their boudoir pajamas into night ensembles, I dig it (but would I do it? Nah). Nyle “Snack Alert” DiMarco kept it simple in a t-shirt and jacket, though I do have an issue with his predilection for that style of V-neck, it’s a whole thing. Shawn Mendes is doing his thing in a doublebreasted jacket and pointy boots, I am not mad!

Asian Doll is cute in full Clueless regalia, a nice and playful look for her first appearance on this carpet! Jessie Reyez is my favorite because A) she is extremely loyal to the half-high ponytail, and B) she never wears shit on a carpet she wouldn’t wear in the streets. Respect. Victor Cruz and Karreuche Tran are a happy, snazzy couple, although I worry for her body temperature in leather anything, as it is swamp-ass season. Willy William’s silk Versace and white pants are nice but I must take issue with the black boots which shorten his legs and make a breezy summer ensemble look 13 pounds heavier, why is this happening? I rebuke it.

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Ariana Grande is wearing some sort of space dancer skater dress and her rocketship is Pete Davidson, a man you are not legally allowed to forget that she is going to marry and (most likely) smashes. Good for them. Nicky Hilton Rothschild is here like doing the interiors or something. Are the Hamptons closed this week? Noah Cyrus and Lil Xan are a couple that give me agita, particularly because Cyrus is doing an Aaliyah thing in that bronze look and I need ole girl to step back one time. Offset and Quavo are truly impeccable, though. I want Offset to style me.

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Democracy daddy Michael Avenatti is here in his best “he’s running” suit, looking put together but not too put together (man of people), because your Twitter opinions are important. Bebe Rexha’s Drag Race challenge look is making me dizzy with its asymmetry, but Dasha Polanco and Jasmine Sanders figured out how to do a light metallic with ice blue eyeshadows (come through, eyes!) that are perfectly Uptown ‘70s.

Amara La Negra’s lime green, form-fitting queen look is proportioned and great on her; Gucci Mane is clean as hell in (of course) Gucci, while Keyshia Ka’Oir is giving us ostrich realness. Kim Petras is going for whimsy but not following through with the carpet look. Kim, we want to believe you... Meanwhile Sofia Carson might be at the wrong event? Met Ball’s up the street, sweattie.

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Amandla Stenberg’s going for a Velma thing that I’m feeling, like they’re embarking on a very fancy mystery tour. Chloe x Halle are full-on butterflies in matching gowns, and Hayley Kiyoko looks thrilled and fun in a a little party dress. And I guess if you’re Liam Payne you just... wear that outfit. I get it. Very Christian Grey betwixt the office and the happy hour.

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Amber Rose, I truly, honestly love you. Don’t ever change!!!!

Camila Cabello really went for the ombré batik and it’s cute. Family Khaled rolled in matching Versace, and our fam King Princess committed to the double denim. All respectable! Finally, SZA’s party gown, by Rodarte, is my favorite of the night so far—she kept it funzy and sophisticated, exactly the note one should hit at this type of event.

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I had no humanly cue who the hell Bobby Lytes was until this very moment, but respect to his look. Also, respect to the Warby Parker behind him, which reminds me of my favorite line on my favorite queer Latinx TV show Vida, which is: “Get out my neighborhood, you Warby Parker-ass bitch!” Nice.

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Erica Mena’s wearing my favorite color combo—tomato red, acid pink—and while I would not personally be able to pull off that bra top, she’s wearing as close to a perfect casual outfit FOR MY PERSONAL TASTE as I can conjure. Ironically, I would also do the Millie Bobby Brown and Rita Ora looks if I could pull them off, architectural asymmetry is my shit, although I still don’t know why Millie’s stylist insists on dressing her like she is 35! Let a girl live, man.

Anna Kendrick’s 1930s-inspired drop-hem dress is fine. I will refrain from commenting on Iggy Azalea’s giving Tom Petty “Don’t Come Around Here No More” video realness, which is about how I felt when she blocked me on Twitter, ayooooo! Karlie Kloss is wearing chain mail and my only regret here is that her hair is not blown out and HUGE, full Krystle Carrington style. Olivia Munn’s dress is also fine.

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Ashanti, welcome! This is definitely a debutante look for obvious reasons. Blake Lively though looks like she walked off the set of The Beguiled and ONTO the set of Westworld. Tiffany Haddish’s concentric circles got me spinning, as does Teyana Taylor’s SUPER drop-crotch pants situation. Actually, are those firefighter pants? Only America’s resident baddie (TM) could pull this off.

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Who am I to tamp down Blac Chyna’s chandelier showgirl ensemble? I am not. Get it.

Jennifer Lopez is receiving the Vanguard Award tonight, and so she must by decree of the awards show gods wear something shiny that also looks like the award she is receiving. And always, she stuns. But like... she’s done better? This gown is fine. She’s done better. But it’s the VMAs, not the Oscars or even the Grammys, so go forth.

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I don’t know, man. Here’s Kylie in a blazer, Nicki in a swimsuit, Marshmello in a... fricking marshmellow.