Rodrigo, 20, kicked off her performance by recreating aspects of her “Vampire” music video — which was complete with a forest background and glitchy effects. Several audience members including Chase Stokes and Kelsea Ballerini appeared confused by the intentional stage malfunction.
A brief rendition of “Good for You” played before Rodrigo returned to the stage to belt out the catchy lyrics to “Get Him Back.” She shared the stage with several lookalikes in a wink at her music video for the track, which dropped hours before the awards show.
In response to her performance, fans took to social media to question the visual effects. “Girl, is this part of Olivia Rodrigo’s performance?! What is going on?!” one fan tweeted after the performance.
Rodrigo’s biggest fans, however, were thrilled with her vision. “Olivia rodrigo is so SICKENING….,” a third commentator tweeted alongside a clip of the singer on stage.
Rodrigo, 20, is nominated for six awards at the ceremony. Her hit single “Vampire” is up for Video of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Video, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Song of Summer. She is also set to perform on the VMAs for the first time since 2021.
In every category, Rodrigo will compete against Taylor Swift, who is the most-nominated artist for the 2023 ceremony with 11 nods.
For months, fans have speculated that Rodrigo and Swift, 33, had a falling out. Rodrigo fueled the theory in August when asked whether she had attended one of Swift’s Eras Tour concerts. “I haven’t yet,” she told The New York Times, blaming her busy schedule.
Earlier this month, Rodrigo — who vocalized her admiration for Swift early in her music career and previously found inspiration in the songwriter’s work — raised eyebrows while addressing speculation that “Vampire” was based on Swift.
“I was very surprised when people thought that,” she told The Guardian. “I mean, I never want to say who any of my songs are about. I’ve never done that before in my career and probably won’t. I think it’s better to not pigeonhole a song to being about this one thing.”
After Guts dropped on Friday, September 8, fans singled out “The Grudge” as a track that could be about Rodrigo’s copyright issue with Swift. (Rodrigo added Swift and her “Cruel Summer” collaborators, Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent, as cowriters on “Deja Vu” after admitting that Swift’s 2019 song influenced her hit from her 2021 album, Sour.)
“The arguments that I’ve won against you in my head / In the shower, in the car and in the mirror before bed,” Rodrigo sang. “Yeah, I’m so tough when I’m alone, and I make you feel so guilty / And I fantasize about a time you’re a little f–kin’ sorry.”
Rodrigo maintained that she has no issues with Swift in an interview with Rolling Stone, saying on Monday, “I’m very chill. I keep to myself. I have my four friends and my mom, and that’s really the only people I talk to, ever. There’s nothing to say. There’s so many Twitter conspiracy theories. I only look at alien-conspiracy theories.”
Rodrigo has made headlines in the past for writing songs that fans assumed were about her famous connections. Her breakout single, “Drivers License,” blew up as listeners speculated that her split from Joshua Bassett and his subsequent relationship with Sabrina Carpenter inspired the hit.
“Literally, it was the first song out of the gate and all of that s—t happened. I felt so ill-equipped,” she told Interview Magazine earlier this month. “That was an overwhelming experience, but now I definitely feel a responsibility. I just try not to think about it during the writing process.”
Rodrigo noted that while working on Guts, she had to “write what I wanted to write and think about the social implications after” because dwelling on how the songs might be received was “counterproductive to any creativity.” One track that came out of the experience was inspired by the fallout of the “Drivers License” drama.
“There’s one song that I wrote about how my life changed because of all of the things that happened with the last album and how crazy that was,” she explained. “It was cathartic in the end, but it was kind of hard dredging up all of that stuff.”