Your guide to everything that happened when the cameras weren't rolling

By Janine Rubenstein
Updated August 29, 2016 07:15 PM
Advertisement
Credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty

Oh to be a fly on the wall at this year’s epic VMAs. Actually, that’s exactly what some PEOPLE staffers got to be on Sunday night, and from the red carpet, to the audience, to backstage, they’ve got some stories to tell!

Aside from Beyoncé and Rihanna‘s epic performances, Britney‘s comeback and Jimmy Fallon‘s hilarious Ryan Lochte stunt, a lot more went down at Madison Square Garden.

Here are a few fun observations from behind-the-scenes (or rather, “inside the TV” as Kanye so eloquently put it.)

Kanye West single-handedly brought the crowd to their feet.

Right before Rihanna’s first performance, West went up and down the rows of the VIP section telling all of his superstar cohorts to stand to their feet for the Video Vanguard winner, demanding a warm welcome for his friend and label mate as she kicked off the night.

Jimmy Fallon was super nervous his Ryan Lochte stunt would get leaked.

Backstage the Tonight Show host was running around and dodging selfies, telling friends, “No selfies before I go on stage,” as he feared the joke would be spoiled online long before he hit the stage. Luckily it wasn’t and he received the biggest laughs of the night.

No Taylor? No worries. Frankie Grande filled in as the night’s most excited seat dancer.

Be it during his sister Ariana Grande‘s fun and sexy performance with Nicki Minaj or Beyoncé’s VMA takeover, Frankie Grande kept on his dancing shoes. He partied in and out of his seat throughout the night and even took a major catwalk down the aisle at one point.

Michael Phelps brought out the crowd’s American spirit.

As the legendary Olympian took to the stage as an announcer, the arena cheered until one section started to chant “U-S-A” and it caught on. Phelps’ response was all smiles.

A different chant sprang up during Kanye’s speech–and it was a bit awkward.

As West took to the stage for his extended free-time at the mic – where he made multiple references to his and wife Kim Kardashian‘s drama with Taylor Swift – some of the absent pop star’s loyal fans started chanting, “Taylor! Taylor! Taylor!” And it was enough for the rapper to take notice. Still, there were others chanting “Yeezy!” Gotta love equal representation.

The Final Five, missing one, got loads of love from celeb fans like Kim Kardashian.

Backstage the gymnasts had stars in their eyes but so did their new celebrity friends. “You’re so tall!” Laurie Hernandez, was heard telling Naomi Campbell who towered over the group. “I’m 5’9″!” the supermodel responded. And Kim Kardashian was eager to get a picture with the gold medalists as well, smiling as they all greeted her. As for their missing team mate Gabby Douglas, they told PEOPLE they were holding back from texting her and just letting her rest.

All the Highlights from the MTV VMAs 2016

No one could keep their cool when Beyoncé performed.

As Queen Bey was about to go on, Jaden Smith ran from backstage to his seat when he heard the music starting, telling everyone in his dust, “I gotta see Beyoncé!” And he wasn’t the only one. Everyone was back in their seats and rapt for her performance.

The crowd went completely bonkers for Drake‘s sweet surprise speech for Rihanna

It’s as if it were a live-audience taping of The Bachelor‘s final rose ceremony. After Rihanna ended her soulful song “Love on the Brain,” right on cue Drake started ascending the stairs in his tux and the audience went wild. The crowd hushed as he said his sweet nothings and she stood back bashfully, and gasped when he went for the kiss – and was denied. But as they headed off stage he was able to plant a real one and it caused an uproar. As the thousands of attendees waded into the hallways after the show, the Drake and Rihanna moment was all the talk.

With reporting by JEFF NELSON and SHARON KANTER