The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History

Above: 10 of the most memorable moments in the history of the MTV Video Music Awards
Above: 10 of the most memorable moments in the history of the MTV Video Music Awards

MTV’s controversial Video Music Awards is the only award show on the planet where you will see Madonna kiss Britney Spears, Beyoncé announce her pregnancy, Nirvana yell at Guns n’ Roses on stage and Kanye West go after Taylor Swift.

Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable pop culture moments that the MTV VMAs have given to the world.

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke

10. Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke perform “We Can’t Stop / Blurred Lines”
(2013)

It was the twerk seen ‘round the world. Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke hit the VMA stage back in 2013 for one of MTV’s most unforgettable — and controversial — performances. The duo performed a salacious rendition of Thicke’s summer jam, “Blurred Lines” and then things got creepy. Really creepy. Cyrus (who was wearing a flesh-toned bra and underwear set) thrusted and twerked into a smiling Thicke as they finished things off with “We Can’t Stop.” Cyrus somehow came out on top… but, Thicke didn’t fare so well… [insert cricket noises]

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Lil Mama crashing Jay Z Alicia Keys

9. Lil Mama crashes Alicia Keys and Jay Z’s performance of “Empire State of Mind”
2008

Lil Mama (who?) got a little too excited during Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ 2008 performance of their monster hit “Empire State of Mind.” The tiny rapper crashed the MTV stage and tried to cozy up to Jay. He clearly wasn’t amused. Talk about awkward.

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Lady Gaga Paparazzi

8. Lady Gaga performs “Paparazzi”
(2009)

Lady Gaga has had a ton of memorable performance on the MTV stage, but nothing beats her 2009 performance of “Paparazzi.” The graphic performance featured the one and only Mother Monster bleed out and die on stage as commentary on the celebrity machine. P.S. This was also the night that Gaga debuted her soon-to-be-legendary meat dress.

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Madonna Britney Christina

7. That kiss: Madonna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliot open the show
(2003)

Two decades after Madonna set the benchmark for provocative VMA performances, she continued to shock and grab headlines around the globe. Wedding-gown-clad pop princesses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera performed M’s “Like A Virgin” before Madonna emerged as a polyamorous groom and then she went in for a kiss. The audience and the press went wild. Oh yeah… Missy Elliot joined the trio for a few verses of Madonna’s “Hollywood.”

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Michael Jackson Lisa Marie Kiss

6. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie kiss
(1994)

Another memorable kiss? This one! “Nobody thought this would last,” Michael Jackson famously said on stage before leaning in and kissing his then-wife Lisa Marie Presley at the 1994 VMAs. It was uncomfortable and the couple divorced two years later.

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Nirvana vs Guns n Roses

5. Nirvana performs “Lithium” and taunts Guns N’ Roses
(1992)

The controversy behind Nirvana’s first VMAs performance started long before they hit the stage. Kurth Cobain wanted to perform “Rape Me” while MTV wanted “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” They compromised on “Lithium,” though Cobain pranked the network by starting the performance with a few lines of “Rape Me.” At the end of the song, Krist Novoselic thew his bass in the air and it promptly landed on his head. Dave Grohl grabbed the mic and began to taunt Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose, with whom Cobain and Courtney Love had had an altercation with backstage prior to the performance.

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Beyonce announces pregnancy

4. Beyoncé performs “Love on Top” and announces her pregnancy
(2011)

Beyoncé hit the 2011 VMAs ready to make some history. After performing “Love On Top” wearing a sequined Dolce & Gabbana blazer, she shocked the crowd by revealing her hidden baby bump as Jay Z looked absolutely giddy sitting in the audience. Arguably the most memorable pregnancy announcement in history.

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Kanye and Taylor

3. Kanye West storms the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech
(2009)

The most memorable moment from the 2009 VMAs? Kanye West storming the stage as Taylor Swift accepted the moon man for Best Female Video. It’s the controversy that will never die! Swift stood in shock as West proclaimed the moon man trophy should have gone to Beyoncé for her “Single Ladies” video, which he deemed “one of the best videos of all time.” Later in the show, Beyoncé, who won Video of the Year, invited Swift back onstage to finish her speech.

2001 MTV Video Music Awards - Show

2. Britney Spears performs “I’m a Slave 4 U” with a python
(2001)

At the 2001 VMAs, Britney Spears was at the height of her career and laid the innuendo on pretty thick when she performed “I’m A Slave 4 U” with a seven-foot albino python named Banana. No doubt about it… This was the sexiest MTV VMA performance in history.

The 10 Most Memorable MTV VMA Moments In History - Madonna Like A Virgin 1984

1. Madonna performs “Like A Virgin” at the inaugural VMAs
(1984)

Expecting someone else at number 1? Madonna, clad in a wedding gown and ‘Boy Toy’ belt, opened the inaugural VMAs with her legendary performance of “Like A Virgin.” As Madonna descended from a tiered wedding cake and proceeded to roll around on stage accidentally exposing her underwear the cameras zoomed in. After the performance Madonna’s manager declared her career would be over. It was only the beginning and she ultimately set the bar for future iconic MTV VMA performances.

The 2016 MTV Video Music Awards airs Sunday night.

Christopher Turner

Christopher Turner

AmongMen’s Editor-in-Chief is a well-respected fashion and style writer whose works have appeared in Fashionism, Fashion Television, MSN, DesignLines, the Kaboose Network, the Disney Family Network and Sun Media. He also has a collection of designer kicks that would make Imelda Marcos blush and lives in Toronto’s trendy east end. Follow him at: @Turnstylin.

1 Comment
  1. What??? Not listed Madonna Vogue “Marie Antoinette” performance?

    Some of your choices are more a sign of your young age rather than a true evaluation of your topic.

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