Every year, the MTV Video Music Awards guarantees audiences at least one unforgettable incident, err… moment. Here are 16 that are — for better or for worse — burned into our brains forever and now YOU can determine who had craziest moment in VMA history with The Ultimate VMA Showdown.
16. One King of Pop, five little princes (2001)
It’s nice to see ‘N Sync, a group so obviously influenced by Michael Jackson, pay homage to Michael Jackson. Even if looking at the worst fashion trends of the early aughts all on one stage at the same time kind of hurts your eyes.
15. Binary fission with Eminem (2000)
Like rapidly multiplying bacteria, an army of identical Marshall Matherses marched into Radio City Music Hall for the 2000 VMAs. Led by the real Slim Shady singing ‘The Real Slim Shady’ the mass of Eminem clones made their way through the aisles, pausing just long enough for their leader to shake the hand of the real Carson Daly at the exact point in the song where the lyrics make fun of Carson Daly. Meta.
14. The Kelly Clarkson rain dance (2005)
Attention drought-stricken towns and counties: invite Kelly Clarkson for a visit. When she arrives, take away her shoes and give her your best local backing band. The girl knows how to make it rain (and how to channel Melissa Ethridge).
13. Getting the boy band back together (2013)
Remember that person you dated in high school who was like, the best, but you dumped them because you were like, the worst? Imagine getting back together with them after a decade apart… It’d be totally weird! It would never work! You’ve both changed too much! You’re not ‘N Sync! Reunions like the one where JC, Chris, Joey, and Lance got back together with Justin Timberlake only work on MTV.
12. Snakes on a stage (2001)
The ‘N Sync reunion often overshadows this important VMA moment but for some people, the cast of CATS coming out of retirement to dance up on Brit-Brit and her scaly accessory is just as big a deal. That’s an albino Burmese Python by the way, and Spears was terrified of it.
11. Like a reasonable facsimile of a virgin (1984)
Madonna’s white-dress-wearing, floor-humping impression of a wedding cake topper at the VMAs back in the mid-eighties doesn’t seem all that shocking in 2014. What does seem shocking is Dan Aykroyd’s introduction of the pop star — he did it while smoking a cigarette. Not even Miley would dare to take tobacco on stage!
10. The meat dress (2010)
Four years ago, Lady Gaga walked the red carpet showing a daring amount of skin — err, muscle? tendon? let’s just go with flesh — when she donned a Franc Fernandez-designed dress made of raw beef. Animal rights groups thought it was kind of a jerky move, which is ironic, because that’s what the meat dress ended up as.
9. Guy Gaga (2011)
From meat dress to menswear, Gaga topped her 2010 VMA stunt by turning up in 2011 dressed as her alter-ego, Jo Calderone (not to be confused with Beyoncé’s alter-ego Sasha Fierce, Garth Brooks’ alter-ego Chris Gaines, or this former Toronto Raptors point guard).
8. Nirvana Hulk Smash (1992)
7. The Madonna/Britney lip-lock (2003)
Remember when girl-on-girl action was a big deal? 2003: We were so young and naive back then! These days, hardly an episode of Pretty Little Liars can go by without seeing one young woman plant a smooch on another.
6. Li’l Kim’s onstage boob lift (1999)
Now this was a whole other story. When Diana Ross joined Li’l Kim to present the Best Hip-Hop Video award no one was expecting her to get to second base with her co-presenter before the envelope had even been opened. Is it us or does Mary J. Blige look just a little jealous? The moral of this tale: Wear a pastie to the party and you’re gonna get felt up by a Supreme. Do with that information what you will… Miley.
5. Kanye’s gonna let you finish (2009)
…reading this post, but first he’d like to remind you of how great Beyoncé’s video for ‘Single Ladies’ is. Please watch it now. When the rapper interrupted Taylor Swift’s Best Female Video acceptance speech — let’s be honest, he didn’t interrupt it, he hijacked it — we were all shocked by how rude it was, and yet the years have proved Kanye correct. Think about it: Which video do you remember? Beyoncé’s iconic black and white masterpiece featuring Queen Bey in a leotard and gold C-3PO hand or Taylor’s… uh, what did that video look like again?
4. Taylor Swift, subway busker (2009)
The fact that Kanye had just rained on Taylor’s VMA parade made the live rendition of ‘You Belong With Me’ that followed immediately afterwards all the more incredible. If there’s one thing that can drown out Kanye, it’s hundreds of joyful, singing Swift fans packed onto a New York subway car.
3. Bloody Gaga (2009)
This is possibly the most WTF moment in VMA history and of course it involved Lady Gaga. Clad in lingerie and whatever they could pillage from the local hospital’s supply closet, Gaga and her dancers performed her stalker anthem ‘Paparazzi’ for the audience, incorporating bejewelled mobility devices into their routine. Near the end of the number the singer began inexplicably fake-bleeding from her diamond-studded crop top, finishing the set looking like the world’s most expensive tampon. It’s called art, OK?
2. The foam finger fiasco (2013)
Move aside Miley, we wanna see Beetlejuice’s moves. Oops, our bad! That’s actually Robin Thicke. We put a lot of work into blocking out the memory of last year’s über-raunchy Thicke/Cyrus duet. Alas, it’s all coming back to us now (and may well haunt us forever).
1. Beyoncé’s Blue Ivy bump (2011)
OK, this is the only example we’ve seen of someone actually “flaunting” their baby bump. No woman has ever shown off a fetus in utero quite like Queen Bey, but when you’re pregnant with the closest thing America has to a royal baby, you can get away with a dramatic post-performance belly-rub. Check out how excited Kanye is. It’s as if Blue Ivy was the best thing to happen to him since the video for ‘Single Ladies’ came out.
You know our thoughts on the most memorable VMA moments, now we want to know yours. Check out MTV’s The Ultimate VMA Showdown bracket and vote for your all-time favourite moment (your vote could also win you free concerts for a year!) before the big show goes down LIVE Sunday August 24 9e/6p on MTV.