We’re anticipating some of the biggest moments and performances in Moonman history when the MTV Video Music Awards take over Madison Square Garden for the first time ever on August 28. We expect Rihanna, Britney Spears, and many more performers this year to take it to the next level.
But first let’s count down the 10 most memorable performances so far from the show’s 33-year history. Rewind the excitement, then get tickets to see all the winners and nominees headed your way!
HIStory Medley – Michael Jackson feat. Slash
The King of Pop opened the 1995 show with an epic 15 minute routine – the longest in VMA history – that showed off signature moves including the Moonwalk, natch. This clip cuts in right as Guns N’ Roses guitar hero Slash takes things to the next level with some killer shred on “Billie Jean” and follows MJ through the mobster-inspired “Dangerous.”
“Like a Virgin” – Madonna
In this showstopper from the very first VMAs in 1984, the Material Girl really went for it when she writhed all over her birthday cake set piece, and the Radio City Music Hall stage. This career-defining moment helped establish the over-the-top standard the VMAs shoot for, and still stands out.
“The Real Slim Shady”/ “The Way I Am” – Eminem
Eminem was at the peak of his powers when he sent up all of popular culture on “The Real Slim Shady.” He brought “all the other Slim Shadys” plus tons of bravado with him as he stormed Radio City Music Hall, then silenced all the haters with the venomous verses of “The Way I Am.”
“Lithium” – Nirvana
There are no backup dancers or neon lights or anything else you might normally associate with VMA performances – just the raw power of Nirvana. It’s just pure, unscripted rock and roll brilliance. Bonus: be sure to stick around for Kurt Cobain’s equipment-destroying finale.
“Paparazzi” – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is everything that’s fabulous about the VMAs, and she pulled out all the stops for her 2009 performance of “Paparazzi.” Mother Monster gave us a Liberace-like piano solo, smeared stage blood all over herself, and floated above the stage in a harness, living up to the larger-than-life reputation that’s made her a modern classic.
“I’ll Be Missing You” – Diddy, Sting, Faith Evans, and 112
Sometimes a performance is memorable for its pure emotion. Such was the case in 1997 when P. Diddy gave us “I’ll Be Missing You,” a tribute to his fallen collaborator Notorious B.I.G. With a little help from Sting, Faith Evans, and 112, Puff Diddy wore his heart on his sleeve for the show of a lifetime while a Biggy montage played in the background.
“Love on Top” – Beyoncé
Queen Bey is the rare artist who can give you everything she’s got while making it look completely effortless. She’s done it since her days in Destiny’s Child, but what really made this performance stand out was her baby bump reveal at the end of the song. Hello, Blue Ivy!
“Can’t Stop”/ “Blurred Lines” – Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke
One of the most shocking VMA moments came from the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana. The singer gave us a bizarre visual mashup of teddy bears, video game graphics, and high energy. It was quintessential VMAs: unpredictable, unforgettable, and (most importantly) unbelievable fun.
“Livin’ on a Prayer”/ “Wanted Dead or Alive” – Bon Jovi
Bigger is usually better when it comes to VMA performances, which is why this stripped-down Jon Bon Jovi set stands out. The hair metal mainstays ignited the crowd at the 1989 ceremony with stirring acoustic renditions of two of their biggest hits in a performance that inspired the series MTV Unplugged.
“Like a Virgin”/ “Hollywood” – Madonna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Missy Elliot
As a tribute to Madonna’s classic 1984 performance, the two foremost teen pop stars of the day – Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – revisited her bridal schtick with all the risqué fun of the original. But Madge herself stole the show when she appeared dressed as the groom and kissed both starlets – possibly topping the original in terms of shocking, riveting entertainment.
If we missed your favorite VMA performance, tell us who you thought deserved to make the cut @Ticketmaster.