The 29th Annual MTV Video Music Awards will be held on Thursday in Los Angeles, and will mark the first show in almost fifteen years that I won’t be watching. Maybe I’m old, maybe I don’t care about which hair color Katy Perry is going to show up with, and I don’t know the names of the boys in One Direction, but these aren’t the VMAs I grew up with. Instead of dwelling on how much MTV sucks these days, let’s take a look back on all of the unplanned debauchery and amazing performances.
The first VMAs were held in 1984 with Bette Midler and Dan Aykroyd hosting, my how times have changed. Madonna made her first appearance with her iconic “Like A Virgin,” performance, writhing around on the stage in a wedding dress. Seventeen years later, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera would join her when she mashed the song up with her single “Hollywood” at the 2003 awards.
There was also some kissing involved. We should also highlight her performances of “Vogue” in 1990 and “Ray of Light” in 1997, which featured Lenny Kravitz and her nipples.
Ever the cheeky one, Prince appeared in an assless yellow jumpsuit with The New Power Generation in 1991 for “Gett Off.” The awards of the early 90s would prove to be the most diverse, with shows featuring performances from bands like Pearl Jam to legends like Elton John and the flavors of the year like Soul Asylum. Whatever happened to those guys?
1994’s show had Aerosmith, Salt n Pepa and the Beastie Boys taking the stage. Krist Novoselic paid special tribute to his friend Kurt Cobain, who had committed suicide only five months earlier. At next year’s show Cobain’s widow Courtney Love and her band Hole performed a rousing version of “Violet.”
Later that evening, Love interrupted Madonna‘s interview with Kurt Loder, throwing her compact over Madge’s head and stumbling about until she fell over. I think Loder enjoyed this the most. Also rocking the stage that year was Michael Jackson with Slash on guitar.
The ’96 VMAs would mark the last television appearance from Tupac Shakur, before being shot in Las Vegas in September. At that show, Bush had a “Machinehead,” Gavin‘s future wifey Gwen Stefani and No Doubt would hit up the pre-show with “Spiderwebs/Just A Girl.” The Fugees and a pre-tax evasion Lauryn Hill gave us a medley of their hits along with Nas‘ “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That),” but I think it was The Smashing Pumpkins with what was the one of the biggest songs and videos of that year, “Tonight, Tonight” that was my favorite performance of that show.
I believe 1997 was probably one of the best years for music, and the ’97 awards show proved that: The Foo Fighters had their first VMAs performance at the pre-show where guitarist Pat Smear announced that he was leaving the band. (He would of course return in 2006.) Puff Daddy, before he was Diddy, paid tribute to The Notorious B.I.G with Faith Evans and an oddly placed Sting. It was Ladies Night with Lil Kim, Missy Elliott and friends.
The Spice Girls trekked all the way to the States to bring us some Girl Power.
I vividly remember being fascinated by The Prodigy and that massive crowd in London for “Breathe,” but it was Marilyn Manson scaring the crap out of everyone with “The Beautiful People” that sticks out to me the most.
Apparently a number of people left before the group even hit the stage and host Chris Rock closed out the show jokingly urging everyone to “go to church!”
Then we have the 1999 show, which DivaJulia and I agree was the last great one. It definitely had the oddest mix of performers, but that’s what I liked about the old VMAs, there was something for everyone. There were the teenyboppers, Britney Spears and her high school fantasy with NSYNC. Jay-Z, Eminem and Dr. Dre gave us the hip-hop, while Ricky Martin (or as Chris Rock called him Rickeee Mah-ehhn!!) had us “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”
Nine Inch Nails made their only VMA appearance with “The Fragile,” and were introduced by Johnny Depp (“the rich man’s Skeet Ulrich!” . David Bowie also made an appearance to introduce Lauryn Hill.
In 2000, the show’s most memorable moment went to Rage Against The Machine‘s Tim Commerford climbing one of the stage’s set pieces after the band lost an award to Limp Bizkit. Can’t say I blame the guy. There was also Britney’s breakout performance of “Oops!…I Did It Again” where she literally broke out of her clothes.
That year she introduced the late Whitney Houston along with Christina Aguilera, and it was one of the moments that now we can look back on and realize will never happen again. In 2001 Spears would have another memorable performance with “I’m A Slave 4 U” where she danced with a snake. Apparently that snake now hangs out with Grimes.
Before 2004, the VMAs had only ventured out of NYC once for the ’98 show, and after 2003 they would never be the same again. After Madonna sucked the life out of her proteges, there wasn’t much else to the ’03 show besides an weird medley of that year’s hits by Metallica. Seriously, what? It was however, Beyonce‘s time to shine, as she descended from the ceiling for “Baby Boy” before going into “Crazy In Love” with her future husband Jay-Z. She would bring out another army of dancers in 2009 for “Single Ladies.”
Speaking of Single Ladies, although the video for the song become something of a cultural phenomenon in 2009, it surprisingly didn’t win the award for Best Female Video.
That went to Taylor Swift who was hilariously interrupted by a drunk Kanye West. I’m mostly indifferent to Yeezy these days, but I will always appreciate that “Imma let you finish” moment.