MTV Video Music Awards Graphic, MTV VMA's

E! Illustration

The yearly event our social media accounts have eagerly awaited is finally just around the corner—the 2016 MVT Video Music Awards. 

While the annual ceremony's objective is to honor the best music video creations of the last twelve months, it is also one of the most viral evenings of every summer. 

Unlike the bevy of other award shows holding court throughout the year, the MTV VMAs typically abides by one unwritten rule—anything goes. 

From the rehearsed shockers to the impromptu bombshells, a full MTV VMA ceremony is bound to contain at least one jaw-dropping moment. With over 30 shows to its name, the Video Music Awards has seen its fair share of provocative performances, celebrity quarrels, a pregnancy announcement and even a run for presidency. Without further adieu, take a walk down memory lane to revisit the most notable bits of shock-and-awe.

Madonna, VMA

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

When the MTV VMAs first aired in 1984, one of its initial performances set the standard for the racy routines audiences would expect decades down the line. A 26-year-old Madonna took the stage atop a giant wedding cake and iconically writhed around the floor in a lace wedding dress with a corseted top and garter belt to the tune of her soon-to-be classic hit, "Like a Virgin."

While the performance is considerably tame now in comparison to modern shows, Madonna's no holds barred approach to putting on a show inspired legions of performers for years to come. 

Fiona Apple, MTV VMA's

AP Photo/Adam Nadel

In 1997, Fiona Apple was named "Best New Artist in a Video" for her "Sleep to Dream" psychedelic production. However, when she took the stage, the 20-year-old songstress decided to rain down on the audience with a heaping dose of her reality. 

"I didn't prepare a speech and I'm sorry but I'm glad I didn't because I'm not gonna do this like everybody else does it," she began at the podium.

"Everybody out there that's watching, everybody that's watching this world? This world is bulls--t. And you shouldn't model your life—wait a second—you shouldn't model your life about what you think that we think is cool and what we're wearing and what we're saying and everything. Go with yourself. Go with yourself."

Michael Jackson, Lisa-Marie Presley, MTV Video Music Awards, VMA

AFP/Getty Images

Before there was Kim Kardashian and Kanye West or Beyoncé and Jay-Z, there was Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie, the power couple of music. However, while the marriage had been widely speculated to be a public relations ploy, they had insisted it was indeed a real union. 

To drive the point home, they walked onto the 1994 MTV VMA stage hand in hand when the "Thriller" icon made this declaration: "And just think—nobody thought this would last." In one fell swoop, they passionately kissed and walked off. 

Lil Kim, Diana Ross, MTV Video Music Awards, VMA


When Lil' Kim took the stage with Mary J. Blige at the 1997 ceremony to present the award for the Best Hip Hop Video, they first had to summon "the original diva of R&B," Diana Ross

As Ross greeted the ladies, she did what virtually everyone watching was thinking and tapped Lil' Kim's right breast covered in a purple flower pasty. 

Britney Spears, MTV VMAs 2000

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Britney Spears is a staple of the Video Music Awards, thanks in part to two unforgettable back-to-back performances. In 2000, she made jaws drop when she ripped off her suit and hat to reveal a sequin nude halter crop top and pants while breaking into her new song, "Oops!... I Did It Again."

In 2001 came the equally legendary performance of her "I'm a Slave 4 U" hit. As she was making the  transition from former Disney kid star and pop princess to adult musical vixen, her dance with a live python in an emerald bikini top and sequin shorts certainly picked up that transformation right where the sheer sequin pants had left off. 

Madonna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, MTV VMA's


By 2003, MTV's queens of shock and awe united for arguably one of the most unexpected moments in award show history. In the middle of a trio performance starring Spears, Madonna and Christina Aguilera, the 80s legend belted out her hit, "Hollywood" before turning to Britney for a smooch. 

As Britney has said in past interviews, the kiss was all Madge's idea. 

Kanye West, Taylor Swift, VMA

Kevin Mazur/

Imma let you finish, but Kanye had one of the best shock and awe moments of all time when he jumped on stage after Taylor Swift won the 2009 Best Female Video for "You Belong With Me." 

The rapper felt strongly that Beyoncé should have won the title for her "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" routine, so he interrupted the acceptance speech to publicly declare that she "had one of the best videos of all time."

However, Beyonce later tried to rectify the situation by letting Swift take her place at the mic after accepting the award for Video of the Year. "I would like for Taylor to come out and have her moment," she explained. However, the controversial moment sparked the beginning of a longtime feud between Kanye and Tay. 

Beyonce, VMAs, 2011

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Free from the drama of two years prior, Beyoncé returned to the VMA stage to perform her new track, "Love on Top" while simultaneously revealing she had some baby in belly. 

Moments after finishing the visually exhausting number, the songstress literally dropped her mic and unbuttoned her purple sequin tuxedo jacket to rub her baby bump. Without saying a word, Bey broke Twitter records and crafted one of the most memorable personal reveals in MTV history. 

Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus, VMA

Scott Gries/Invision/AP

With the Britney Spears strategy in hand, Miley Cyrus partnered up with Robin Thicke at the 2013 awards show to distance herself from her former Disney persona and twerk on the crooner's lap while he sang about "Blurred Lines." 

The lap action combined with Miley rubbing a foam finger in between her legs ignited an uproar from concerned mothers and feminist advocates alike and dominated the mainstream media for days afterward.  

Kanye West, 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, VMA

Kevin Winter/MTV1415/Getty Images For MTV

In his highly anticipated return to the VMA stage since the debacle with Swift, Kanye accepted the highly regarded 2015 Video Vanguard Award, complete with a lengthy speech.

As the grand finale to his remarks, West announced a surprise campaign for the White House. "As you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president," he finished. 

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share

We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies. For more information on cookies including how to manage your consent visit our Cookie Policy.