The MTV VMA‘s are airing this weekend (more on that later), and the list of performers this year are surprisingly un-impressive. And there are a few things that will happen at the Awards that I don’t agree with and thus I won’t be watching.
However, the VMA’s have given us music lovers some very memorable and iconic performances in it’s 27 years of broadcasting. Here are my personal favorites of all-time, the ones that have been the most memorable after all these years.
10. Kanye West“Runaway” (2010)
Seems like Kanye is always performing to redeem himself after a controversy the year before. His debut of “Love Lockdown” at 2008’s ceremony came after he went on a tirade in 2007 for not winning Video of the Year. This performance came after the Taylor Swift incident in 2009. The lyrical content (“i always find something wrong, you been putting up with my shit for way too long.” “let’s have a toast to the assholes”) worked because of the controversy, but the great thing about this performance is his use of the space. It’s very artistic in it’s simplicity, and the shocking red he wears in front of the mostly white backdrop also works so well in a really strange way.
9. Janet Jackson“That’s The Way Love Goes/If” (1993)
Her 1993 Album “janet.” brought out the sexy side of Ms. Jackson If Ya Nasty and it was only appropriate for her to bring that sexiness out on stage. And she definitely brought it with this mini-medley of her two huge MTV hits that year. Her choreography was on point, going from sexy to high energy and intricacy. And if she was lipping, well she did a clever job because the vocals aren’t exactly like the album recordings, so props for that. Easily one of her best performances, and one that most Pop chicks should study.
8. Alicia Keys
“No One/Freedom” (2007)
Britney got all the attention that year for her ultimate-hot-mess of a performance of “Gimme More”, but Alicia emerged as the true artist that year and she gave one of her best live performances. She debuted the monster hit single “No One, and it was obviously a song at the time she was really into because it’s clear she put her heart into the performance. Than she switched things up and did a short cover of George Michael’s classic “Freedom 90”, and it felt like a big party. One of the few performances where Alicia seemed to be genuinely having fun.
7. Jamiroquai“Virtual Insanity” (1997)
Jay Kay and crew hit MTV big time with their video “Virtual Insanity” (which ended up taking home best Video of the Year), the video was such a hit because people wondered what effect was used to get his sort of “treadmill” room to operate. And the best thing about this performance is he (tried at least) brought that effect to life. In his music, you can tell he’s a soulful cat who commits 110% to every line he sings and when he performs it’s the same, and evident in this clip. He’s just so entertaining to watch.
6. Beyonce“Baby Boy/Crazy In Love” (2003)
For her debut VMA performance (belive it or not, Destiny’s Child never had proper VMA stage time), Bey pulled out all the tricks. From being lowered upside down from the ceiling, to the Rockette style “uh-oh”dance, this performance was wall to wall energy. And she sang live and danced her heart out, she was really trying to impress on her first time and it’s safe to say she did (from the looks of that Standing O).
5. Diddy“Bad Boy For Life/ I Need A Girl/ Pass The Courvoisier” (2002)
Talk about everything but the kitchen sink. Diddy spent a lot of time and money on this extravagant performance in 2002. He had just come off a summer of hits from his Remix album and this was a good medley of a few of those club bangers. He brought out Usher, Pharrell, Busta Rhymes and Ginuwine… as well as a troupe of dancers, weird acrobatics, explosions, glass shattering and pretty much every thing you can think of that would fit on the stage safely. Still, without the bells and whistles this was a really impressive performance from him. His dancing was on point (well), and it was just a good time on stage in general. We can look past his obvious lipping right!?
4. Madonna“Like A Virgin” (1984)
This is probably the most memorable performance of the VMA’s of All-Time for several reasons. This was the first annual presentation of the awards, and one of the first times Madonna did a big performance of her uber-hit “Like a Virgin”. No, it really isn’t the most impressive work from an artist on the stage, but the shock value of this sexually charged “bride” rolling around on the ground was actually quite taboo at the time. It became a bit of a controversy, and this might be what started Madonna’s envelope-pushing.
3. Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Give It Away” (1991)
For me personally, this is one that sticks out when I think of great VMA performances but maybe not to other people. The Peppers performed their big MTV hit “Give It Away”, and in true to Rock Star form they decided to break the rules.Well, I’m sure these people were hand selected but this was the first time (and I think only time since) that I’ve seen a band and their fans on stage together rocking out to a song. It’s just the type of energy you’d expect from the young MTV, you watched it and wanted to be on the stage with them. And Flea rocking out in his tightie-whities has become sort of an iconic image (remember their appearance on “The Simpsons”!)
Madonna is literally the Queen and King of MTV at this point, so it figures she’d have more than one performance on this list. In 1990, this was her second year in a row performing, and this was coming off one of the biggest most successful years in her career. This performance was highly anticipated, and people just didn’t know what she was gonna do, but knew she’d do something crazy. The result is a very well executed 18th Century inspired performance of her hit “Vogue”. Though she was lipping, the performance is one of the most entertaining and engaging performances. And only Madonna could do something like this and make it work.
1. Michael Jackson
Tribute Performance (2009)
The Grammy’s did a tribute, BET Awards had a tribute two years in a row, and pretty much EVERY Award show that year had a Tribute to King of Pop Michael Jackson after his surprising death. The MTV VMA’s were the only ones who really got it right, and rightfully so. MTV and Michael Jackson basically made each other, so they would know the appropriate way to tribute his talents. Mainly focusing on dance, many a famous choreographer (including Wade Robson, Tyce Diorio and Laurie Ann Gibson) donned Iconic MJ wear and tore the place up with their moves.
The icing on the cake was sister Janet Jackson coming out to the surprise of everyone and killed it. A really loving tribute, and it really did show why he was such an Icon and such an Influence to the whole MTV generation.