Top 10 Memorable Performances from the MTV VMAs

Script written by Sadie Perkins There’s always something crazy that happens at the VMAs! This awards show is well known for its star-studded stage, but these performances earned their standing ovation. We’ve included unforgettable performances by Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Beyonce, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, and Britney Spears!
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Top 10 MTV Video Music Awards


This awards show is well known for its star-studded stage, but these performances earned their standing ovation. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 most memorable performances from the MTV Video Music Awards.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the wildest, most emotional, and/or most memorable scripted performances by singers or groups. Crazy incidents that happened backstage or behind the scenes, memorable as they might be, won’t be included.

#10: Justin Timberlake with *NSYNC
Solo & & *NSYNC Medley (2013)

We all remember the glory days of the boy band. Heartache-y love songs, corny dance moves, and of course, frosted tips - and there was no question that within that category, NSYNC was one of the few that reigned supreme. So when Justin Timberlake stepped up onto the stage to wow the crowd with some of his greatest hits in 2013, the highlight of the show was his former bandmates joining him for a reunion we’d been waiting over a decade for. For a few sweet moments, Justin and the boys brought back an era that might have passed, but had certainly left its mark in music.

#9: Taylor Swift
“You Belong with Me” (2009)

Back when Taylor was still rocking cowboy boots, the nowadays pop icon wasn’t known for her big city appearances. So when she boarded the New York F Train for her live performance of “You Belong With Me”, it was quite the culture shock. With some crafty camerawork and a more than enthusiastic audience, Taylor took the ballad from the underground subway tunnels to the roof of a taxi parked in front of the New York music hall, surrounded by screaming fans. The creativity of the performance, along with the Swiftie phenomenon that was already underway, made this interesting intro one nobody would forget.

#8: Eminem
“The Real Slim Shady” (2000)

As a rapper, sometimes you just gotta lay down the law. In his 2000 performance of one of his greatest hits, Eminem spit bars while surrounded by crowds of Marshall Mathers clones, all walking, talking, and acting like him. With the song itself a reminder that there’s no Slim Shady like the real Slim Shady, the rap star cemented his title on the VMA stage. It might have given audiences a case of double, er centuple? vision, but it kept them talking for over a decade after the show was aired.

#7: Kanye West
“Runaway” (2010)

When it comes to Kanye, you’d be disappointed if one of his performances wasn’t memorable. Standing out against a colourful contrast of a bright red suit against a monochrome stage, he certainly kept the audience's attention while performing his 2010 single. Toasting the not-so-nice great members of the music scene, with himself at the top, Kayne stayed classic Kanye with his “all eyes on me” performance. We’ll leave his infamous VMA rants out of this one, and – for once – just focus on the music.

#6: Beyoncé
“Love on Top” (2011)

Just when you think a classic love song can’t get any better, Queen Bey shows up and proves you wrong. Slaying “Love on Top”, Bey was looking classy as ever in her bow-tie and faux tuxedo outfit, but it was her subtle hints within the lyrics that really had viewers buzzing. With rumours already flying that she and Jay Z were expecting, Beyoncé blew the roof off the awards and the rumours when she finished the song, unbuttoned her shirt, and rubbed her belly. Safe to say it was an awards show like no other.

#5: Lady Gaga
“Paparazzi” (2009)

She’s the queen of the wild, eccentric, and downright jaw-dropping. With a beautifully intricate set behind her and some crazy talented dancers beside her, Lady Gaga kept audiences on the edge of their seats with her performance of “Paparazzi”. Like an old film, Gaga’s performance told a story through the song and slowly ramped up the intensity as she sang. With all white costumes, her dramatic bloody chest at the climax was all the more intense, but even that couldn’t top her hanging from the ceiling as the lights went dark. Though Gaga’s given her share of unforgettable performances, this one stays near the top of the list.

#4: Miley Cyrus & Robin Thicke
“We Can’t Stop / Blurred Lines” (2013)
This might be the one performance we all wish we could forget. The show that kicked off the “twerking” frenzy in the mainstream, Miley Cyrus’ performance was a wild ride from the get-go. Climbing out of a giant robotic bear? Strange. Donning a huge foam finger and doing some very suggestive dancing on the then-married Robin Thicke? Jaws drop. There was no part of the singer that wasn’t shaken around the stage as she sang alongside BeetleThicke as they transitioned from her song to his - and no shortage of tongue wagging. It's a long way off from the Hannah Montana we knew and wished the best for - but we have to give her props for creativity.

#3: Madonna
“Like a Virgin” (1984)

The show that inspired the next generations of MTV VMA artists, this was widely considered one of the most iconic VMA performances that had ever appeared on stage. Starting off with an elaborate costume in the form of a flowing wedding dress, Madonna descended a huge wedding cake in the middle of an empty stage, leaving audiences in awe of both her signature voice and the setting. Writhing on the floor without missing a beat, the music icon and her performance became so well known that she performed it again in 2003 alongside Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.

#2: Britney Spears
“I’m a Slave 4 U” (2001)

Using props is pretty common practice among singers these days, but using live props is a different story… In her jungle-themed performance of her steamy single “I’m a Slave 4 U”, Spears had audiences shocked when she sauntered onto the stage with an albino Burmese python laid across her shoulders, without so much as batting an eye. Using the huge snake like a slithering feather boa – literally – Spears spiced things up on stage while ramping up the audience to a whole new level. Known for keeping things heated on stage, Brit Brit may have shocked audiences in 2000 for her barely-there ensemble, but it’s how beautifully she pulled off the mixture of sexy and scary that lands the next year’s performance here.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Diddy feat. Sting, Faith Evans & 112
“I’ll Be Missing You” (1997)

Nirvana
“Lithium” (1992)

*NSYNC feat. Michael Jackson
“Pop” (2001)

#1: Michael Jackson
Medley (1995)

Nobody does it like the King does it. With a massive compilation of his greatest hits, MJ was on stage for nearly fifteen minutes, performing the biggest songs of his career with all the crotch grabbing, moonwalking, and dance battles we could ever hope for. Guest starring the guitarist Slash ripping it up on guitar, Jackson sang his heart out while hopping through a myriad of on-stage costume changes, never once missing a beat. It was a performance unlike any other, and one that we remember as one of his greatest ever.
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