The MTV Video Music Awards are always one of the more highly anticipated award shows for music fans each year. With the anticipation for the show comes the nostalgia for the memorable moments of the past.
The show brings the industry's incredible artists together for live performances, video premieres and a fair share of memorable and controversial moments. It could be Beyonce surprising everybody with her baby bump, an impromptu stage invasion by Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford and several moments with Britney Spears.
This year, the show returns to Brookyln's Barclays Center, starting at 8 p.m. ET on MTV, with simulcasts on CMT, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pop, TV Land, VH1 and the CW. Repeat showings will begin immediately after on MTV and all of its affiliate sites. You'll also be able to stream the show on Paramount+ for the first time.
Performances will include Alicia Keys with Swae Lee, Camila Cabello, Chlöe, Doja Cat, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Justin Bieber, Kacey Musgraves, Lil Nas X, Machine Gun Kelly, Normani, Olivia Rodrigo, Shawn Mendes and Twenty One Pilots. Lorde was set to perform as well, but canceled in recent weeks due to changes with production.
Backstreet Boys member AJ McLean, Ashanti, Avril Lavigne, Billie Eilish, Pose star Billy Porter, Conor McGregor, 50 Cent, Cyndi Lauper, Fat Joe, Hailey Bieber, Halle Bailey, Ja Rule, Lance Bass, Megan Fox, Nick Lachey, Rita Ora, Simone Biles and Travis Barker fill out the presenters for the awards, the first full show since 2020's strange pandemic-influenced telecast.
Although folks are still struggling with the pandemic and aren't bringing a load of emotion to the show, it doesn't mean some controversial or awkward moments won't occur. Take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the most memorable and controversial moments in VMAs history below.
Madonna, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera Kiss (2003)
In 2003, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera joined Madonna on the VMAs stage to mark the 30th anniversary of the show and sing her classic hit "Like a Virgin." Spears and Aguilera dressed in white outfits to throw back to The Material Girl's iconic performance at the first show, while Madonna wore an all black ensemble in contrast.
The three artists danced provocatively during the performance, and then pulled the rug out on the audience with a moment they should've expected with Madonna. The legendary pop star kissed both Spears and Aguilera on stage, and in front of the former's boyfriend Justin Timberlake.
Spears always takes the focus on the moment, aided by the camera catching her smooch before cutting directly to Timberlake and missing Aguilera's kiss.prevnext
Kanye West Interrupts Taylor Swift (2009)
In a moment no one will ever forget, Kanye West cemented his legacy as a mad genius and cemented his rivalry with Taylor Swift for years to come. While Swift was accepting for Best Female Video at the 2009 VMAs, West infamously stormed the stage to fight for Beyonce.
This was the same year the former Destiny's Child singer was nominated for her music video for "Single Ladies." When Swift was handed her moon man statue, West rushed the stage to make a case for Beyoncé's music video and cut off Swift.
"Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you. I'ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!" he told Swift before turning to address the audience. The reaction from Swift was not pleasant, Beyonce seemed mortified and Pink took a moment to yell at West over the incident.
It appeared the two were over the drama at the 2015 VMAs because Swift presented West his Video Vanguard Award and he also sent her flowers. However, the drama went straight back into the headlines when West released his song "Famous" the following year.prevnext
Miley Cyrus Twerks With Robin Thicke (2013)
Miley Cyrus in 2013 was focused on shocking audiences and turning up her liberated persona at the time. The Voice alum took the stage at the VMAs for a performance alongside Robin Thicke, including his controversial hit "Blurred Lines." Despite their age gap at the time, Cyrus went up to him and twerked throughout the song.
The performance troubled many, but it was part of the "new Miley" at the time and her new direction post-Hannah Montana. Her new persona was nothing like her Disney years, showing skin, twerking and generally pushing the limits of the audience she had.
In 2017, Cyrus opened up about that time in her life saying the look "became something that was expected of me." She added that the whole experience "got to a point where I did feel sexualized." Thicke faced his own controversy due to the song shortly after, including some mockery over his Beetlejuice suit, also.prevnext
Howard Stern as Fartman (1992)
Howard Stern in 1992 was a different animal compared to Howard Stern in 2021. He was the self-proclaimed King of All Media at the time, was number one in New York and LA's crowded morning radio scene at the same time and he helped nurse the age of the "shock jock" into existence. With that came his appearance at the VMAs in 1992, but not as himself.
Instead, Stern would appear in full costume as his on-air creation Fartman. The results would have Luke Perry grab his bare cheeks on stage and bring a little toilet humor to the awards show ahead of its 10-year-anniversary.
Fartman was arguably Stern's most popular character from his radio show and he even debated possibly crafting a film starring the character. He took the character from a comic in National Lampoon back in the late '70s and a bit on National Lampoon's White Album from 1979. His first time as the character came in the early '80s on his show, with Stern filing a trademark in 1992.
Stern was still trying to get a film made up until 2002, right before his move to Sirius radio in 2004. He was also almost a part of WrestleMania history, though the radio host couldn't see eye-to-eye with owner Vince McMahon. Fartman would make it to the big screen in a way during Stern's 1997 film Private Parts, the adaptation of his memoirs featuring a recreation of the VMAs moment.prevnext
Beyonce Reveals Her Baby Bump (2011)
Beyonce used her VMAs performance in 2011 to shock everybody and confirm her first pregnancy with husband Jay-Z. Before Blue Ivy Carter was making headlines on her own, she was a secret reveal at the end of the pop diva's "Love On Top" performance.
After blowing the audience away with a stellar show, Beyonce opened her jacket and pushed out her belly, rubbing it and sending the message that she was soon to be a mother. Kanye West and Jay-Z are celebrating in the audience and it is fun to watch the crowd realize what they're witnessing.prevnext
Britney Spears Performs With a Python (2001)
Britney Spears at the VMAs is like peanut butter and chocolate, they just go together well and too much could overwhelm you. The 2001 MTV staple aired just days before the 9/11 attacks, placing them in a strange place in history where things almost seemed torn from another timeline.
But Spears' performance of "I'm a Slave 4 U" on stage with a slew of live animals, including an albino python, and garnered attention, controversy and everything in between. The performance was the height of Spears' sexualization at the time and became one of several iconic VMAs appearances.
It even popped back into the pop culture spectrum thanks to Netflix's Tiger King and spotlight on the controversial Doc Antle, who lent his animals to the show for the performance and can be seen on stage.prevnext
Lady Gaga Debuts The Meat Dress (2010)
Lady Gaga was once known for her unusual taste for fashion before becoming a musical force and Oscar-winning threat on several fronts. Take the 2010 VMAs where Gaga walked away a major winner and showcased a meat dress to the confused masses.
According to Billboard, the dress was meant to be a protest against the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policies and not a statement on eating meat or slight to vegans and vegetarians.
"It's certainly no disrespect to anyone that's vegan or vegetarian," Gaga gold Ellen DeGeneres in a post-VMAs interview. "As you know, I'm the most judgment-free human being on the Earth. It has many interpretations, but for me this evening it's [saying], 'If we don't stand up for what we believe in, if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones.'"
Still, the dressed ruffled some feathers and earned criticism from PETA. They were off the mark with their criticism, though, because we're here a decade later with people practically worshipping the pop queen.prevnext
Diana Ross Gives Lil' Kim's Cleavage a Little Jiggle (1999)
Diana Ross is music royalty and a diva legend that made her mark with The Supremes, her solo career, acting and even famously successful children. But for MTV fans, many remember the icon for her appearance with Mary J. Blige and Lil' Kim.
That's due to Ross lovingly greeting the pair on stage, embracing Blige before moving on to Lil' Kim and jiggling her exposed breast for the audience. Kim's outfit was honestly memorable enough as it is, but Ross being a total legend knew how to crank up the power on a moment.
Not everybody was pleased, though. Blige would tell Andy Cohen in September 2020 that she was "pissed" at Ross for what happened. "I was embarrassed for Kim and I was pissed when that happened because that's my little sister and my friend," Blige told Cohen. "Kim is courageous. She's gon' do what Kim does, so I think we all should respect it like we should respect Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj and Cardi. Respect Lil' Kim. This is what they do. Respect them."prevnext
Rage Against the Machine Storms Stage (2000)
Rage Against the Machine made their mark on the 2000 VMAs with some impromptu action in protest of what they deemed some terrible music. During Limp Bizkit's acceptance for Best Rock Video, winning for "Break Stuff" and beating out Rage's "Sleep Now in The Fire," directed by Michael Moore.
Moore played a hand in the moment that followed, with bassist Tim Commerford taking the stage and climbing the set during Fred Durst's acceptance speech. Commerford explained his motivation in a 2015 interview with Livewire.
"We were up against Limp Bizkit, one of the dumbest bands in the history of music. We're up against them and their singer made the video. So it was Limp Bizkit vs. Rage, Fred Durst-directed video vs. Michael Moore. And I'm sitting there with Michael and I'm like, 'Hey man, if that camera doesn't come over here, I'm climbing up that structure and I'm gonna sit there like a f-ing gargoyle and throw a wrench in this show.' And he's like, 'Tim, follow your heart.'"
He did follow it and despite Zach De La Rocha and Tom Morello trying to tell the bassist not to jump up on the stage. This didn't work, leading to Commerford confusing everybody at home and pulling some interesting commentary from Fred Durst in the process.
It also may have ended Rage's initial run together as De La Rocha would leave the band a year later, though the band has since reunited with a few hiccups due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As for Commerford himself, he spent a night in jail and did not throw a big enough wrench into anything.prevnext
Eminem Beefs With Moby and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (2002)
Why yes, there was a moment in VMAs history where Eminem had beef with both Moby and a dog puppet made famous by Conan O'Brien's talk show. The Detroit rapper was at the height of his initial fame and under fire for his alleged homophobia, earning the derision of Moby at the 2001 Grammys.0comments
Eminem would hit back and target Moby in his song "Without Me" before threatening to fight the electronic artist during his acceptance speech that night. Triumph stood at the center of this moment, with comedian and creator Robert Smigel also tossed in due to the nature of the bit.
Triumph joked about the lyrics with Moby on the show, an awkward moment turned more awkward when he tried to speak to Eminem and his posse. The rapper pushed Triumph away while addressing Smigel and turning a moment that nobody would remember into one that we're still talking about today.prev