Who Gave the Best VMA Performance?


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MTV’s Video Music Awards airs this Sunday at 9 PM (though you should really be watching AMC’s Breaking Bad instead).  Following an undoubtedly absurd opener by Lady Gaga, this year’s show promises to deliver memorable and outrageous moments with just its headliners alone. Drake, Bruno Mars, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, and yes, Kanye West are all set to tear up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn this coming weekend.  Some of these performances are bound to be epic, which got me thinking—which artist pulled off the best VMA performance of all time? And when I say all time, I’m really just referring to the past decade or so, since I spent my childhood watching Nickelodeon instead of MTV. If you happened to be on MTV’s website two weeks ago, then you would’ve seen a poll that addressed this very question. Here were the contenders:

  • Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi—In her first-ever VMA performance, Gaga displayed a blend of madness and art that would become the staple of her future performances. Here, she made herself known to the world, as she suspended herself in midair while gushing blood all over the stage.

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  • Britney Spears’ I’m a Slave For You—This was most likely the pinnacle of Britney Spears’ hotness, as she danced in a jungle themed bikini, reeking of sex while carrying an enormous snake.

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  • Eminem’s The Real Slim Shady/The Way I Am (pictured above)—This is my personal favorite. It wasn’t Eminem’s first VMA performance, but it was the one that solidified him as a pop culture icon. In one of the most legendary moments in MTV history, Eminem led an army of lookalikes off Manhattan’s streets, into Radio City Music Hall, and down an aisle in the theater, making sure to high-five Carson Daly and say “whatup” to Fed Durst along the way—all while rapping a song that bashed half of the celebrities in the audience. And then just as he dropped the hook, Eminem took the stage, showing us that the real Slim Shady had indeed stood up.
  • Madonna’s Like a Virgin—For most people, this one probably takes the cake. Not only was it the first VMA performance ever, but it became the mold for all future VMA performers to follow. In 1984, Madonna was a newcomer to the music industry. At the time, no one expected that this young pop star would later evolve into the legendary Queen of Pop. Nor did they expect her to dress up like a whorish bride and then roll around on stage while singing about virginity and sex.

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These are definitely some solid choices, but I do think there are a few others worth considering. Britney Spears has given us a number of memorable performances—like in 2000, when she danced around in a skin suit that made her look naked. Or when she opened up the 2003 show by swapping spit with Madonna. Or when she was pudgy, bald, and insane in 2007, aimlessly wandering the stage in a drugged-out stupor, too stoned to realize that she was on television. And what about Kanye West’s performance of Runaway, which marked his valiant return to the VMA stage following his meltdown with Taylor Swift? Or Michael Jackson’s 1995 performance, where he sang a medley of his biggest hits while doing things with his feet and legs that most of us didn’t think possible? Or when Gun N’ Roses closed the 2009 show with a hard-hitting reunion?

MTV has definitely given us some awesome, jaw-dropping performances over the years. And with headliners like the controversial Kanye West and this hardcore version of Miley Cyrus, we can definitely expect some more to come. But how about you, folks? Think back to your days of adolescence; back to when you actually watched this show and gave a damn about it. Of all the artists you watched, who gave the most kick-ass performance?

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