The MTV Video Music Awards, also called the VMAs, were established at the end of the summer of 1984 by MTV to celebrate the top music videos of the year. Originally beginning as an alternative to the Grammy Awards (in the video category), the MTV Video Music Awards have become a respected pop culture awards show in its own right, and have often been called the "Super Bowl for youth", an acknowledgment of the Awards ceremony's ability to draw millions of youth from teens to 20-somethings each year. By 2001, the VMA had become a coveted award.They are presented annually, and broadcast live on MTV.
Past broadcasts have been held in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Las Vegas. In 2008, the MTV Video Music awards were held in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California at Paramount Pictures Studios (which, like MTV, is owned by Viacom). The statue given to winners is an astronaut on the moon, one of the earliest representations of MTV. Before 2002, the VMAs were traditionally held on the second Thursday of September. The VMAs' date was moved back a week so that it would never coincide with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The VMAs have been a generational pop-cultural annual award show that gathers the most popular bands and artists each year. For years, the show was noteworthy for its live crazy moments (some cut for the re-runs); it quickly gained popularity because of them, rather than the awards given.
The show starts with a pre-show that can last from 1 to 2 hours. That is followed by the main show which lasts up to three hours, and then the post-show. In recent years, the VMA have been two hours long.
At the First MTV Video Music Awards in 1984, Madonna performed "Like A Virgin" wearing a combination bustier/wedding gown, including her trademark "Boy Toy" belt. During the performance, she rolled around on the floor, revealing lacy stockings and garters, and made a number of sexually suggestive moves.
Whitney Houston, who was one of the first female African American artists to receive heavy rotation on network, performed "How Will I Know" and "Greatest Love of All" at the 1986 Video Music Awards. The network had received criticism for not playing enough videos by black artists.
Controversial comic Andrew Dice Clay's appearance at the 1989 Video Music Awards to promote his new movie, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, earned him a "lifetime ban" from the network when he started performing some of his already-notorious nursery rhymes that contained vulgar language and references. After performing with Tom Petty, Guns N' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin was assaulted by Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil, leading to a verbal battle between Neil and Guns N' Roses lead singer Axl Rose.
Paula Abdul was nominated for six awards, picking up four wins, and turned out the most notable performance of the night. She commanded the VMA stage with a seven-minute medley of her #1 hits: Straight Up, Cold Hearted and Forever Your Girl.
When Madonna won the Viewer's Choice Award for her Like a Prayer video she thanked Pepsi-Cola in her acceptance speech "for causing so much controversy." Madonna had been paid $5 million by Pepsi-Cola to appear in a commercial that would predominantly feature the world premiere of "Like a Prayer." The commercial, titled "Make a Wish," depicted Madonna drinking Pepsi and watching a home video of her eighth birthday. The tone that the commercial sought to convey sharply contrasted with the music video. When Pepsi executives saw the video, they yanked the advertisement after only two airings in an attempt to dissociate themselves from Madonna. Ironically, the Viewer's Choice Award was sponsored by Pepsi-Cola.
At the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna gave a memorable performance of her hit "Vogue," which featured Madonna and her dancers dressed in an 18th-century French theme, with Madonna bearing great resemblance to Marie Antoinette. During the performance, Madonna and her dancers flashed their undergarments during their routine, and at one point Madonna pushed the faces of two male dancers into her breasts, and one of her dancers fondled her breasts and looked under her dress.
A conflict between Poison's Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille culminated in a fistfight at the Video Music Awards in 1991. DeVille was fired and replaced by Pennsylvanian guitarist Richie Kotzen. Paul Reubens had his first public appearance following an arrest for lewd-conduct earlier that year. Taking the stage in costume as Pee Wee Herman, he received a standing ovation, after which he asked the audience, "Heard any good jokes lately?"
In 1992, MTV requested Nirvana perform "Smells Like Teen Spirit," while the band itself had indicated it preferred to play new songs "Rape Me" and "tourette's". Network executives continued to push for "Teen Spirit" but finally offered the band a choice to play either "Teen Spirit" or "Lithium," which the band appeared to accept. At the performance, Nirvana began to play, and Kurt Cobain played the first few chords of the song, "Rape Me", much to the horror of MTV execs. The band did finally return to its regular performance of "Lithium." Near the end of the song, frustrated that his amp had stopped functioning, bassist Krist Novoselic decided to toss his bass into the air for dramatic effect. He misjudged the landing, and the bass ended up bouncing off of his forehead, forcing him to stumble off the stage in a daze. Backstage, Guns N' Roses vocalist Axl Rose challenged Cobain to a fight after he, his wife and Hole frontwoman, Courtney Love, and Nirvana bandmates Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, egged him on. At the end of Nirvana's performance, while Cobain was trashing the band's equipment, drummer Dave Grohl ran to the mike and shouted "Hi, Axl! Where's Axl?" repeatedly. Guns N' Roses' video for the ballad "November Rain" won the MTV Video Music Award for best cinematography. During the show, the band performed "November Rain" with singer Elton John. Because of the dispute Rose had with Cobain, moments before the "November Rain" performance, Cobain spat on the keys of what he thought was Axl's piano. Cobain later revealed that he was shocked to see Elton John play on the piano he had spat on.
At the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna opened the show in a gender-bending performance of her song "Bye Bye Baby," in which she and her two back up singers, dressed in tuxedos and top hats, danced with women in corsets in a choreographed, highly sexual routine.
RuPaul and Milton Berle, who had had conflicts backstage, presented an award together. When Berle inappropriately touched RuPaul's breasts, RuPaul ad-libbed the line "So you used to wear gowns, but now you're wearing diapers."
At the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards on September 8, shortly after a profanity-laced appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Madonna was announced to present the award for Best Group Video. She came out, arm-in-arm with an unannounced David Letterman, to a wild ovation. At the microphone, Letterman told her, "I'll be out by the car. Watch your language," and left.
Recently betrothed couple Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley received a standing ovation as they walked on stage hand-in-hand. After turning to the audience and proclaiming, "And just think, nobody thought this would last," Jackson grabbed Presley and kissed her. Presley, who divorced Jackson in 1996, would later claim that Jackson’s PR team insisted on the kiss.
At the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, Courtney Love's band Hole perform the song "Violet" from their major-label debut album Live Through This. This was one of the first major televised performances given by Love following the suicide of her husband Kurt Cobain and the death of her band's bassist Kristen Pfaff in 1994. The song ended with Love throwing her guitar, knocking the microphone stand into the crowd and pushing over speaker-boxes with bandmate Eric Erlandson before exiting the stage.
Michael Jackson performed a medley of his main songs, some new songs including 'Scream'. Slash played guitar on "Black or White."
On September 4, 1996, the four original members of Van Halen made their first public appearance together since their infamous break-up in 1985, presenting an award. Their appearance was greeted with a 20-second standing ovation and fueled widespread speculation about a reunion tour. After the ousting of vocalist Sammy Hagar on Father's Day 1996, the original line-up of Van Halen recorded two new songs for a highly anticipated greatest hits album, entitled Best Of Vol. 1. Backstage, after presenting an award to Beck, the reunion soured bitterly, and reportedly, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen nearly came to blows. During media interviews, Roth advised Van Halen not to talk about his personal issues, such as his impending hip replacement surgery. Van Halen claims that Roth said, "tonight is about me, man, not your fucking hip!" Van Halen, infuriated at what he perceived as Roth's egotism, lunged at Roth and told him, "if you ever speak to me like that again, you'd better be wearing a cup!" Van Halen fumed about Roth's behavior while presenting another award to Beck, calling it "disrespectful" and "embarrassing." Several weeks later, the public learned that Van Halen would not reunite with Roth. Roth released a statement apologizing to fans, stating that he was an unwitting participant in a publicity stunt to sell more copies of the greatest hits album, and that he had been led to believe that he was rejoining Van Halen. The following day, Eddie and Alex Van Halen released a statement, stating that they had been honest with Roth, and never lead him to believe that he had been re-hired. Subsequently, Van Halen's popularity declined.
Alanis Morissette performed "Your House", a hidden track from her bestseller album "Jagged Little Pill". The performance had nothing to do with her 1995 one. The beginning and the ending of the song were sung a capella, while the rest was played with only one guitar on stage. At the end Morissette was close to tears.
The recently reunited Kiss closed the show with a special concert aired from the New York Dockyards.
In 1997, Pat Smear announced that he was leaving Foo Fighters half way through their performance and presented his replacement, Franz Stahl who had been a member of the band Scream with Dave Grohl.
Puff Daddy released his debut album No Way Out, featuring the successful tribute single "I'll Be Missing You", dedicated to the recently murdered Notorious B.I.G. The song featured Puff Daddy, Biggie's widow Faith Evans and R&B group 112. The song sampled the melody of The Police's hit song "Every Breath You Take." All these artists performed the song with former Police vocalist Sting.
The odd pairing of presenters Martha Stewart and Busta Rhymes that year drew much talk in the press. They presented the best dance video award to the Spice Girls for their music video "Wannabe," who wore a black strap on their left arms as a sign of grief because of Princess Diana's death prior to the event.
While accepting the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist Video that year for "Sleep To Dream", Fiona Apple appealed to her audience not to be enamored of celebrity culture. She proclaimed, "this world is bullshit" and quoted Maya Angelou, saying "go with yourself." Though her comments were generally greeted with cheers and applause at the awards ceremony, the media backlash was huge. Some considered her remarks to be hypocritical, seeing a contradiction between her appearance in a risqué music video in only her underwear and her telling young women to ignore celebrity culture. However she was unapologetic: "When I have something to say, I'll say it."
At the 1998 VMA's, Brandy and Monica performed "The Boy Is Mine" together live for the first time, putting an end to the media speculation that the two were rivals.
During the original broadcast of the show, a commercial faded in the Nine Inch Nails NIN logo on a black screen while playing a combination of music that started as a solo piano piece and morphed into an electronic/industrial beat (which would later found out to be the songs "La Mer" and "Into The Void," which share many melodic components and can be considered variations on a theme) and ended with Trent Reznor screaming "Tried to save myself, but myself kept slipping away" and the word "ninetynine" in the trademark NIN reversed-N font. This was only shown once during the original broadcast, was edited out of all repeats, and generally seen as a sign that the long-awaited follow-up to The Downward Spiral would be released early in 1999. Work was continued on the album through the first half of 1999, and Nine Inch Nails performed the title track "The Fragile" off the double-CD at 1999 MTV Video Music Awards almost one year to the day of the "ninetynine" commercial. It can be found as an Easter Egg or on the "Beneath The Surface" menu on the live NIN DVD and all that could have been.
Geri Halliwell attended the event, one of her first public appearances since she left the Spice Girls in May. She presented the video of the year award to Madonna for "Ray of Light." Actress Rose McGowan, who had arrived with then-boyfriend Marilyn Manson, was wearing a see-through dress, no bra, and a thong, while Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston poked fun at their rumored rift by wearing look-a-like chocolate brown dresses by Vera Wang. In an attempt to outdo each other, the singers tore off pieces of their dresses to reveal minidresses then staged a faux catfight that left the audience in disbelief. "People thought Whitney and I had some kind of beef," explained Carey.
Lil' Kim showed up at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards with an entire breast exposed and only a tiny piece of fabric over the nipple. Kim's outfit became even more controversial later when she appeared on stage with Mary J. Blige and Diana Ross to present an award, and Ross reached over, cupped her hand under Kim's exposed breast and jiggled it while Kim laughed heartily.
Afeni Shakur and Voletta Wallace, the mothers of the recently slain Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., met for the first time at the ceremony.
The show opened with a medley by Kid Rock, Run-D.M.C. and Jam-Master Jay, and Aerosmith.
Britney Spears appeared on the show for the first time performing the year's biggest hit, "...Baby One More Time" alongside 'N Sync who performed their hit "Tearin' Up My Heart."
Eminem performed "My Name Is" and "Guilty Conscience" with Dr. Dre, who then performed "Nuthin' but a "G" Thang" with Snoop Dogg.
At the 2000 Video Music Awards, D'Angelo and Jennifer Lopez presented the award for Best Rock Video to Limp Bizkit. As Limp Bizkit vocalist Fred Durst spoke, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford climbed onto the scaffolding of the set. Durst egged Commerford on, saying "Stage dive, dude" and "Take a dive," finally ending his speech with "and [Commerford]'s a pussy 'cause he won't jump." Commerford and his bodyguard were sentenced to a night in jail. RATM vocalist Zack De La Rocha reportedly left the awards after Commerford's stunt. RATM guitarist Tom Morello recalled that Commerford related his plan to the rest of the band before the show, and that both De La Rocha and Morello advised him against it immediately after Bizkit was presented the award.
Britney Spears performed "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and her hit "Oops!... I Did It Again which became one of the VMA's most iconic and controversial performances mostly due to Spears' skin-colored performance attire.
At the end of Christina Aguilera's performance, Durst walked onstage and performed part of his band's song "Livin' It Up" with Aguilera. After eliciting charged reactions from his fans, Durst stated: "I already told you guys before, I did it all for the nookie, man." The feud died weeks later. Aguilera denied Durst's statement, saying Durst "got no nookie."
Aguilera and Spears disproved rumors of a rivalry when they came onstage, holding hands, and introduced Whitney Houston. Houston, who had been targeted by the media for erratic behavior, canceled appearances, drug use rumors and being busted for carrying marijuana at a Hawaii airport just a few months prior, came out to a standing ovation and introduced an award to Eminem with husband Bobby Brown who was recently released from jail. Houston showed more erratic behavior, jumping up and down saying "free" in reference to Brown's recent jail release.
At the 2001 Video Music Awards, Spears gave another memorable performance when she took the stage to sing her new single, "I'm a Slave 4 U." Along with dancing in a very revealing outfit, the performance is probably most remembered for featuring the singer in a cage with a tiger and briefly dancing with a live albino Burmese Python on her shoulders. The inclusion of a tiger and a snake in the performance bought a great deal of criticism from PETA. U2 had been set to perform a medley including "Elevation", "Beautiful Day" and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of." The riser they were performing on lost power and MTV had to cut to several minutes of promos while everything was setup again. They lost power again and finally the band was lowered to the ground and performed without the riser. Lead singer Bono made reference after the performance that MTV "forgot to pay the electricity bill."
Michael Jackson made a surprise appearance at the end of 'N Sync's performance of "Pop" and, surrounded by members of the group, performed some of his trademark dance moves to Justin Timberlake's beatboxing.
In 2002, the VMA took place on Michael Jackson's birthday, and as a tribute, Britney Spears introduced him saying she "considered him the artist of the millennium." Jackson misunderstood and said, "When I was a little boy growing up in Indiana if someone told me I'd be getting 'the artist of the millennium award,' I'd have never believed it." A year later, this was parodied by presenters Fred Durst and Jack Black, with Durst stating that Black was the "funniest man alive." Following Jackson's death in 2009, MTV retconned that he had indeed been honored with the Artist of the Millennium Award.
Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog appeared and had a confrontation with Eminem. Eminem had a confrontation with Moby, who had called the rapper's music misogynistic and homophobic. By that time, there were various boos from the crowd. The Best Male Video award was given to Eminem right after the confrontation with Triumph and Moby, and when Eminem went to stage to pick up the award, in the middle of his speech, he challenged Moby to fight if he continued to boo him.
Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, the surviving members of the top-selling R&B trio TLC, made their first television appearance since the death of bandmate Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.
Christina Aguilera shocked the audience by wearing a revealing outfit and heavy make-up, with a sexual image contrasting her previous good-girl persona. She was part of an awkward moment at the awards when presenting the Best Male Video Award to Eminem, who dissed her in 2000.
Axl Rose unveiled the new lineup of Guns N' Roses. The band's set was the show's finale, and although the performance was meant to be kept a secret, some New York radio outlets announced the performance earlier in the day. The band played a set consisting of "Welcome to the Jungle," "Madagascar," and "Paradise City."
At the 2003 Video Music Awards, Madonna portrayed a groom kissing her brides, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, on stage. The gender role-reversal and lesbian theme instantly made front page headlines. The three singers performed a medley of her early hit, "Like a Virgin", and her then latest release, "Hollywood", with a guest rap by Missy Elliott. The design resembled Madonna's performance of "Like a Virgin" at the 1984 VMA: the same wedding cake set, wedding dresses and "Boy Toy" belt worn by Madonna in 1984 now adorned Aguilera and Spears.
Beyoncé made a memorable entrance, descending upside down from the rafters at Radio City Music Hall. Knowles performed "Baby Boy" as she was gently lowered to the stage, dressed in harem pants. She was later joined by Jay-Z as they performed their duet "Crazy in Love." The performance marked Knowles's solo debut.
The 2004 MTV Video Music Awards were held at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. This was the first time the awards show was held outside of New York City and Los Angeles. It was the first video music awards to not have a host.
At the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, while introducing the Reggaeton spot, Fat Joe made a disparaging comment about G-Unit: "I'd like to tell the people home I feel so safe tonight with all this police protection courtesy of G-Unit..." Later in the show, after G-Unit's performance, 50 Cent directed profanities at Fat Joe which were edited out before the shows airing although some broadcasts played the uncensored version of the show] R.Kelly performed his rap opera, "Trapped in the Closet."
Actress Eva Longoria caused a stir when she appeared barely dressed to introduce Mariah Carey.
The 2005 VMAs were the first to have performances in Spanish, when Shakira, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Tego Calderon performed. It was the first time that Spanish videos were nominated at the awards.
Beavis and Butt-head appeared in several Viewer's Choice award skits, saying to "Vote to put Beavis and Butt-head back on MTV!"
During the 2006 Video Music Awards, after Jennifer Lopez announced the Video of the Year (Panic! at the Disco for I Write Sins Not Tragedies), a man jumped from the audience, took the microphone, and identified himself as "Sixx." The camera zoomed out until he was taken off the stage, and Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie commented "He stole my thunder."
The 2007 Video Music Awards is best known for Britney Spears's performance of her comeback single "Gimme More." Spears failed to live up to the pre-show hype about her appearance, with poor lip-syncing and dancing, and showing off an out of shape physique after reportedly tossing aside her costume, appearing wearing only a black, sparkly bra and panty set.
Kid Rock and Tommy Lee were involved in an altercation during Alicia Keys's performance. Lee was sitting with magician Criss Angel when the two went to visit Diddy, who was sitting close to Kid Rock. Kid Rock allegedly sucker punched Lee in his back. The two were broken up, and both were escorted from the resort. Angel was removed a short time later.
At the 2008 Video Music Awards, after 16 nominations, Britney Spears finally won, taking Best Female Video, Best Pop Video, and Video of the Year for "Piece of Me." This feat is often regarded as the beginning of Spears' comeback.
Host Russell Brand commented on Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, begging the audience to vote for him. Brand called President George W. Bush a "retarded cowboy" and claimed Bush "wouldn't be trusted with a pair of scissors in Britain."
At the 2009 Video Music Awards, Taylor Swift won Best Female video. During her acceptance speech, Kanye West appeared on stage. He took the microphone from Swift and said that he was happy for her, "but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time." Because MTV cut away from the stage after West gave the microphone back to Swift, she could not finish her speech. When Beyoncé won Video of the Year for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," she called Swift to the stage to "have her moment." In an off-the-record portion of an interview the following day, President Barack Obama called West "a jackass" for his antics. During a post-interview, Jay-Z admitted West was wrong to go on stage, but he thought people were overreacting to the incident.
Madonna opened the show talking about her experiences with Michael Jackson. After her speech, a Michael Jackson tribute commenced, including Janet Jackson performing the duet "Scream". The show closed with a sneak preview of Michael Jackson's "This Is It" movie.
Rapper Lil' Mama jumped on stage as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys performed "Empire State of Mind." Lil' Mama later apologized. During an interview with New York Radio DJ Angie Martinez, Jay-Z said that he thought the unrehearsed move was something similar to the West and Swift incident.
Pop star Lady Gaga performed her latest hit single, Paparazzi. After playing a portion of it on the piano, she then began to 'bleed'. Gaga won Best New Artist award. Along with that, she also wore five outfits including a red-lace dress with a mask and thorn crown, a silver space-age body suit, and other head turning outfits.