In honor on this weekend's MTV Video Music Awards, we've created a list of our top 15 VMA performances since 1990. Check them out below.
1. Michael Jackson's HIStory - 1995
Michael Jackson is a legend (so much so that the lifetime achievement award is named after him) and therefore, he was obviously our top performer in the past few years. The late legend played some of his hits including "The Way You Make Me Feel", "Beat It", "Black or White", and "Smooth Criminal" and even brought out special guest guitarist Slash from AC/DC!
2. Justin Timberlake's Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award Performance - 2013
Before receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, newlywed Justin Timberlake performed hits like "Take Back the Night", "SexyBack", "My Love", and included an NSYNC reunion that blew up the internet. Every skill that makes Justin a legend in the making was on full display. A personal highlight was Justin calling out the newer boy bands, saying "show these young boys how to do it" before joining his former bandmates with their famous synchronized dance moves. Taylor Swift was in tears, Niall Horan head bobbed awkwardly while his bandmates tried to appear unimpressed, and Lady Gaga rocked out like the rest of us.
3. Nirvana - 1992
Right before winning the award for Best New Artist, Nirvana started with a verse of "Rape Me" (just to freak out MTV execs) before breaking into their lesser-known hit "Lithium" when MTV had expected the band to play their first hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit". At the end of the set, bassist Krist Novoselic threw his guitar up in the air only to hit himself in the face with it. And then there was the feud with Axl Rose that began pre show, continued through the performance, and carried on into post-show interviews. Nirvana was causing problems for MTV before it was cool. Just a year and a half later, lead singer Kurt Cobain would take his own life.
4. Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans, 112, and Sting pay tribute to Biggie - 1997
After the tragic death of The Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy/P.Diddy/Diddy/Puffy/Sean Combs (whatever you’d like to call him right now) teamed up with Sting, Faith Evans, and 112 performed "I'll Be Missing You" and pulled off this heart-wrenching tribute to the rap legend.
5. Jimmy Fallon's Opening Medley - 2002
Spoofing nominated songs like "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne, "Hot in Herre" by Nelly, "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem, and "Hero" by Enrique Iglesias, host Jimmy Fallon proved that he was ready to be a huge name in comedy for years to come and the best part about it was how happy the spoofed artists were to be mentioned in the opening number. He also got help closing it out from The Godfather of Soul.
6. Britney Spears & NSYNC - 1999
Britney Spears, now a full fledged teen icon, opened the performance with her biggest hit "...Baby One More Time". She was followed by NSYNC performing their second top hit "Tearin' Up My Heart". The clothes, the dance moves, and the classroom theme are all so gloriously 90's. It was the beginning of an era for both as they would go on to become VMA mainstays for years to come.
7. OK GO - 2006
The indie band hit it big with their gutsy music video for "Here It Goes Again" where they danced on moving treadmills and in their VMA performance, they executed the same routine perfectly. At the end of the performance, you can see lead singer Damian Kulash jump with joy at their successful performance.
8. Panic! At The Disco - 2006
If OK GO were to be considered on the calmer side of the VMA performances, then Panic! At The Disco's performance of
"I Write Sins Not Tragedies" later that night would be found on the complete other side of the spectrum. The boys from Vegas introduced everyone to their early circus era incarnation complete with intricate costumes, intense make-up, and over the top theatrics. They would shock the audience even further when they became the first artist in nearly two decades to take home the coveted Video of the Year without winning any other awards.
9. No Doubt - 1996
Before they would go on to win five VMAs in later years, No Doubt (AKA the kings and queen of Orange County) performed their biggest hit off their Tragic Kingdom album atop Radio City Music Hall. Literally. "Just A Girl" was the song to launch the group into super stardom. And who doesn't love watching Gwen Stefani in her element?
10. NSYNC - 2000
Can you tell we love NSYNC? This was the height of the nation wide obsession with the group. They performed a medley of hits from their record breaking album No Strings Attached and ended up taking home three Moonmen by the end of the night. Come on Justin, give us the full reunion we all want.
11. Jamiroquai - 1997
The British one-hit-wonder won Video of the Year for their music video for their hit "Virtual Insanity" and they closed the 1997 VMAs with a performance of the song where they reenacted the music video perfectly. This performance holds a special place in Kelly’s heart because it was the first VMAs that she ever watched at the young age of 11.
12. Smashing Pumpkins - 1996
Smashing Pumpkins opened the show with the smash hit "Tonight, Tonight" off their double-disc album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and there’s not much else to say about this amazing song. Let's just say that there's a reason they won seven of the nine categories they were nominated in.
13. Britney Spears - 2001
Oh the controversial python performance! Anyone in their 20s and 30s remembers this performance of "Slave 4 U", and most people probably remember this performance more than the actual music video. It was an iconic performance from an iconic performer. But on a much sadder note, it was the final awards show before the attack on the World Trade Center five days later.
14. Taylor Swift - 2009
In her very first performance at the VMAs, newcomer country singer Taylor set a precedent for all her future performances when she used the backdrop of New York City to pull off the perfect rendition of "You Belong With Me". It wasn't her most talked about moment from the night, but Imma let you finish watching.
15. Eminem - 2000
Using the backdrop of an army of lookalikes who filed into Radio City Music Hall, Eminem’s performance of "The Real Slim Shady" got everyone talking about just how real the lyrics to the song were...and how many people in the world could be a white guy who pretended to rap.
Which are your favorite performances?