The MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) have travelled a long way from hosting events that are often dubbed controversial, iconic or simply notorious. From Michael Jackson’s thrilling performance in 1995 to the Kanye West-Taylor Swift feud of 2009 — there are some things that will forever be etched in the MTV hall of fame. Gulf News tabloid! takes a trip down memory lane to look at the performances, feuds and moments that redefined VMAs as one of the biggest mainstream music awards ceremony.
Michael Jackson’s HIStory Medley performance (1995)
Pop icon Michael Jackson performed a 15-minute medley with the company of former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash, performing songs such as Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal and Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough. Their performance was received with a standing ovation and Jackson went on to win two awards for his song Scream, featuring his sister, Janet Jackson, for the category Best Art Direction and Best Choreography.
Fiona Apple’s acceptance speech (1997)
Unlike other joyful acceptance speeches, Fiona Apple gave a hard-hitting perspective in her acceptance speech after winning the Artist to Watch Award. She said “This world is [expletive]”, taking a dig at the music industry of the late ‘90s. She continued to stress about how one shouldn’t model their life about what “we’re wearing and what we’re saying”.
P Diddy’s Notorious B.I.G tribute (1997)
Joined by Sting and Faith Evans, the trio performed a profound tribute of P Diddy’s hit single I’ll Be Missing You, in remembrance of the late Notorious B.I.G. Its music was sampled from the song Every Breath You Take by Sting’s band, The Police. Their performance was presented with a portrait of Biggie on a screen in the background.
Eminem’s impersonators (2000)
Eminem got everyone’s attention when 100 Slim Shadies appeared with him for his performance of The Real Slim Shady, emulating the concept of its music video. Beyond the performance, the track swept awards as Eminem won the Video of the Year and Best Male Video awards.
Kanye West and Taylor Swift’s feud begins (2009)
Back when she was a country singer, Swift won the Best Female Video award, which Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) was also nominated for. As she held her Moonman statue and began giving her acceptance speech Kanye West jumped up on stage. He grabbed the mic and spoke about how Beyonce was the most deserving winner. Later, West apologised on his blog. But the incident sparked a feud that is seemingly still going strong — Swift’s latest single, Look What You Made Me Do, is said to be directed at West and his wife, Kim Kardashian.
Bruno Mars, Russell Brand and Tony Bennett tribute to Amy Winehouse (2011)
Known for songs like Back to Black and Rehab, Winehouse never won a VMA but was remembered with heartfelt performances by Bennett, who collaborated with her on a duet titled Body and Soul, while Mars performed a high-spirited and retro-themed cover of Valerie. Russell Brand, her good friend, also spoke a few words praising her singing talents.
Alicia Keys’ explosive Girl on Fire (2012)
Alicia Keys ended the 2012 VMAs awards ceremony debuting her single Girl on Fire, honouring the Olympic Gold medallist Gabby Douglas, who had won at the 2012 London Olympics. The artistic gymnast performed flips on stage as the crowd cheered her. Nicki Minaj was present on stage too, performing her rap cameo in the song.
N’Sync reunites (2013)
Justin Timberlake’s singles Suit and Tie and Mirrors won him VMAs for Video of the Year, Best Direction, Best Editing and most importantly, the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. He performed a medley of hits such as Cry Me a River and Rock Your Body. His performance was taken to another level of excitement when he and his former N’Sync band members reunited and performed Girlfriend and Bye Bye Bye.
Beyonce’s medley performance (2014)
Queen Bey made the 31st VMAs night her own winning four VMAs from eight nominations for her songs Drunk in Love and Pretty Hurts. She received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award from her husband Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy. Her acceptance speech was followed with the biggest highlight of the show, a 16-minute medley with the background titled ‘Feminist’. She performed songs from her self-titled album.
Justin Bieber’s emotional comeback (2015)
Dealing with legal issues, driving under the influence and arrests were the biggest setbacks of his career in 2014. It was all going downhill until his track Where Are U Now, in collaboration with Jack U, was released in February 2015. It won a VMA for the category Best Visual Effect. In addition to winning a VMA, his comeback performance of What Do You Mean was an emotional one as he was cheered by the crowd who once booed him. The performance was followed by the premiere of its music video.
— Viraj Asher is an intern at Gulf News.