Miley Cyrus got everyone talking about the MTV Video Music Awards when she twerked and twirled to “Blurred Lines.” So with Cyrus as this year’s host, MTV wants you to believe that anything can happen.
It’s a shrewd marketing ploy. The awards drew 10.1 million in 2013 when Cyrus made headlines but fell to 8.3 million last year. Still, last year’s VMAs generated an impressive 12.6 million tweets.
Taylor Swift, always a popular conversation topic, leads this year’s VMAs with 10 nominations, including video of the year with “Bad Blood.” Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran have five and six nominations, respectively, and are also both nominated for video of the year. Rapper Fetty Wap, a favorite with Kansas City Royals fans, scored two noms for best hip-hop video and artist to watch with “Trap Queen.”
Sunday’s live show will include performances from Pharrell Williams, Demi Lovato, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Tori Kelly, A$AP Rocky and Twenty One Pilots.
To prepare, here’s a look at the 10 most memorable VMA moments:
10. Madonna’s “Virgin” performance.
Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” at 1984’s inaugural VMAs created the standard at the award show. The superstar wore a wedding dress, danced on a huge wedding cake and rolled around on the floor. Madonna would re-create the performance years later with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
9. Diana Ross and Lil’ Kim.
When rapper Lil’ Kim introduced Diana Ross at the 1999 VMAs, their greeting got a little too close for comfort. Ross basically felt up Lil’ Kim, who was wearing a revealing outfit with a pastie. Ross will be remembered for her dynamic voice, but a younger generation will most likely remember her for this.
8. Notorious B.I.G. tribute.
Diddy’s ballad about his close friend Notorious B.I.G. still brings the goosebumps more than 20 years later. The rapper was killed months prior, and Diddy (known as Puff Daddy at the time) collaborated with Biggie Smalls’ widow Faith Evans and Sting to sing “I’ll Be Missing You.”
7. Lady Gaga hangs herself.
Lady Gaga is known for (and expected to give) crazy performances, and her rendition of “Paparazzi” in 2009 was one of the first. Not only did fake blood drip all over her, but she also pretended to hang herself. At the time it was shocking, but now it’s just seen as classic Gaga.
6. Eminem is the Real Slim Shady.
At the 2000 awards, Eminem wanted to make one thing clear: He was the Real Slim Shady. The rapper, followed by hundreds of look-alikes, marched into Radio City Music Hall. He also openly addressed his haters with his song “The Way I Am.”
5. Beyoncé baby announcement.
While Beyoncé has given several amazing VMA performances, nothing warmed fans’ hearts more than in 2011 when, at the end of her song “Love on Top,” she revealed she was pregnant. It was the baby-bump rub talked about around the world. And husband Jay Z’s smile at the end made the moment that more adorable.
4. Miley twerks.
Goodbye Disney’s Hannah Montana and hello twerking Miley Cyrus. The pop star performed her hit “We Can’t Stop” at the 2013 VMAs. It got creepy when “Blurred Lines” singer Robin Thicke joined her onstage, and Cyrus shook what her momma gave her (and then some) on him.
3. Britney and Madonna.
Britney Spears, Madonna and Christina Aguilera on stage together was already going to be epic. But fans weren’t expecting a make-out session during the performance of “Hollywood” in 2003. While Aguilera’s kiss is often forgotten, Britney and Madonna’s smooch has its rightful place in pop culture history. What makes the moment even better is Justin Timberlake’s reaction, clearly not happy with his ex’s PDA.
2. Kanye and T Swift.
You never know what will happen when Kanye West is involved. When Taylor Swift won best music video in 2009 for “You Belong With Me,” West interrupted her on stage and declared that his friend Beyoncé deserved the award instead. Even though the two have since publicly reconciled, this “I’ma let you finish” moment is permanently burned in our brains.
1. Michael Jackson.
No one can ever top the King of Pop, especially with his 15-minute performance in 1995. Michael Jackson sang a medley of his hits, including “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Billie Jean,” Beat It” and “Black or White.” Jackson did his signature dance moves, with costume changes. Even 20 years later, this performance reaffirms that M.J. was one of the greatest performers of all time. In 1991, the VMAs renamed the show’s lifetime achievement award the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
WHERE TO WATCH
The MTV Video Music Awards air live at 8 p.m. Sunday. Look for coverage that night on KansasCity.com and in Monday’s FYI section.