The Top 10 Most Legendary VMA Performances In History
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The Top 10 Most Legendary VMA Performances In History

The VMAs are known for iconic, legendary performances and these are the ten best.

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The Top 10 Most Legendary VMA Performances In History
MTV

The MTV Video Music Awards have become a pop cultural touchstone. It was a night where you knew to expect the unexpected. It was a night where you were sure to have plenty to talk about the next day.

Sunday night's show brought a new chapter to VMA history, striving forward in the midst of a pandemic. Despite the current climate, the show had some big performances by stars such as Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Ariana Grande. Gaga and Grande also won big for their collaboration, "Rain On Me."

From Madonna's debut performance of "Like A Virgin" in a wedding dress to Lady Gaga's meat dress, the VMAs were always a magical event. Through the years, there have been many legendary performances by iconic artists.

To celebrate the 2020 VMAs, here are the ten most legendary performances in the show's history.

10. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, Missy Elliot - "Like A Virgin/Hollywood/Work It" (2003)

While most would expect this performance to be higher on this list, it was better as a "moment" than a "performance." The kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears was on the tips of everyone's tongues the next day. It remains one of the most iconic passing of the torch moments from one pop icon to another.

9. Mariah Carey - "Emotions" (1992)

Mariah Carey would dominate the '90s, but in 1991, the world was just getting to know her supreme talent. Her hit "Emotions" was a collaboration with the late David Cole, who can be spotted in this performance doing background vocals. This song would become Carey's fifth number one of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

8. Spice Girls - "Say You'll Be There" (1997)

When you think of '90s pop culture, the Spice Girls definitely come to mind. The powerful girl group were only active for a short period of time, but they made a big impact. They performed their hit "Say You'll Be There" at the 1997 ceremony and made quite a statement. The black arm bands they wore were a tribute to Princess Diana, who had just passed away.

7. Lady Gaga - "Poker Face/Paparazzi" (2009)

In 2009, Lady Gaga was riding high on the success of her debut album, "The Fame." Her star was starting to rise, but this performance changed everything. Prior to this night, Gaga was known for wearing outrageous outfits and good dance-pop. Her performance of her hit "Paparazzi" would set the tone for Gaga's aesthetic from this point forward. This night sent her into superstar territory.

6. Madonna - "Vogue" (1990)

Most performances of hit songs leave audiences expecting to see the music video re-created on stage. But Madonna has never been one to play by the rules. The Queen of Pop's hit "Vogue" brought an underground dance craze in Harlem drag balls to the mainstream. This performance, however, centered around a much different period of time. Yet, the two were combined perfectly and worked well with one another.

5. Michael Jackson - "Medley" (1995)

Michael Jackson had already established himself as a legend on MTV through his short films by the time he took the stage in 1995. The King of Pop performed a medley of his greatest hits to celebrate his double album, "HIStory," which included some hits and new material. Jackson brought all his legendary moves and ended the performance with his most recent number one at that time, "You Are Not Alone."

4. Janet Jackson - "That's The Way Love Goes/If" (1993)

Janet Jackson has been an icon of the MTV generation for constantly evolving artistically. In 1993, her evolution led her to posing topless for Rolling Stone and exploring her sensual side on her "janet." album. Her single "That's The Way Love Goes" became a summer anthem that year and the "If" video became iconic due to its amazing choreography. Jackson and her dance troupe combined the two hits for a stellar medley at the 1993 ceremony.

3. Britney Spears - "Satisfaction/Oops!...I Did It Again" (2000)

The Princess of Pop was known for her bubblegum persona when she performed at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. By the end of her performance, however, she would shed that bubblegum side for good. Spears began in a suit, covering The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," and tore it off to reveal a flesh-colored, sequined body suit. While it caused a firestorm of controversy, it is now regarded as one of the best image transformations of all time.

2. Madonna - "Express Yourself" (1989)

Dancing was Madonna's first major artistic outlet. So, it should come as no surprise that her performance of "Express Yourself," from the 1989 VMAs, centered on choreography. However, unlike other performers, there were no bells and whistles on stage. It was just Madonna and her two background singers. The performance was refreshing in its simplicity. It showed the scope of Madonna's talent as a performer. She could command the audience without trying too hard.

1. Britney Spears - "I'm A Slave 4 U" (2001)

This is widely regarded as the most iconic performance in VMA history. Many tricks have been pulled at the VMAs over the years, but wild animals weren't one of them. Britney Spears sought to change that when she performed "I'm A Slave 4 U" at the 2001 ceremony. The image of Spears carrying an albino python across the stage is one of the most recognizable images of the pop star. It also cemented her status as an entertainer who could deliver a show no matter what.

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