Britney Spears, a live snake, 2001. Ring a bell?
Live snakes, 50 pounds of raw meat, and a pregnancy! No, I'm not talking about a class camping trip gone horribly awry. I'm talking about some of my all-time favorite moments in VMA history. The craziest, most over-the-top, most unexpected, only-on-MTV (because trust me, they'll let you do anything from hang yourself from the rafters of Radio City to make out with Madonna) moments. The VMAs are a night of more access to celebrities than a year's worth of gossip mags combined (except MUCH better music, and none of that who-wore-it-better stuff), where unforgettable live performances -- Eminem's army of bleached-blonde Marshall Mathers lookalikes storming Radio City at the 2000 VMAs -- and fleeting moments -- Beyonce's coy, joyous pat of her belly at the 2011 MTV VMAs -- instantly become the stuff of pop culture legend and lore.
Some of my all-time favorite VMA moments include Britney Spears' late arrival to home room -- which perfectly coincided with what would become the first of more than a decade's worth of VMA appearances -- during her 1999 VMA performance debut -- plus, well, a whole lot more Britney. Check out 12 of my favorite, most unforgettable moments in VMA history, vote for your favorite, and get ready for the VMAs by watching must-see moments from the 2011 VMAs.
1.) Madonna performs "Like A Virgin" at the first-ever VMAs in 1984: Neil Armstrong planted a flag in the ground to signify to the world that he'd landed on the moon. Madonna humped the stage at the first-ever VMAs in 1984 during her performance of "Like A Virgin" to signify to the world that she'd landed on the map. Decades later, the expectation of an appropriate level of inappropriateness during VMA performances still abides.
2.) Nirvana performs "Lithium" at the 1992 VMAs, chaos ensues: Back in the early '90s, when reality TV was basically just the nightly news and Snooki was just a 5-year-old figuring out how to perfect a pre-kindergarten hair poof, Nirvana gave one of their most unforgettable live performances (and perhaps the greatest rock performance in VMA history, despite an amp malfunction), Punking MTV execs by playing the first few lines of "Rape Me" (an anti-establishment hat tip), capped off by a perfect ending: Kurt Cobain smashing the band's instruments, Krist Novoselic accidentally smashing his face with a bass, and Dave Grohl bating Axl Rose, who'd allegedly challenged Kurt to a fight backstage before the show. The fun didn't stop there, though. Nirvana also sent a Michael Jackson impersonator to the stage to accept their Best Alternative Video VMA for "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
3.) Michael Jackson performs a 15-minute medley of hits at the 1995 VMAs: As the king of pop and the unofficial but undisputed king of MTV (sorry, Carson), Michael Jackson enjoyed an eminent and celebrated VMA career. In 1995, a year after he and then-wife Lisa Marie Presley shocked VMA viewers with their on-stage PDA (ahhhh, newlyweds), he opened the VMAs with a 15-minute medley of hits like "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" and "Black or White," backed by Slash on guitar, followed by Basically, the VMAs turned into a mini Michael Jackson concert. That same night, Michael and Janet Jackson shared the VMA stage when "Scream" picked up VMAs for Best Dance Video, Best Art Direction and Best Choreography.
4.) Courtney Love interrupts Madonna's interview at the 1995 VMA Pre-Show: Oh, how I love a good, cold cat fight. Especially when it involves flying beauty products. And Madonna. And Courtney Love. No stranger to controversy (or to NGAF), Courtney Love crashed Madonna's interview with Kurt Loder at the VMA Pre-Show by throwing her compact onto the platform. A clearly annoyed Madonna, to her credit, stayed patient and detached until she eventually just shut. it. down. Oh, Courtney. There's a time and place for everything. And this wasn't it. Until it was.
+ WATCH COURTNEY LOVE INTERRUPTS MADONNA'S INTERVIEW AT THE 1995 VMAs.
5.) Fiona Apple wins Best New Artist at the 1997 VMAs, DNGAF: Fiona Apple won Best New Artist at the 1997 VMAs, and instead of thanking her label, management, and/or God, she used her time in front of the mic to remind viewers that "this world is bull****." Because it was the '90s! And no one was happy!
6.) Britney Spears makes her VMA debut with "Baby One More Time" at the 1999 VMAs: Although she was essentially their opening act, Britney Spears kicked off *NSYNC's "Tearin' Up My Heart" VMA performance (and essentially managed to upstage them) with her own "Baby One More Time." NSYNC fans may remember the guys' sleveelessness and white-boy dreads and their dancers' now-hilarious skin-tight mock turtlenecks and lamé pants, but Britney Stans and pop culture obsessives will never forget the moment Britney stepped onto the VMA stage for the very first time.
Check out more unforgettable moments in VMA history, and vote for your favorite after the jump.