3. Lady Gaga, 2009
In what may be Gaga's best awards show performance (tied with her 2010 Grammy pair-up with Elton John), the Mother Monster riffed on her "Paparazzi" video with a treatment as equally epic. Instead of the video's paralyzing fall, Gaga takes one in the chest, dripping (faux) blood on stage and being strung up from the ceiling. Even for Gaga, this was gasp-worthy.
2. Britney Spears, 2001
"I'm A Slave 4 U"
All sexy and grown-up, Britney busted out in a big way at the 2001 VMAs, channeling the sauna vibe of her "I'm A Slave 4 U" video with a jungle-themed performance. Coincidentally, she also channeled the very un-sexy Jack Hanna, sauntering around with a bright yellow boa constrictor around her neck.
1. Michael Jackson, 1995
Michael Jackson proved, yet again, just why he's the King of Pop at the '95 show. Not only did he give MTV viewers a 15-minute medley of many of his biggest hits (including "Beat It" "Billie Jean" "Black Or White," "The Way You Make Me Feel," and more); he did it with on-stage costume changes, moonwalking, Slash shredding on guitar, dance-fighting, enough crotch-grabbing for the whole of the '90s, and a speech in the middle to boot. Such was the awesome power of the memory of this spectacular MJ performance, which we're pretty sure was the longest in the history of the VMAs.
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