When you get the world’s biggest pop stars together in the same room, egos are bound to mix in unexpected ways. Broadcasting that live, a la the VMAs? You’re just asking for fireworks.
As you prepare for what will undoubtedly be another eye-popping MTV Video Music Awards, look back at the 15 craziest, oh-no-they-didn’t moments in the award show’s history. Kanye West may not steal Taylor Swift’s thunder again this year, and Madonna (probably) won’t kiss anyone, but we can only hope for unscripted moments as juicy as these.
Miley Twerks All Over Robin Thicke (2013)
At the 2013 VMAs, Miley Cyrus unpacked her comeback hit “We Can’t Stop” from her oversized teddy-bear backpack and was then joined by Song of the Summer auteur Robin Thicke. That’s when things got a little R-rated: as Thicke delivered “Blurred Lines” in a Beetlejuice get-up, Cyrus strode over to him, shook her foam finger, and shook a little bit more when she bent over at one point. Harmless pop fun, or unseemly sexuality? Lines were indeed blurred at last year’s VMAs.
Kanye West Bumrushes Taylor Swift (2009)
The 2009 VMAs show was full of stand-out performances by P!nk, Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson, but the thing that people most about that year’s show is Kanye West, who burst onstage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video to proclaim that the trophy should have gone to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” which he deemed “one of the best videos of all time.” The moment made international headlines and inspired an “I’ma let you finish…” Internet meme that lives on to this day. Later in the show, Beyonce, who won Video of the Year, invited Taylor back onstage to finish her speech.
Madonna Makes Out With Britney (2003)
Poor Christina Aguilera. Everyone seems to forget she was even on stage during Madonna’s infamous makeout session with her and Britney Spears during the trio’s performance of “Hollywood” at the 2003 VMAs. The MTV cameras cut away to Justin Timberlake’s reaction right after Madge locked lips with his ex during the set, completely missing Xtina’s equally eye-raising smooch. But one kiss was all it took for Madonna to make front-page news, reminding us why she’s the queen of outre VMAs moments.
Bass Guitar Attacks Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic (1992)
The first four minutes of Nirvana’s 1992 VMA performance of “Lithium” were fairly standard, but then all hell broke loose. Krist Novoselic throws his bass in the air and appears to catch it, but instead it just lands right on his head. He struggles for a second, then staggers off stage — with what we can assume was a gnarly near-concussion — right before Dave Grohl takes the mic and gives Axl Rose an awkward shout-out. Ah, the ’90s — how we miss you.
Lady Gaga Meats the VMAs (2010)
Lady Gaga has always been a fashion provocateur, but the Meat Dress, worn at the 2010 VMAs, has morphed into her most iconic look to date. Accepting the award for Video of the Year for “Bad Romance,” Gaga strutted onstage with a dress, boots, hat and purse composed of raw meat. The outfit was enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one year later.
Fiona Apple Declares ‘This World Is Bullshit’ (1997)
While accepting a Moonman for her breakout video “Criminal” in 1997, Fiona Apple shrugged off the normal thank-you’s, name-checked Maya Angelou and proclaimed, “This world is bullshit, and you shouldn’t model your life about what you think that we think is cool, and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything. Go with yourself.” Seventeen years later, Apple is still a righteously original artist — as if she would become anything else after that speech.
Lil Mama Crashes ‘Empire State of Mind’ (2009)
Lil Mama might have created “Lip Gloss,” but she did not create “Empire State of Mind” — that hit single belongs to Jay Z and Alicia Keys. Still, when Jay and Keys brought their collaboration to the 2009 VMA’s, Lil Mama decided to bum-rush the performance, triumphantly posing with the duo as the song concluded, for seemingly no reason.
Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Smooch (1994)
About a minute into the clip, you can see Lisa Marie Presley squirm and clutch her stomach — probably because she knew what was coming. Even at the time, the on-stage kiss between the King of Pop and his then-bride seemed more like a dare than a real-life romance.
Diana Ross Feels Up Lil’ Kim (1999)
Lil Kim’s outrageous boob-baring outfit was already a hot topic by the time she joined Mary J. Blige on-stage to introduce Diana Ross. But when the Supreme lady gave Lil’ Kim a lil’ jiggle on the podium, the moment became the stuff of VMA legend.
Beyonce Reveals Her Baby Bump (2011)
Beyonce didn’t utter a single word about her pregnancy during the show, but by the time the actual awards show began, Jay-Z and Bey’s baby was already the story of the night. She all but confirmed the rumors later in the evening, holding her stomach and beaming as she performed her love song “Love On Top.” In a nod to her fresh pregnancy news, she declared, “I want you to feel the love growing inside of me.”
Britney Falls Flat During “Gimme More’ (2007)
2007 was not a good year for Britney Spears, and the VMA performance of “Gimme More” is the tragic proof. After wowing the VMA stage with show-stopping appearances in 1999, 2000 and 2001, an un-toned and noticeably unprepared Brit awkwardly stumbles through the song, looking more like a zombie than the princess of pop. Diddy and 50 Cent have unreadable reactions, but we’re pretty sure Rihanna is straight-up laughing at 3:10 into the clip.
Courtney Love Crashes Madonna’s Interview (1995)
Madonna is clearly not amused when Courtney Love interrupts her MTV interview, commenting “Courtney Love is in dire need of attention right now.” But can you blame Madge for being annoyed? Love is a mess, carrying on with inside comments about A&R guys and rolling around on the ground — all on live TV. The whole thing is an amusing trainwreck from which you can’t avert your eyes.
Rupal Battles Milton Berle (1993)
Most memorable VMAs moments come during performances or acceptance speeches, but drag diva RuPaul and comedian Milton Berle’s take the cake for having the most awkward award presentation in the show’s history. Onstage to present that year’s Viewer’s Choice Award, Ru decides to ignore the pair’s pre-scripted banter and begins hitting an unprepared Berle below the belt for no apparent reason. “You used to wear dresses, and now you wear diapers,” says Ru during the intro’s most cringe-worthy moment. Not amused by the queen’s ad libs, Berle threatens to “check his brains” so the two can start even. The shade of it all.
Michael Jackson Accepts a Fake Award (2002)
During the 2002 VMA’s, Michael Jackson was honored for the occasion, which lined up with his 44th birthday. But the King of Pop thought he was accepting an Artist of the Millennium trophy, an accolade that Britney Spears used during her introduction. Jackson launched into a heartfelt thank-you speech for the imaginary award, which eventually garnered a positive reaction from the crowd… and was spoofed by Jack Black during the 2003 VMA’s.
Tim Commerford Rages Against The Scaffolding (2000)
Kanye West wasn’t the first musician to bumrush the VMA stage. At the 2000 event, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford was so distressed that his band lost the Best Rock Video award, he climbed on top of the scaffolding just behind the podium and began taunting Limp Bizkit during Fred Durst’s acceptance speech. Commerford did not “stage dive,” as Durst suggested, but both he and his bodyguard were removed from the stage and arrested after the incident. It’s widely believed that Commerford’s attention-seeking antic was one of the final straws that led to RATM’s breakup later that year.