I am a true 90s baby. I spent endless hours of my childhood trying to memorize every word and dance move to NSYNC‘s “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” secretly wishing my mom owned her own hair salon like Tina Knowles so that I could recreate Destiny’s Child‘s “Bills, Bills, Bills” video, and stanning hard for the pop power couple that was Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake (Jessica Biel who?)
Point blank, the fabulous time period that was the 90s and early 2000s ended up being arguably the best years to be alive. The one show that cemented all of these moments in pop history and made my young adolescent years that much more memorable? The MTV Video Music Awards. I remember staying up way past my bedtime, chatting with my best friends about the larger than life performances and who wore the most provocative looks on the red carpet. And while so much has changed since the golden era of the VMAs (does anyone even watch MTV now for something other than Catfish?), it is so much of a yearly ritual that I would be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to Sunday’s show.
Let’s count down and relive all the nostalgic moments because… why not?
10. Madonna Channels Victorian Era Realness
I technically hadn’t been born yet when the reigning Queen of Pop performed her hit song “Vogue” at the 1990 MTV VMAs so naturally I didn’t see this performance when it aired, but anything that contained Madonna flashing the audience, male dancers in intricately designed short shorts, and full-on gyrating was something that warranted researching. This entire performance was perfection from start to finish. And can we admit that this song still jams to this day?
9. The Ultimate Diva Face-off
Remember when celebrities were able to laugh at made up rumors and not just tweet about it? Despite denials from both parties, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, the undeniable voices of our generation, were always pitted against each other, which made the moment they appeared together on the 1998 VMAs stage wearing the same chocolate brown dress absolutely golden. And whether or not there was ever any animosity between the two, who cared? They could sing us under the rug and that’s all that mattered. And when Mariah asked who was up for “this little award”? I died. Casket closed.
8. Didd… Err… Puff Daddy Honors B.I.G. In The Best Way
The music industry was forever changed when the Notorious B.I.G. died on March 9, 1997. Undoubtedly gone too soon, he left such a monumental impact that his legacy continues to live on today. What better way to celebrate the life of one of the greatest to ever touch a mic than with a moving tribute? Back when Diddy was still Puff Daddy (ahh…remember the days?), he took to the VMA stage to perform his rendition of The Police‘s “Every Breath You Take” with Biggie’s widow Faith Evans serenading the crowd. The icing on the cake was that Sting came out and did the song even more justice. Just thinking about it gives me all the feels. Continue to RIP Christopher Wallace.
7. Diana Ross Feels Up Lil’ Kim
The Queen of Hip Hop Soul, The Queen of Motown, and the Queen of Rap on one stage? It couldn’t possibly get any better that. That is until Diana Ross did the one thing that I’m sure we all wished we could have done that night – put her hand up and gave Lil’ Kim‘s pastie-covered breast a friendly little jiggle. Did she enjoy it? Was that a jiggle of approval? I’d like to think all of the above.
6. *Kanye Shrug* The Moment That Transformed Taylor Swift Into A Superstar
There was one thing that every media outlet, blogger and celebrity news station was talking about after the 2009 VMAs. Kanye West rushing the stage during Taylor Swift‘s acceptance speech for Best Female Video. In a Hennessy-fueled lapse in judgment, Kanye proved he’s the president of the #beyhive by saying Beyonce deserved the award because “Single Ladies” was the best video of all time. What he didn’t know was that he single-handledly turned Taylor Swift into America’s sweetheart because, quite frankly, everyone felt sorry for her. And as much flack as he got for this move (even President Obama called him out), was he wrong? I mean, do we even remember what video Taylor won for? But I still do the “Single Ladies” dance moves in my room tbh. Robbery at its finest, but I still love you Taylor girl.
5. Beyonce’s Pregnancy Love On Top
I love Beyonce. I have every album. I have every DVD. I’ve seen her in concert twice. Basically, I am a certified member of the Beygency. So when she announced that she was having a baby at the 2011 VMAs, it felt like I was celebrating with my big sister. The way she belted out this song like I had never heard before and the way Jay-Z beamed with pride in the audience as he watched in awe of his pregnant wife performing was enough to make my heart burst. And just knowing that that little bump turned into the black girl awesomeness that is Blue Ivy Carter just takes me over the edge. *drops mic*
4. Janet Jackson’s Heartwarming Michael Tribute
Can you name a more powerful brother/sister duo than Michael and Janet Jackson? Don’t hurt yourself, I can’t either. When Michael Jackson died in 2009, that was probably the first celebrity death that I took personal. I felt like I had lost a family member. His music made me laugh and cry and dance, and his moves mesmerized me. Just a few months after his unexpected death, MTV decided to pay tribute to the King of Pop with the help of none other than his baby sister dancing to their hit “Scream.” The strength it took to do this performance? Listen. We aren’t worthy.
3. Madonna and Britney’s Kiss (Poor Christina)
It was the kiss literally seen around the world. When Madonna took the stage with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Missy Elliot, I knew it would be a moment in pop culture that wouldn’t soon be forgotten. Take away the ever existent Britney vs. Christina battle (#TeamBritney all the way), you had four women who were superstars in their own right werking the stage in a way that hadn’t been seen in awhile. And then something totally unexpected happened… Britney and Madonna kissed! Although the kiss was actually quite tame by today’s standards, people couldn’t stop talking about it. And when it was all said and done, I’m pretty sure Madonna sucked Britney’s soul out with that kiss and no one even remembers Christina was there that night. But we will always have Justin Timberlake‘s expression for the win.
2. Britney Spears Reminds Us Why She’s Pop Royalty… With a Snake In Tow
Continuing her VMAs reign, the princess of pop captivated audiences by performing “Slave 4 U” at the 2001 VMAs with the help of a little friend – a yellow python named Banana. This performance had everything – belly dancing, spot-on choreography and body glitter. If there was one moment that made it crystal clear as to why I would always ship for Britney, it was this one. Many have tried, but no one before or after could touch this performance. Don’t debate me.
1. The Reunion We All Waited For…
2002 was a dark and gloomy year for the pop world. Britney and Justin broke up, Whitney spoke her infamous “Crack is wack” line and NSYNC announced they would be taking a “hiatus” to pursue other endeavors (namely, make room for the mega-talent that would later be credited for bringing sexy back). But on one fateful day in 2013, the skies opened up and let out a type of sunshine that hadn’t been felt in years. Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick and Lance Bass joined the stage for the first time in a decade to help celebrate Justin’s Vanguard award. To the person who thought of this idea to give me 1:31 seconds of pure heaven, I will forever be indebted.
Did your favorite VMA moments make my list? Any I left out? Let me know in the comments!