ENTERTAINMENT

MTV VMAs 2016: 16 Most Iconic Performances Ever

Including Britney's snake, Madonna's powdered wig and Miley's foam finger.

23/08/2016 14:59 BST | Updated 25/08/2017 14:48 BST
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For more than 30 years, the MTV VMAs have seen the biggest names in pop music take to the stage, with music heavyweights like David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Tina Turner all delivering memorable performances of some of their biggest hits.

More recently, artists have used the show to cement their place in the pop scene, with acts like Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Miley Cyrus all wowing (and quite often shocking) audiences around the world with their VMAs appearances.

Here are just 20 of the most outrageous, emotional and downright iconic VMAs performances ever...

  • Madonna - 'Like A Virgin' (1984)
    MTV brought out the big guns for the very first VMAs, with Tina Turner, David Bowie and Rod Stewart all on the bill.

    However, it was a new artist named Madonna who stole the show with this provocative routine, writhing around while dressed in raunchy bridal attire.
  • Cher - 'If I Could Turn Back Time' (1989)
    After shocking everyone with her barely-there outfit in the 'If I Could Turn Back Time' music video, it seemed only fitting that she sported it when she performed the track at the VMAs.

    21 years later, she wore it again when presenting Lady Gaga with Video Of The Year. Gaga, not to be outdone, was wearing her meat dress at the time.
  • Madonna - 'Vogue' (1990)
    Bringing a new meaning to 'yass queen', Madonna channelled Marie Antoinette for this stunning performance in 1990 complete with powder wigs, a lot of fan action and some jolly big bloomers.
  • Nirvana - 'Lithium' (1992)
    The VMAs aren't just about the pop acts, though, and after scooping Best New Artist in 1992, Nirvana also showed the world what they do best with this performance.

    After teasing the opening lines of their song 'Rape Me', they went into 'Lithium'.
  • Michael Jackson - 'Billie Jean'/'Dangerous' (1995)
    By 1995, the public had begun to talk more about Michael's colourful personal life than his musical offerings, so he used the opportunity at the VMAs to remind everyone why he was famous in the first place.

    Teaming up with Guns 'N' Roses' guitarist Slash, he began with a performance of 'Billie Jean', before dancing to some new material.
  • Alanis Morrissette - 'You Oughta Know' (1995)
    The 1995 VMAs were among the show's most rock-heavy ever, with performances from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, R.E.M., Bon Jovi and Hole's tribute to Kurt Cobain.

    Then just 21, it was Alanis who gave the performance of the night, channelling all of her angry into this performance of the still-awesome 'You Oughta Know'.
  • Michael Jackson and *NSYNC - 'Pop' (2001)
    The King of Pop returned to the VMAs six years later, to give his blessing to *NSYNC, joining them on stage to dance to their track 'Pop'.

    Time has not been kind to Justin Timberlake's beat boxing.
  • Britney Spears - 'I'm A Slave 4 U' (2001)
  • Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Madonna and Missy Elliott - 'Like A Virgin'/'Hollywood'/'Work It' (2003)
    There's so much to love about this video. Beyoncé's surprising excitement at seeing Britney emerge. The 'Queer Eye For The Straight Guy' squad mouthing along with every word. Guy Ritchie's begrudging standing ovation. Justin Timberlake's obvious discomfort. The most iconic pop song in history being interrupted by Madonna yelling 'yo, yo, yo, who that be?'

    So. Much. Going. On.
  • Britney Spears - 'Gimme More' (2007)
    Sadly, not all performances become iconic for the right reasons.

    Following this, it would be almost a decade before Britney performed at the VMAs again.
  • Janet Jackson - 'Scream' (2009)
    The music world was rocked by the death of Michael Jackson in 2009, and it wouldn't be right for the VMAs not to honour him at the awards show.

    After a host of dancers recreated some of MJ's best-known performances, Janet Jackson appeared to recreate the choreography from their 'Scream' video, which she totally nailed.
  • Lady Gaga - 'Paparazzi' (2009)
    Some artists were born to perform at the VMAs, and Gaga proved she was one of them in 2009, when she put on this weird and wonderful show.

    Shutting up critics who questioned her talent with her spot-on vocals, she went on to do what she does best... something odd. And it was perfect.
  • Beyoncé - 'Single Ladies' (2009)
    In the summer of 2009, it was all about 'Single Ladies', and YouTube became littered with people trying to recreate Bey's choreography, to varying results.

    The woman herself pulled it off effortlessly at the VMAs, first with two dancers as in the music video, and later with a whole squad.
  • Kanye West - 'Runaway' (2010)
    One year on from the stage invasion that got the world talking, it was announced that Kanye West would be returning to the VMAs stage, leaving the world wondering what he would deliver.

    At the end of a year where even the President had branded him a "jackass", Kanye debuted 'Runaway' with this minimalist performance, featuring ballerinas, interpretative dancers and some of his most personal lyrics ever.
  • Lady Gaga - 'Yoü And I' (2011)
    You'd be forgiven for not recognising Lady Gaga, who opened the show in 2011 performing as her alter-ego, Jo Calderone.

    We enjoyed the 'Yoü And I' performance. The three-minute monologue that preceded it? Less so.
  • Beyoncé - 'Love On Top' (2011)
    Even a dragged-up Lady Gaga couldn't eclipse Beyoncé in 2011, who used her performance at the VMAs to announce that she was pregnant with her daughter.
  • Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke - 'We Can't Stop'/'Blurred Lines' (2013)
    Controv.
  • Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift - 'Trini Dem Girls'/'The Night Is Still Young'/'Bad Blood' (2015)
    Teaching us all a lesson in taking control of a narrative, Nicki Minaj bossed her VMAs performance by inviting Taylor Swift (who had previously attacked her on Twitter in a confusing row about that year's nominations) to appear at the end of her performance.
  • Rihanna - Medley (2016)
    When Rihanna was given the coveted Video Vanguard in 2016, she pulled out all the stops to make sure it was a night to remember.

    In fact, over the course of the evening she performed several short blasts of a number of her hit singles, reminding everyone of her impressive back catalogue.
  • Beyonce' - 'Lemonade' Medley (2016)
    Grab a cup of tea before you watch this one because, clocking in at just over 17 minutes, it's a bit of a commitment.

    You know what, though? We wouldn't cut a single second of it. What a performance.
  • Beyonce and Blue Ivy
    Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images
  • Ariana Grande
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
  • Nicki Minaj
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
  • Jeremy Scott and Stella Maxwell
    Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images
    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 28: Model Stella Maxwell and fashion designer Jeremy Scott attend the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
  • Hailey Baldwin
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
  • Alicia Keys
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
  • Fifth Harmony
    Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images
  • Kim Kardashian and Kanye West
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
  • Tinashe
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
  • Lion Babe
    Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images
    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 28: Producer Lucas Goodman (L) and singer Jillian Hervey attend the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
  • Ashley Graham
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
  • Amber Rose
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  • Future
    Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images
  • Holland Roden
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
  • Justine Skye
    Nicholas Hunt via Getty Images
  • Winnie Harlow
    Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images
  • Chance
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  • Zara Larsson
    Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images
  • Sean Diddy Combs
    Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
  • RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars and dancer Frankie Grande (C)
    Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images