An MTV Video Music Award (commonly abbreviated as a VMA) is an award presented by the cable channel MTV to honor the best in the music video medium. Originally conceived as an alternative to the Grammy Awards (in the video category), the annual MTV Video Music Awards ceremony has often been called the "Super Bowl for youth", an acknowledgment of the VMA ceremony's ability to draw millions of youth from teens to 20-somethings each year. By 2001, the VMA had become a coveted award. The statue given to winners is an astronaut on the moon, one of the earliest representations of MTV, and colloquially called a "moonman". The statue was conceived by Manhattan Design—also designers of the original MTV logo—based on the 1981 "Top of the Hour" animation created by Fred Seibert, produced by Alan Goodman, and produced by Buzz Potamkin at Buzzco Associates. The statue is now made by New York firm, Society Awards. Since the 2006 ceremony, viewers are able to vote for their favorite videos in all general categories by visiting MTV's website.
The annual VMA ceremony occurs before the end of summer and held either in late August or mid-September, and broadcast live on MTV, along with simulcasts on MTV's sister networks to nullify in-house competition. The first VMA ceremony was held in 1984 at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. The ceremonies are normally held in either New York City or Los Angeles. However, the ceremonies have also been hosted in Miami and Las Vegas.
1984: At the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984, Madonna performed her hit "Like a Virgin" wearing a combination bustier/wedding gown, including her trademark "Boy Toy" belt. During the performance, she rolled around on the floor, revealing lacy stockings and a garter. Cyndi Lauper spoke in "Exorcist-esque gibberish" to explain the VMA rules right before winning the Best Female video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". David Bowie and The Beatles were rewarded with the first ever Video Vanguard Awards for their work in pioneering the music video.
1987: At the fourth annual MTV Video Music Awards, Peter Gabriel won 10 awards, including the Video Vanguard Award and Video of the Year for his video "Sledgehammer", holding the VMA record for most Moonmen in a single night.
1989: Controversial comic Andrew Dice Clay's appearance at the 1989 Video Music Awards to promote his new movie, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, earned him a "lifetime ban" from the network when he introduced Cher with some of his already-notorious nursery rhymes that contained vulgar language and references. After performing with Tom Petty, Guns N' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin was assaulted by Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil, leading to a verbal battle between Neil and Guns N' Roses lead singer Axl Rose.
Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora turned out a stripped down acoustic performance of the Bon Jovi hits "Wanted Dead or Alive and "Livin' on a Prayer", and in the process possibly provided the inspirational spark for MTV Unplugged.
When Madonna won the Viewer's Choice Award (sponsored by Pepsi-Cola) for her "Like a Prayer" video, she thanked Pepsi-Cola in her acceptance speech "for causing so much controversy". Pepsi-Cola had paid Madonna $5 million to appear in a commercial that would predominantly feature the world premiere of "Like a Prayer"; the commercial, titled "Make a Wish", depicted Madonna drinking Pepsi and watching a home video of her eighth birthday. The tone that the commercial sought to convey sharply contrasted with the music video. When Pepsi executives saw the video, they yanked the advertisement after only two airings, in an attempt to dissociate themselves from Madonna. She also gave one of the most memorable performances of her hit "Express Yourself", as a preview of what would become her Blond Ambition World Tour.
1990: At the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna gave a memorable performance of her single "Vogue," which featured Madonna and her dancers dressed in an 18th-century French theme, with Madonna bearing great resemblance to Marie Antoinette. The performance consisted of both a dramatic 18th-century reinterpretation of "Vogue" as well as her dramatically becorseted breasts.
1991: During the award show the MTV Video Vanguard Award was renamed to the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award from then on, in honor of his contributions to the culture of music videos by changing them from a mere promotional tool featuring musicians playing instruments and singing, to a "short film" with a storyline. His video "Thriller" influenced and changed music videos into what it is like today.
A conflict between Poison's Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille culminated in a fistfight at the Video Music Awards in 1991. DeVille was fired and replaced by Pennsylvanian guitarist Richie Kotzen. Paul Reubens had his first public appearance following an arrest for lewd-conduct earlier that year. Taking the stage in costume as Pee-wee Herman, he received a standing ovation, after which he asked the audience, "Heard any good jokes lately?"
Prince & The New Power Generation performed their sexually charged song "Gett Off" on a Caligula-esque set, with Prince dressed in a yellow mesh outfit which infamously exposed his buttocks. His trousers were parodied numerous times throughout the following year, on In Living Color & even on the next year's VMAs by Howard Stern.
1992: In the 1992 show, MTV requested Nirvana perform "Smells Like Teen Spirit", while the band itself had indicated it preferred to play new songs "Rape Me" and "tourette's". Network executives continued to push for "Teen Spirit" but finally offered the band a choice to play either "Teen Spirit" or "Lithium", which the band appeared to accept. At the performance, Nirvana began to play, and Kurt Cobain played the first few chords of the song, "Rape Me", much to the horror of MTV execs, before continuing their regular performance of "Lithium". Near the end of the song, frustrated that his amp had stopped functioning, bassist Krist Novoselic decided to toss his bass into the air for dramatic effect. He misjudged the landing, and the bass ended up bouncing off of his forehead, forcing him to stumble off the stage in a daze.
Backstage, before the show, Guns N' Roses vocalist Axl Rose challenged Cobain to a fight after he, his wife and Hole frontwoman, Courtney Love, and Nirvana bandmates Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, egged him on. At the end of Nirvana's performance, while Cobain was trashing the band's equipment, Dave Grohl ran to the microphone and shouted "Hi, Axl! Where's Axl?" repeatedly. Guns N' Roses' video for the ballad "November Rain" won the MTV Video Music Award for best cinematography. During the show, the band performed "November Rain" with singer Elton John. Because of the dispute Rose had with Cobain, moments before the "November Rain" performance, Cobain spat on the keys of what he thought was Axl's piano. Cobain later revealed that he was shocked to see Elton John play on the piano he had spat on. During the commercial break, the Alien 3 Pepsi commercial was shown.
Radio shock-jock Howard Stern appeared as Fartman, Stern's radio super-hero, wearing a buttocks-exposing costume obviously inspired by Prince's outfit the year before. Stern was a presenter for best hard rock/metal performance with actor Luke Perry (after several other celebrities turned him down).
1993: At the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna opened the show in a gender-bending performance of her song "Bye Bye Baby," in which Madonna and her two back up singers, dressed in tuxedos and top hats, danced with women in corsets in a choreographed, highly sexual routine.
RuPaul and Milton Berle, who had had conflicts backstage, presented an award together. When Berle touched RuPaul's breasts, RuPaul ad-libbed the line "So you used to wear gowns, but now you're wearing diapers."
1994: At the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards on September 8, months after a profanity-laced appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, Madonna was announced to present the award for Best Video of the Year. She came out, arm-in-arm with an unannounced David Letterman, to a wild ovation. At the microphone, Letterman told her "I'll be in the car. Watch your language," and left.
Recently betrothed couple Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley received a standing ovation as they walked on stage hand-in-hand. After turning to the audience and proclaiming, "And just think, nobody thought this would last," Jackson grabbed Presley and kissed her.
1995: At the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, Hole perform the song "Violet" from their major-label debut album Live Through This. This was one of the first major televised performances given by frontwoman Courtney Love following the death of her husband Kurt Cobain and the death of her band's bassist Kristen Pfaff in 1994. Before beginning the song, Love dedicated the performance to her husband and multiple people in the entertainment industry who had recently died: "This is for Kurt, and Kristen, and River, and Joe, and today Joni Abbott, this is for you." Abbott worked in the Talent Relations department at MTV and had recently committed suicide. The song ended with Love throwing her guitar, knocking the microphone stand into the crowd and pushing over speaker-boxes with bandmate Eric Erlandson before exiting the stage. Love also caused a stir when she interrupted a post-ceremony interview with Kurt Loder and Madonna by throwing her make-up compacts at the singer as they broadcast outside the awards venue.
Michael Jackson performed for over fifteen minutes to a medley of his main songs, including "Scream", and danced his signature moves, including the robot, moonwalk and the relatively unknown "Bankhead Bounce". While Slash accompanied Jackson and played guitar on "Black or White and the beginning of Billie Jean." This performance was voted by the public as the Best VMA Pop Performance and Most Iconic VMA Performance in 2011 with more than half the votes.
TLC was the big winner of the night winning four awards, including "Viewer's Choice", "Best Group Video", and "Video of the Year".
1996: On September 4, at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, the four original members of Van Halen received 20-second standing ovation when they made their first public appearance together since their break-up in April 1985. Backstage, after presenting an award to Beck, the reunion soured bitterly, and reportedly, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen nearly came to blows.
Several weeks later, the public learned that Van Halen would not reunite with Roth. Roth released a statement apologizing to fans, stating that he was an unwitting participant in a publicity stunt to sell more copies of the greatest hits album, Best Of Vol. 1, and that he had been led to believe that he was rejoining Van Halen. The following day, Eddie and Alex Van Halen released a statement, stating that they had been honest with Roth, and never led him to believe that he had been re-hired.
Oasis performed "Champagne Supernova", with lead vocalist Liam Gallagher making rude gestures at brother Noel as he was playing his guitar solo, then spitting beer all over the stage before storming off.
Alanis Morissette performed "Your House", a hidden track from her bestseller album "Jagged Little Pill". The performance had nothing to do with her 1995 one. The beginning and the ending of the song were sung a cappella, while the rest was played with only one guitar on stage. At the end Morissette was close to tears.
1997: In 1997, Pat Smear announced that he was leaving Foo Fighters half way through their performance and presented his replacement, Franz Stahl, who had been a member of the band Scream with Dave Grohl.
Puff Daddy released his debut album No Way Out, featuring the successful tribute single "I'll Be Missing You", dedicated to the recently murdered Notorious B.I.G. The song featured Puff Daddy, Biggie's widow Faith Evans and R&B group 112. The song sampled the melody of The Police's hit song "Every Breath You Take." All these artists performed the song with former Police vocalist Sting.
The odd pairing of presenters Martha Stewart and Busta Rhymes that year drew much talk in the press, with a fair amount of commentary regarding their good on-screen chemistry, despite coming from wildly different backgrounds. They presented the best dance video award to the Spice Girls for their music video "Wannabe," who wore a black strap on their left arms as a sign of grief because of Diana, Princess of Wales's death prior to the event.
While accepting the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist Video that year for "Sleep To Dream", Fiona Apple appealed to her audience not to be enamored of celebrity culture. She proclaimed, "this world is bullshit" and quoted Maya Angelou, saying "go with yourself." Though her comments were generally greeted with cheers and applause at the awards ceremony, the media backlash was huge. Some considered her remarks to be hypocritical, seeing a contradiction between her appearance in a risqué music video in only her underwear and her telling young women to ignore celebrity culture. However she was unapologetic: "When I have something to say, I'll say it."
Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson performed the song "The Beautiful People", as the grand finale, and the video for this song was nominated for "Best Rock Video" and "Best Special Effects", marking one of the most significant performances for the band.
1998: In 1998, after Green Day won a "Moon Man" Trophy at the MTV Music Awards, drummer of the band Tré Cool famously climbed the Universal Globe at Universal Studios, but escaped with no punishment, only compliments and cheers. Cool is one of the only two people ever do so, the other being Jai Brooks.
At the 1998 VMA's, Brandy and Monica performed "The Boy Is Mine" together live for the first time, putting an end to the media speculation that the two were rivals. During the original broadcast of the show, a commercial faded in the Nine Inch Nails NIN logo on a black screen while playing a combination of music that started as a solo piano piece and morphed into an electronic/industrial beat (which would later found out to be the songs "La Mer" and "Into the Void," which share many melodic components and can be considered variations on a theme) and ended with Trent Reznor screaming "Tried to save myself, but myself kept slipping away" and the word "ninetynine" in the trademark NIN reversed-N font. This was only shown once during the original broadcast, was edited out of all repeats, and generally seen as a sign that the long-awaited follow-up to The Downward Spiral would be released early in 1999. Work was continued on the album through the first half of 1999, and Nine Inch Nails performed the title track "The Fragile" off the double-CD at 1999 MTV Video Music Awards almost one year to the day of the "ninetynine" commercial. It can be found as an Easter Egg or on the "Beneath The Surface" menu on the live NIN DVD And All That Could Have Been.
Actress Rose McGowan, who had arrived with then-boyfriend Marilyn Manson, was wearing a see-through dress, no bra, and a thong, while Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston poked fun at their rumored rift by wearing lookalike chocolate brown dresses by Vera Wang. In an attempt to outdo each other, the singers tore off pieces of their dresses to reveal minidresses then staged a faux catfight that left the audience in disbelief. "People thought Whitney and I had some kind of beef," explained Carey.
1999: Lil' Kim showed up at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards with an entire breast exposed and only a tiny piece of fabric over the nipple. Kim's outfit became even more controversial later when she appeared on stage with Mary J. Blige and Diana Ross to present the Best Hip-Hop Video award, and Ross reached over, cupped her hand under Kim's exposed breast and jiggled it while Kim laughed.
During the following acceptance speech by the Beastie Boys, group member Ad-Rock addressed the instances of rape and sexual assault that occurred in the crowd at the recent Woodstock 1999 concert event. He pleaded to other musicians in the room to make a change in the way they treat fans at concerts; to pledge to talk with promoters and security to ensure "the safety of all the girls and the women who come to our shows."
TLC won Best Group Video for "No Scrubs", receiving a standing ovation from the audience and artists. For the second year in a row, the Backstreet Boys took the Viewer's Choice Award for "I Want It That Way", a song they performed during the broadcast.
Before presenting the final award, a group of drag queens paid tribute to Madonna wearing her most iconic outfits with a medley of her hit songs. Madonna herself then appeared onstage and remarked, "All I have to say is that it takes a real man to fill my shoes." She then introduced Paul McCartney, who presented the Video of the Year to "some guy called Laurence Hill" (Lauryn Hill).
2000: At the 2000 Video Music Awards, Limp Bizkit won the award for Best Rock Video. As vocalist Fred Durst spoke, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford climbed onto the scaffolding of the set. Durst egged Commerford on, saying "Stage dive, dude" and "Take a dive," finally ending his speech with "and [Commerford]'s a pussy 'cause he won't jump." Commerford and his bodyguard were sentenced to a night in jail. RATM vocalist Zack de la Rocha reportedly left the awards after Commerford's stunt. RATM guitarist Tom Morello recalled that Commerford related his plan to the rest of the band before the show, and that both de la Rocha and Morello advised him against it immediately after Bizkit was presented the award.
Eminem performed his two singles "The Real Slim Shady" and "The Way I Am". The performance began with Eminem's single "The Real Slim Shady" which started outside the Radio City Music Hall on 6th Avenue, Manhattan. Eminem continued his performance into the arena and was followed by a hundred Eminem 'clones' wearing white tank tops and baggy jeans with dyed bleach blonde hair.
Britney Spears performed "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and her hit "Oops!... I Did It Again", which gained media attention mostly due to Spears' ripping off a tuxedo to reveal skin-colored performance attire. At performance’s end, VMA co-host Marlon Wayans proclaimed, "Girl done went from ’The Mickey Mouse Club’ to the strip club."
At the end of Christina Aguilera's performance, Durst walked onstage and performed part of his band's song "Livin' It Up" with Aguilera. After eliciting charged reactions from his fans, Durst stated: "I already told you guys before, I did it all for the nookie, man." The feud died weeks later. Aguilera denied Durst's statement, saying Durst "got no nookie."
Aguilera and Spears disproved rumors of a rivalry when they came onstage, holding hands, and introduced Whitney Houston. Houston, who had been targeted by the media for erratic behavior, canceled appearances, drug use rumors and being busted for carrying marijuana at a Hawaii airport just a few months prior, came out to a standing ovation and introduced an award to Eminem with husband Bobby Brown, who was recently released from jail. Houston showed more erratic behavior, jumping up and down saying "free" in reference to Brown's recent jail release. Aaliyah would win two MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video and Best Video from a Film for Try Again.
2001: At the 2001 Video Music Awards, Britney Spears performed her single, "I'm a Slave 4 U." Along with dancing in a very revealing outfit, the performance featured the singer in a cage with a tiger and briefly dancing with a live albino Burmese Python on her shoulders. The inclusion of a tiger and a snake in the performance bought a great deal of criticism from PETA.
U2 had been set to perform a medley including "Elevation", "Beautiful Day" and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of." The riser they were performing on lost power and MTV had to cut to several minutes of promos while everything was set up again. They lost power again and finally the band was lowered to the ground and performed without the riser. Lead singer Bono made reference after the performance that MTV "forgot to pay the electricity bill."
Michael Jackson made a surprise appearance at the end of 'N Sync's performance of "Pop", and, surrounded by members of the group, performed some of his trademark dance moves to Justin Timberlake's beatboxing.
The show paid tribute to the R&B singer/actress Aaliyah, who was supposed to present an award but died the weekend before from a small plane crash. U2 paid tribute to Punk-Rock singer Joey Ramone, who died of lymphoma 4 months before.
2002: In 2002, the VMAs took place on Michael Jackson's birthday, and as a tribute, Britney Spears introduced him saying she "considered him the artist of the millennium." Jackson said, "When I was a little boy growing up in Indiana if someone told me I'd be getting 'the artist of the millennium award,' I'd have never believed it." A year later, at the 2003 VMAs, this was parodied by presenters Fred Durst and Jack Black, with Durst stating that Black was the "funniest man alive."
The Hives and The Vines both performed on the night after the sudden garage rock revival during the year, with rumors spreading around that it was to be 'battle of the bands' performance. Once The Hives performed, singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist said to the crowd "I know you want us to play more, but that's all the time we have for so you can turn off [your TV] now", just before The Vines came on the bigger stage to perform their hit single "Get Free", ultimately destroying their set after their performance.
Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog appeared and had a confrontation with Eminem. Eminem had a confrontation with Moby, who had called the rapper's music misogynistic and homophobic. By that time, there were various boos from the crowd. The Best Male Video award was given to Eminem right after the confrontation with Triumph and Moby, and when Eminem went to stage to pick up the award, in the middle of his speech, he challenged Moby to fight if he continued to boo him.
Christina Aguilera shocked the audience by wearing a revealing outfit and heavy make-up, with a sexual image contrasting her previous good-girl persona. She was part of an awkward moment at the awards when presenting the Best Male Video Award to Eminem, who had insulted her in 2000.
Avril Lavigne won her first award ever as Best New Artist in a Video, getting the record for the youngest artist so far to win this award at the age of 17. She kicked off the 2002 VMAs with a "Complicated" / "Sk8er Boi" pre-show performance and together Lisa Marie Presley they gave the award for Best Female Video to P!nk who was under the effects of alcohol during her acceptance speech.
Axl Rose unveiled the new lineup of New Guns N' Roses. The band's set was the show's finale, and although the performance was meant to be kept a secret, some New York radio outlets announced the performance earlier in the day. The band played a set consisting of "Welcome to the Jungle", "Madagascar", and "Paradise City".
2003: At the 2003 Video Music Awards, Madonna portrayed a groom kissing her brides, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, on stage. The gender role-reversal and lesbian theme instantly made front page headlines. The three singers performed a medley of her early hit, "Like a Virgin", and her then latest release, "Hollywood", with a guest rap by Missy Elliott. A quick camera cut to the reaction of Justin Timberlake, who dated Spears until 2002, also gained media attention. The design resembled Madonna's performance of "Like a Virgin" at the 1984 VMAs: the same wedding cake set, wedding dresses and "Boy Toy" belt worn by Madonna in 1984 now adorned Aguilera and Spears.
Beyoncé made an unusual entrance, descending upside down from the rafters at Radio City Music Hall. Knowles performed "Baby Boy" as she was gently lowered to the stage, dressed in harem pants. She was later joined by Jay Z as they performed their duet "Crazy in Love." The performance marked Knowles' solo debut.
2004: The 2004 MTV Video Music Awards were held at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. This was the first time the awards show was held outside of New York City and Los Angeles. It was the first video music awards to not have a host.
2005: At the 2005 show, Green Day returned, taking home the Best Rock Video, Best Group Video, and Video of the Year Moonmen for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which they performed during the broadcast. They also took the Viewer's Choice award for "American Idiot."
Also at the show, while introducing the reggaeton spot, Fat Joe made a disparaging comment about G-Unit: "I'd like to tell the people home I feel so safe tonight with all this police protection courtesy of G-Unit..." Later in the show, after G-Unit's performance, 50 Cent directed profanities at Fat Joe which were edited out before the shows airing although some broadcasts played the uncensored version of the show. R. Kelly performed his rap opera, "Trapped in the Closet."
Actress Eva Longoria caused a stir when she appeared barely dressed to introduce Mariah Carey. Gwen Stefani and Snoop Dogg won best dressed female and male and received prizes to donate to a charity of their choice.
The 2005 VMAs were the first to have a performance in Spanish, when Shakira, performed her single "La Tortura" with Alejandro Sanz. It was also the first time that Spanish videos were nominated at the awards.
Kelly Clarkson performed a high energy version of her song "Since U Been Gone" barefoot wearing a torn up halter top and Capri pants. Clarkson moved through the crowd during the performance, which culminated in the singer getting sprayed with water. By the end of the song, she and a portion of the audience were soaking wet.
Beavis and Butt-head appeared in several Viewer's Choice award skits, saying to "Vote to put Beavis and Butt-head back on MTV!". Rather belatedly, the TV show returned to MTV in 2011.
2006: Justin Timberlake opened the 2006 Video Music Awards performing his singles "My Love" and "SexyBack". The awards were distributed evenly across all genres, as hip-hop, pop and rock artists alike all won Moonmen. 2006 was also the first time that viewers voted for all the performer's categories (Video of the Year, Best Male Video, Best Group Video, among others, except professional categories).
When Panic! at the Disco won Video of the Year for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies", a man calling himself Sixx jumped onstage claiming that MTV had denied him his own TV show. Hosted by Jack Black, there were also performances by Shakira with Wyclef Jean, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera and The Killers.
2007: The 2007 Video Music Awards was opened by Britney Spears performing her comeback single "Gimme More". Spears failed to live up to the pre-show hype about her appearance. She appeared to be intoxicated, with poor lip-syncing and dancing, and showing off an out-of-shape physique after reportedly tossing aside her costume, appearing wearing only a black, sparkly bra and panty set. The performance was dubbed "career crippling".
Kid Rock and Tommy Lee were involved in an altercation during Alicia Keys's performance. Lee was sitting with magician Criss Angel when the two went to visit Diddy, who was sitting close to Kid Rock. Kid Rock allegedly punched Tommy Lee in the face. The two were broken up, and both were escorted from the resort. Angel was removed a short time later.
2008: The 2008 Video Music Awards were opened by Britney Spears which welcomed everybody to the 25-year anniversary of the Video Music Awards. Rihanna opened the show with her song "Disturbia" in a black leather outfit . After 16 nominations, Britney Spears finally won her first VMA, taking Best Female Video, Best Pop Video, and Video of the Year for "Piece of Me", considered as Spears' comeback.
Host Russell Brand commented on Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, begging the audience to vote for him. Brand called President George W. Bush a "retarded cowboy" and claimed Bush "wouldn't be trusted with a pair of scissors in Britain."
Russell Brand also made comments on the Jonas Brothers for wearing purity rings. Brand later faced criticism for his swipes at the trio. He confirmed his apology at the MTV Video Music Awards 2009 by saying "I upset the Jonas Brothers last year, I had to say sorry to them and they forgave me. They had to, they're Christians." During her introduction of T.I. and Rihanna's performance, Jordin Sparks, who also wears a purity ring, defended the boy-band by saying "It's not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody, guy or girl, wants to be a slut." Sparks was in turn criticized for implying that those who do not wear purity rings or do not abstain are promiscuous.
2009: At the 2009 Video Music Awards, country singer Taylor Swift won Best Female video for "You Belong with Me." During her acceptance speech, rapper Kanye West unexpectedly showed up on stage. Taking the microphone from Swift, he announced "Yo Tay, I'm really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!" MTV cut away from the stage (showing Beyoncé with an embarrassed look) after West gave the microphone back to Swift and giving the middle finger to the audience as they started booing him off stage, and so Swift did not finish her speech. West was removed for the rest of the show. However, when Beyoncé won Video of the Year for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," she called Swift back on stage to "have her moment" (finishing her speech from winning Best Female Video). In an off-the-record portion of an interview the following day, President Barack Obama called West a "jackass" for his antics. During a post-interview, Jay-Z admitted West was wrong to go on stage, but he thought people were overreacting to the incident.
Madonna opened the show talking about her experiences with Michael Jackson. After her speech, a Michael Jackson tribute commenced, including Janet Jackson performing the duet "Scream". The show closed with a sneak preview of Michael Jackson's This Is It movie.
Rapper Lil' Mama jumped on stage as Jay Z and Alicia Keys performed "Empire State of Mind." Lil' Mama later apologized. During an interview with New York Radio DJ Angie Martinez, Jay-Z said that he thought the unrehearsed move was something similar to the West and Swift incident.
Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Green Day were the big winners of the night, with three awards each.
2010: At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Taylor Swift performed her song "Innocent", while West performed "Runaway" with Pusha T giving a stellar performance on the MPC2000. Eminem, who performed at the show, did not receive his awards in person, as he had to leave immediately to perform with Jay Z at The Home & Home Tour in New York City the next day. Additionally, will.i.am's "blackface" outfit sparked controversy among African-Americans. Florence + the Machine performed "Dog Days Are Over".
Lady Gaga won eight awards, including Video of the Year, Best Female Video, and Best Pop Video for "Bad Romance"; she also won Best Collaboration for "Telephone" with Beyoncé. Upon accepting her Video of the Year award, Gaga wore a dress made entirely of raw meat, which drew criticism from PETA. Justin Bieber won Best New Artist, making him the youngest person to ever win a VMA.
2011: The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards returned to the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California. In the entire history of the show, this was the third time no host was appointed, although Kevin Hart, who would receive the position a year later, delivered an opening monologue.
The tribute to Britney Spears included performances by young talents, who danced to various hit singles by Spears including "...Baby One More Time" and "Till the World Ends". After the tribute, Lady Gaga went onstage to present Britney the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. While accepting her award she and Gaga (dressed as her alter ego Joe Calderone) teased a kiss. Spears rejected the exchange saying, "I've done that already", referring to her liplock with Madonna at the 2003 show.
Katy Perry and Kanye West won the Award for Best Video for a Collaborative Single. As they went onstage to receive the award, Perry made a reference to West's incident with Taylor Swift two years back. This was the first award Perry won in four years of being nominated.
Prior to her performance, Beyoncé announced on the red carpet that she and husband Jay Z were expecting a baby. Straight after Beyoncé finished performing her song "Love on Top", she also revealed again that she was pregnant by showing off her baby bump and rubbing it. That evening, Beyoncé set the record for the most mentions on Twitter per second (with 8,868) and helped this year's VMAs become the most-watched broadcast in MTV history, pulling in 12.4 million viewers.
A tribute to late singer Amy Winehouse also took place; Russell Brand delivered a monologue on his thoughts on her, after which Tony Bennett previewed his collaboration with her for his album Duets II. Afterwards, Bruno Mars performed "Valerie" in her honor.
2012: The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards aired live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on Thursday, September 6, 2012. One Direction was the big winner of the night receiving Best New Artist, Best Pop Video, and Most Share Worthy Video. Rihanna won the Video of the Year Award for "We Found Love".
The awards ceremony was the least-watched VMA show since 2007. The major contributing factor was moving the broadcast date to Thursday instead of Sunday, the day MTV been using since 2004 with the exception in 2006. MTV also moved up the telecast to 8pm instead of 9pm, to avoid competing with President Barack Obama's speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and this was early for MTV's targeted young audience.
2013: For the show's 30th anniversary, MTV redesigned its moon-man statue for one year only due to the ceremony's being held in Brooklyn for the first time. Brooklyn artist KAWS used Michelin Man as inspiration to redesign the image of the renowned MTV moon-man. Barclays Center, which served as the venue for the 2013 show, was decorated also by KAWS, themed around the resigned moon-man. The 2013 MTV Video Music Awards also marks the fourth time in the awards show history that a host had not been appointed for the annual event.
Lady Gaga opened the ceremony, performing her single "Applause". During the performance, Gaga changed three times (on stage) and gave tribute to her past eras (The Fame, The Fame Monster and Born This Way era). At the end, Gaga came on stage wearing nothing but a seashell bikini.
Miley Cyrus' performance of her song "We Can't Stop" featured the former child star entering the stage through a giant teddy bear wearing a one-piece bodice with a teddy bear styled on it. The singer performed with a group of back-up dancers dressed as giant bears before singer Robin Thicke joined Cyrus on stage to perform his song "Blurred Lines". Cyrus then stripped down to a flesh colored bikini and proceeded to perform her signature twerking dance moves, simulating sex with Thicke and groping his genitals with a giant foam finger. The flabbergasted reactions of several celebrity audience members, including Rihanna and members of One Direction, also gained attention in the media.
Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors" won the Video of The Year, making him the first male solo artist to win this category since Eminem in 2002 with "Without Me". Timberlake also became the second artist to be honored with the Video Vanguard Award and win the award for Video of the Year in the same night since Peter Gabriel in 1987. To celebrate his Video Vanguard Award, Timberlake performed a 15-minute medley performance, which included a mini reunion with his former band NSYNC. The set list of the most watched performance of the night included songs from all four studio albums of Timberlake's solo career so far, such as "Cry Me a River", "SexyBack" and "Suit & Tie".
2014: "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus took home the award for Video of the Year. For her acceptance speech, a man named Jesse was sent by Cyrus to raise awareness to the homeless youth of America. Beyoncé closed the show by performing a 16-minute medley of her self-titled fifth studio album. After the performance, Jay Z and her daughter Blue presented the Video Vanguard Award to her.
2015: American fashion designer Jeremy Scott redesigned this year’s "moonman", being this the second time the statue has been transformed. Taylor Swift won Video of the Year for "Bad Blood", and presented the Video Vanguard Award to Kanye West. West ended his acceptance speech announcing he will run for president in 2020. Miley Cyrus, this year's host, closed the show by performing along with a group of drag queens who participated on RuPaul's Drag Race.
2016: The 2016 show was held at the Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. Rihanna received the Video Vanguard Award after performing four times during the show, opening and closing the ceremony. Beyoncé became the artist with the most number of VMAs with 24 moonmen, passing Madonna previous record of 20. The telecast saw a drop in audience for third year in a row.
|Year||Date||Venue||Host City||Host||Video of the Year Winner||Ref.|
|1984||September 14||Radio City Music Hall||New York City||Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler||"You Might Think" by The Cars
(Directed by Jeff Stein and Charlex)
|1985||September 13||Eddie Murphy||"The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley
(Directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino)
|1986||September 5||The Palladium,
|New York City,
|MTV VJs: "Downtown" Julie Brown, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn and Dweezil Zappa||"Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits
(Directed by Steve Barron)
|1987||September 11||Gibson Amphitheatre||Los Angeles||MTV VJs: "Downtown" Julie Brown, Carolyne Heldman, Dweezil Zappa and Kevin Seal||"Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel
(Directed by Stephen R. Johnson)
|1988||September 7||Arsenio Hall||"Need You Tonight" / "Mediate" by INXS
(Directed by Richard Lowenstein)
|1989||September 6||"This Note's for You" by Neil Young
(Directed by Julien Temple)
|1990||September 6||"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinéad O'Connor
(Directed by John Maybury)
|1991||September 5||"Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.
(Directed by Tarsem Singh)
|1992||September 9||UCLA's Pauley Pavilion||Dana Carvey||"Right Now" by Van Halen
(Directed by Mark Fenske)
|1993||September 2||Gibson Amphitheatre||Christian Slater||"Jeremy" by Pearl Jam
(Directed by Mark Pellington)
|1994||September 8||Radio City Music Hall||New York City||Roseanne Barr||"Cryin'" by Aerosmith
(Directed by Marty Callner)
|1995||September 7||Dennis Miller||"Waterfalls" by TLC
(Directed by F. Gary Gray)
|1996||September 4||"Tonight, Tonight" by The Smashing Pumpkins
(Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris)
|1997||September 4||Chris Rock||"Virtual Insanity" by Jamiroquai
(Directed by Jonathan Glazer)
|1998||September 10||Gibson Amphitheatre||Los Angeles||Ben Stiller||"Ray of Light" by Madonna
(Directed by Jonas Åkerlund)
|1999||September 9||Metropolitan Opera House||New York City||Chris Rock||"Doo Wop (That Thing)" by Lauryn Hill
(Directed by Big TV!)
|2000||September 7||Radio City Music Hall||Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans||"The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem
(Directed by Dr. Dre and Philip Atwell)
|2001||September 6||Metropolitan Opera House||Jamie Foxx||"Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and Pink
(Directed by Paul Hunter)
|2002||August 29||Radio City Music Hall||Jimmy Fallon||"Without Me" by Eminem
(Directed by Joseph Kahn)
|2003||August 28||Chris Rock||"Work It" by Missy Elliott
(Directed by Dave Meyers)
|2004||August 29||American Airlines Arena||Miami||N/A||"Hey Ya!" by OutKast
(Directed by Bryan Barber)
|2005||August 28||Sean "Diddy" Combs||"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day
(Directed by Samuel Bayer)
|2006||August 31||Radio City Music Hall||New York City||Jack Black||"I Write Sins Not Tragedies" by Panic! At The Disco
(Directed by Shane Drake)
|2007||September 9||Palms Casino Resort||Las Vegas||N/A||"Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay Z
(Directed by Chris Applebaum)
|2008||September 7||Paramount Studios||Los Angeles||Russell Brand||"Piece of Me" by Britney Spears
(Directed by Wayne Isham)
|2009||September 13||Radio City Music Hall||New York City||"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" by Beyoncé
(Directed by Jake Nava)
|2010||September 12||Nokia Theatre||Los Angeles||Chelsea Handler||"Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga
(Directed by Francis Lawrence)
|2011||August 28||N/A||"Firework" by Katy Perry
(Directed by Dave Meyers)
|2012||September 6||Staples Center||Kevin Hart||"We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris
(Directed by Melina Matsoukas)
|2013||August 25||Barclays Center||New York City||N/A||"Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake
(Directed by Floria Sigismondi)
|2014||August 24||The Forum||Inglewood||"Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus
(Directed by Terry Richardson)
|2015||August 30||Microsoft Theater||Los Angeles||Miley Cyrus||"Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
(Directed by Joseph Kahn)
|2016||August 28||Madison Square Garden||New York City||N/A||"Formation" by Beyoncé
(Directed by Melina Matsoukas)
|2017||August 27||The Forum||Inglewood||TBD|
Ratings are not available prior to 1994 because MTV was not subscribing to Nielsen Media Research's program ratings prior to 1994. Ceremonies after 2014 only account for ratings accrued on MTV itself, not live simulcasts of the ceremony across many Viacom Media Networks channels as a whole.
|Year||Day||Time||Date||Households Rating||Households Share||MTV Viewers
|Cumulative Viewers (in millions)|
|1994||Thursday||8:00–11:25pm||September 8, 1994||4.1||N/A||5.36||N/A|
|1995||Thursday||8:00–11:00pm||September 7, 1995||3.7||7||6.33||N/A|
|1996||Wednesday||8:00–11:00pm||September 4, 1996||3.6||6||5.07||N/A|
|1997||Thursday||8:00–11:00pm||September 4, 1997||5.2||9||7.47||N/A|
|1998||Thursday||8:00–11:13pm||September 10, 1998||5.8||10||8.94||N/A|
|1999||Thursday||8:00–11:13pm||September 9, 1999||8.0||14||11.94||N/A|
|2000||Thursday||8:00–11:09pm||September 7, 2000||6.5||11||9.85||N/A|
|2001||Thursday||8:00–11:26pm||September 6, 2001||6.6||11||10.76||N/A|
|2002||Thursday||8:00–11:17pm||August 29, 2002||6.6||11||11.95||N/A|
|2003||Thursday||8:00–11:03pm||August 28, 2003||6.4||11||10.71||N/A|
|2004||Sunday||8:00–11:11pm||August 29, 2004||6.3||11||10.32||N/A|
|2005||Sunday||8:00–11:23pm||August 28, 2005||5.0||8||8.01||N/A|
|2006||Thursday||8:00–11:28pm||August 31, 2006||3.6||6||5.77||N/A|
|2007||Sunday||9:00–11:12pm||September 9, 2007||4.0||7||7.08||N/A|
|2008||Sunday||9:00–11:20pm||September 7, 2008||5.0||8||8.43||N/A|
|2009||Sunday||9:00–11:21pm||September 13, 2009||7.5||8||8.97||N/A|
|2010||Sunday||9:00–11:15pm||September 12, 2010||10||8||11.40||N/A|
|2011||Sunday||9:00–11:27pm||August 28, 2011||10.8||N/A||12.40||N/A|
|2012||Thursday||8:00–10:00pm||September 6, 2012||2.8||N/A||6.13||N/A|
|2013||Sunday||9:00–11:28pm||August 25, 2013||
|2014||Sunday||9:00–11:13pm||August 24, 2014||
|2015||Sunday||9:00–11:37pm||August 30, 2015||N/A||N/A||
|2016||Sunday||9:00–11:54pm||August 28, 2016||N/A||N/A||
|Artist||Years||Number of awards||Awarded work|
|Beyoncé||2003–16||24||"Crazy in Love" (3); "Naughty Girl" (1); "Check on It" (1); "Beautiful Liar" (1); "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" (3); "Run the World (Girls)" (1); "Countdown" (1); Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award; "Pretty Hurts" (2); "Drunk in Love" (1); "7/11" (1); "Hold Up" (1); Lemonade (1); "Formation" (6)|
|Madonna||1986–99||20||Video Vanguard Award; "Papa Don't Preach" (1); "Express Yourself" (3); "Like a Prayer" (1); "Vogue" (3); The Immaculate Collection (1); "Rain" (2); "Take a Bow" (1); "Ray of Light" (5); "Frozen" (1); "Beautiful Stranger" (1)|
|Lady Gaga||2009–11||13||"Paparazzi" (2); "Poker Face" (1); "Bad Romance" (7); "Telephone" (1); "Born This Way" (2)|
|Peter Gabriel||1987–94||"Sledgehammer" (9); Video Vanguard Award; "Steam" (2); "Kiss That Frog" (1)|
|R.E.M.||1989–95||12||"Orange Crush" (1); "Losing My Religion" (6); "Everybody Hurts" (4); Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award|
|Eminem||1999–14||"My Name Is" (1); "The Real Slim Shady" (2); "Without Me" (4); "Lose Yourself" (1); "We Made You" (1); "Not Afraid" (2); "Rap God" (1)|
|Justin Timberlake||2003–13||11||"Cry Me a River" (2); "Rock Your Body" (1); "What Goes Around... Comes Around" (1); "Let Me Talk to You/My Love" (1); Male Artist of the Year; Quadruple Threat of the Year; Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award; "Suit & Tie" (1); "Mirrors" (2)|
|Green Day||1998–09||"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" (1); "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (6); "American Idiot" (1); "21 Guns" (3)|
|Aerosmith||1990–98||10||"Janie's Got a Gun" (2); "The Other Side" (1); "Livin' on the Edge" (1); "Cryin'" (3); "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" (1); "Pink" (1); "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (1)|
|Fatboy Slim||1999–01||9||"Praise You" (3); "Weapon of Choice" (6)|
|Janet Jackson||1987–95||"Nasty" (1); "The Pleasure Principle" (1); "Rhythm Nation" (1); Video Vanguard Award; "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" (1); "If" (1); "Scream" (3)|
|A-ha||1986||8||"Take On Me" (6); "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." (2)|
|Michael Jackson||1984–95||"Thriller" (3); Video Vanguard Award; "Leave Me Alone" (1); "Scream" (3)|
|Red Hot Chili Peppers||1992–06||"Give It Away" (2); "Under the Bridge" (1); Best Artist Website; "Californication" (2); Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award; "Dani California" (1)|
|'N Sync||2000–01||7||"Bye Bye Bye" (3); "Pop" (4)|
|The Smashing Pumpkins||1996||"Tonight, Tonight" (6); "1979" (1)|
|Jay Z||1999–14||"Can I Get A..." (1); "99 Problems" (4); "Empire State of Mind" (1); "Drunk in Love" (1)|
|Beck||1996–97||6||"Where It's At" (1); "Devils Haircut" (2); "The New Pollution" (3)|
|Coldplay||2002–16||"Trouble" (1); "The Scientist" (3); "Paradise" (1); "Up & Up" (1)|
|Pink||2001–13||"Lady Marmalade" (2); "Get the Party Started" (2); "Stupid Girls" (1); "Just Give Me a Reason" (1)|
|Britney Spears||2008–11||"Piece of Me" (3); "Womanizer" (1); "Till the World Ends" (1); Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award|
|U2||1987–01||"With or Without You" (1); "When Love Comes to Town" (1); "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (2); "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" (1); Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award|
|Taylor Swift||2009–15||"You Belong with Me" (1), "I Knew You Were Trouble" (1), "Blank Space" (2), "Bad Blood" (2)|
|Paula Abdul||1987–89||5||"Nasty" (1, as choreographer); "Straight Up" (4)|
|Gnarls Barkley||2006–08||"Crazy" (2); "Smiley Faces" (1); "Run" (2)|
|Missy Elliott||2003–06||"Work It" (2); "Lose Control" (2); "We Run This" (1)|
|Herbie Hancock||1984||"Rockit" (5)|
|Don Henley||1985–90||"The Boys of Summer" (4); "The End of the Innocence" (1)|
|INXS||1988||"Need You Tonight / Mediate" (5)|
|Ricky Martin||1999||"Livin' la Vida Loca" (5)|
|Nirvana||1992–94||"Smells Like Teen Spirit" (2); "In Bloom" (1); "Heart-Shaped Box" (2)|
|No Doubt||1997–04||"Don't Speak" (1); "Hey Baby" (2); "It's My Life" (2)|
|OutKast||2001–04||"Ms. Jackson" (1); "Hey Ya!" (4)|
|Katy Perry||2011–14||"Firework" (1); "E.T." (2); "Wide Awake" (1); "Dark Horse" (1)|
|TLC||1995–99||"Waterfalls" (4); "No Scrubs" (1)|
|The White Stripes||2002–08||"Fell in Love with a Girl" (3); "Seven Nation Army" (1); "Conquest" (1)|
|Artist||Year||Number of awards||Awarded work|
|Peter Gabriel||1987||10||"Sledgehammer" (9); Video Vanguard Award (for Gabriel)|
|a-ha||1986||8||"Take On Me" (6); "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." (2)|
|Lady Gaga||2010||"Bad Romance" (7); "Telephone" (1)|
|Beyoncé||2016||"Hold Up" (1); Lemonade (1); "Formation" (6)|
|The Smashing Pumpkins||1996||7||"Tonight, Tonight" (6); "1979" (1)|
|Green Day||2005||"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (6); "American Idiot" (1)|
|R.E.M.||1991||6||"Losing My Religion" (6)|
|Madonna||1998||"Ray of Light" (5); "Frozen" (1)|
|Fatboy Slim||2001||"Weapon of Choice" (6)|
|Herbie Hancock||1984||5||"Rockit" (5)|
|INXS||1988||"Need You Tonight/Mediate" (5)|
|Beck||1997||"The New Pollution" (3); "Devils Haircut" (2)|
|Ricky Martin||1999||"Livin' La Vida Loca" (5)|
|Artist||Year||Number of awards||Music video|
|Lady Gaga||2010||7||"Bad Romance"|
|a-ha||1986||6||"Take On Me"|
|R.E.M.||1991||"Losing My Religion"|
|The Smashing Pumpkins||1996||"Tonight, Tonight"|
|Fatboy Slim||2001||"Weapon of Choice"|
|Green Day||2005||"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"|
|INXS||1988||"Need You Tonight / Mediate"|
|Madonna||1998||"Ray of Light"|
|Ricky Martin||1999||"Livin' La Vida Loca"|
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