For sheer unpredictability, no award show can top the VMAs. On any given year, we’re likely to see some unplanned, hopelessly awkward event, which inevitably becomes all we can talk about the next day. With Miley Cyrus hosting this year, it seems quite likely that we’ll get a few more wild moments to add to the list. To whet your appetite for this year’s show, let’s look at the most “WTF” things that have ever happened at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Krist Novoselic throws his bass in the air, is injured by said bass (1992)
Our own Jason Tabrys wrote a comprehensive retrospective on this incident a few days ago, but if you want the short version, here it is: Krist Novoselic throws his bass in the air, it lands on top of him, he gets hurt pretty bad. Was it a defiant act of rock ‘n roll rebellion, or merely an act of extreme clumsiness? Well, that’s in the eye of the beholder, but in any event, we certainly won’t be forgetting about this one anytime soon.
Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley and the most awkward kiss ever (1994)
“…and just think, nobody thought this would last,” says Michael Jackson before planting one on his then-wife, Lisa Marie Presley. Well, they did last for another two years before divorcing in 1996, but the whole thing never seemed convincing. Here, Jackson seems like he wants to get that kiss over with as quickly as possible. Coming on the heels of child molestation accusations, Jackson marrying Elvis Presley’s daughter just felt like an elaborate stunt to convince us that he was attracted to women. Is that a totally fair assumption? Not really, but MJ didn’t do himself any favors in that clip.
Rage Against The Machine’s Tim Commerford protests Limp Bizkit (2000)
Hey, if you lost an award to Limp Bizkit, you’d be mad, too! Yes, long before there was Kanye (we’ll get to him), there was Timmy C. When Rage Against the Machine lost Best Rock Video to Limp Bizkit (who won for “Break Stuff”), their bassist decided to boycott this decision by climbing up a stage structure, thoroughly distracting Fred Durst during his acceptance speech. To his credit, Durst took it in stride, opining that “that guy should get an award” for representing the spirit of rock ‘n roll. We’re guessing Mr. Commerford agreed with this sentiment.
Guns N’ Roses comeback fails to live up to expectations (2002)
Sorry Jerry Rice, but when I think about your time with the Raiders, a dreadlocked Axl Rose awkwardly trying to hit the high notes in your No. 80 jersey is the first thing that comes to mind. Guns N’ Roses’ show-closing performance had been teased all night, with host Jimmy Fallon giving fairly obvious hints about who the big special guest was (“you’ll just need to have some patience“), but when the moment came, it was decidedly underwhelming. The lack of any original members beside Axl was disconcerting, but his vocals were the bigger problem, as he was unable to bring the lyrics of “Welcome To The Jungle” to life the way had done 15 years earlier.
Madonna kisses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera (2003)
People mostly remember this as Madonna kissing Britney, but as the above clip clearly shows, she kisses Aguilera, too. Why that didn’t get as much press is anybody’s guess. Madonna effectively passed the torch to a new generation of pop stars with this bit of faux-lesbianism, but the most interesting part in retrospect is the hilariously awkward transition to Justin Timberlake, who was completely stonefaced. Like most of the country, he had no idea how to react to what he was seeing.
Britney’s disastrous performance of “Gimme More” (2007)
To say that 2007 was a rough year for Britney would be a rather dramatic understatement. She had a public meltdown that included famously shaving her head, and seemed to consistently be in the news for the wrong reasons. In September of that year, though, it looked like things were finally going to turn around, as her new single “Gimme More,” with its memorable opening line “it’s Britney, bitch” was getting positive reviews, reminding the public that whatever problems Britney had, she could still knock out a club banger like no one else. Unfortunately, this ghastly performance — where Britney awkwardly dances around the stage devoid of any charisma or coordination — made things worse than ever. What made the situation even more awkward is when host Sarah Silverman — who had not seen the performance — began her monologue by making several vicious jokes about Spears that she would later apologize for. Next year’s VMA’s were all about Britney’s comeback, as she took home several awards, including Video Of The Year. It was triumphant moment for her, but sadly, we’ll never be able to fully get this dreadful showing out of our minds.
Kanye promises he’ll let Taylor Swift finish, fails to do so (2009)
While Kanye was certainly tactless, if we’re being honest, he wasn’t totally wrong. The “Single Ladies” video was an undeniable classic, but I can’t remember the last time I — or anyone else — thought about what happens in the “You Belong With Me” video? If you don’t remember, it’s basically Taylor Swift Vs. Evil Taylor Swift. Weirdly enough, the voters also seemed to agree with Kanye, because later that night, “Single Ladies” won Video Of The Year. This was a bit strange, because, as you may recall, Swift had won for Best Female Video. So… Beyonce had a better video, but Taylor had a better female video? How does that make sense? At the time, Kanye was pilloried endlessly for this, but history has been kind to him. Yes, he was being rude, but he was also right. Of course, if Kanye doesn’t get viciously shunned by the public in the wake of this, we don’t get My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so I wouldn’t change a thing.
Lady Gaga’s meat dress (2010)
The various wacky outfits that Gaga has worn over the years could easily comprise its own article, but this one is easily the most memorable, as she wore an outfit made entirely of meat, include the shoes and purse. Lady Gaga’s reasoning for this was that “if we don’t fight for rights, pretty soon we’re going have as much rights as the meat on our bones.” Umm…okay. Am I skeptical for thinking that it was really just about advancing the cause of getting people to pay attention to Lady Gaga?
Miley Cyrus And Robin Thicke do whatever this was (2013)
And now, here it is, 2013: The Moment. First, Miley gives the furry community a much needed shout-out, then Robin Thicke comes onstage, and things remarkably manage to get even more awkward. This was widely viewed as a disaster at the time, but things have worked out pretty well for Miley. This scene is pretty much the entire reason she was asked to host this year — we know she’ll do some crazy thing that we’ll all be talking about Monday morning. Whether any of that talk is positive is beside the point. As for Robin Thicke, this seemed to be the moment everything started to go wrong. The backlash against the questionable lyrics of “Blurred Lines” was getting more intense, and if you want to prove you aren’t a creep with reductive attitudes about women, awkwardly grinding on someone 15 years younger than you probably isn’t the best way to help your image.