The 10 Best Performances in VMA History

As we prepare for the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, now is as good a time as ever to take a look back at some of the best and most iconic VMA performances of all time. From Madonna’s iconic performance of “Like a Virgin” at the inaugural VMA’s in 1984 to Beyoncé‘s 20-minute medley in 2014, this year’s performers have a lot to live up to.

10) Justin Timberlake feat. *NSYNC – Medley/Reunion – (2013)

Justin Timberlake was given his time to shine ahead of receiving his Vanguard Video Award in 2013 and he put on a hell of a show. But if we’re being honest, everyone watched not-so-patiently waiting for the highly anticipated *NSYNC reunion. I, and everyone else in America, literally screamed when Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, JC Chasez and Chris Kirkpatrick popped out from the floor and busted out their signature “Bye, Bye, Bye,” moves, because let’s face it, everybody loves a good reunion.” – Jelani Addams Rosa, Staff Editor

9) Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke – “We Can’t Stop / Blurred Lines” (2013)

“This was the performance that angered parental groups. This was the performance that spawned thousands of Miley Cyrus Halloween costumes. This was the performance that made the world realize just how creepy Robin Thicke is. If that’s not iconic, I don’t know what is.” – Gabi Chung, Senior Editor

8) Diddy, Sting, Faith Evans and 112 – “I’ll Be Missing You” (1997)

“This was the era when P. Diddy was borrowing from numerous classic tracks with outstanding results. Leave it to him to borrow one of the most unforgettable baselines of all time for a loving tribute to Notorious B.I.G. This performance included the track’s originator Sting, as well as Faith Evans, the R&B group 112 and a full choir. The result is a high watermark for this chapter of Diddy’s career.” – Scott Baumgartner, Staff Editor

7) Madonna – “Like a Virgin” (1984)

“This is what it looks like when a performance takes a singer’s career to another level. Madonna went supernova at the inaugural VMAs with her performance of “Like a Virgin.” Clad in a wedding gown and “Boy Toy” belt, Madonna descended a tiered wedding cake and proceeded to roll and writhe around the stage while singing the lyrics to her seductive song. Iconic.” – Michael Prieve, Editor in Chief

6) *NSYNC – “Pop” (2001)

“This *NSYNC performance hits me in the very nostalgia center of my being. Imagine: The year is 2001, the band members are about the same age as One Direction is now and they have the privilege of performing their ode to pop music with THE King of the genre, Michael Jackson. It’s a boy bander’s fairy tale come true and all that Joey Fatone could manage to in the afterglow was hand M.J. a soda.” – Mia Lardiere, Multi-Media Content Producer

5) Beyoncé – “Love on Top” (2011)

“There is nothing like a pregnancy announcement to end a performance, and that is what Beyoncé did. The singer hit the stage to perform “Love on Top” midway through the ceremony, opening the song by asking the audience “to feel the love growing inside of me.” At the end of the song, she unbuttoned her sequined jacket, dropped the mic and rubbed her baby bump.” – Michael Prieve, Editor in Chief

4) Britney Spears, Madonna,  Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliot – Opening Medley (2003)

“When Britney Spears and Madonna shared a kiss in the middle of their performance at the 2003 VMAs, it changed the way everyone perceived award shows forever. Why? Well, because it proved that literally anything could happen from here on out. But it wasn’t just the kiss, the performance itself was unforgettable. Brit and Christina Aguilera came out in wedding dresses and Madonna popped out of a giant wedding cake wearing a tux. What is better than that? Oh yes, Justin Timberlake’s bewildered face. Who will every forget that? Definitely not me.” – Natasha Reda, Writer

3) Lady Gaga – “Paparazzi” (2009)

Lady Gaga announced herself as The One to Beat during her 2009 performance of “Paparazzi,” during which she bled out and died on stage as commentary on The Celebrity Machine. This performance catapulted her from a sort of famous-but-still-up-and-coming starlet to a contender for the Queen of Pop throne, so strong was its imagery and vision.” – Matt Russoniello, Managing Editor

2) Beyoncé – Medley (2014)

“For proof of Beyoncé’s unparalleled ability as an artist and entertainer, look no further than this technically perfect performance. Vocals: on point. Dancing: on point. Look: on point. Iconic feminist imagery: on point! In an age where some artist strive to make an impression by shocking their audience with gimmicks, Bey proved that Being the Damn Best is enough. ” – Matt Russoniello, Managing Editor

1) Britney Spears – “I’m a Slave 4 U” (2001)

“Fun fact: I went to a Britney Spears costume party once and the person dressed as the “I’m a Slave 4 U” Britney was actually wearing this outfit — complete with a (fake) snake and all — instead of whatever she wore in the actual music video. So yeah, this performance is pretty iconic in the sense that everyone now associates the song with snake-draped Spears as opposed to, well, everything else.”- Gabi Chung, Senior Editor