Sure, MTV broadcasts music videos about as many times as Madonna does something relevant. But if past VMAs are any indication, the telecast will at least have a slew of memorable memorable live performances.
Check them out, below. Also be sure to check out the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards when it airs Thursday at 8PM ET.
Madonna: “Like a Virgin” (1984)
Madonna kicked off the inaugural VMAs with a sultry (read: controversial) performance of “Like a Virgin,” in which she dressed up in a wedding gown and proceeded to roll around the stage.
Bon Jovi: “Wanted Dead or Alive” / “Livin’ on a Prayer” (1989)
Rock group Bon Jovi slowed things down considerably in 1989, when they performed a mellow, unplugged melody of their hits “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The surprisingly quiet renditions of their rock anthems won loud cheers from both the audience and viewers watching at home.
Madonna: “Vogue” (1990)
In 1990, Madonna wowed the crowd with an epic, period piece take on her hit single “Vogue.” This time, she managed to keep it clean — by Madonna’s standards, anyway.
Michael Jackson: Medley (1995)
Michael Jackson confirmed he will always be the King of Pop in 1995, when the late music icon performed a 10-minute medley of his best songs. Along for the ride: guitarist Smash and, of course, the Moonwalk.
Puff Daddy feat. Sting, Faith Evans: “I’ll Be Missing You” (1997)
Puff Daddy brought former Police frontman Sting and Faith Evans on stage in 1997 for an emotional performance of “I’ll Be Missing You,” which paid tribute to the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.
Britney Spears: “I’m A Slave 4 U” (2001)
How do you keep an audience on its toes? Why, perform with a giant snake, of course. Which is exactly what Britney Spears did in 2001 during her sexy — and admittedly dangerous — performance of “I’m A Slave 4 U.”
Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera: “Like a Virgin” and “Hollywood” (2003)
Madonna paid homage to her 1984 performance 19 years later with another controversial take on “Like a Virgin,” during which she locked lips with fellow-performers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
Beyonce Knowles: “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” (2009)
Knowles had the crowd on their feet when she gave a rousing performance of “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” in which she recreated the video’s now-famous choreography before 20-plus backup dancers. With a performance this epic, it’s no wonder Jay-Z put a ring on it.
Lady Gaga: “Paparazzi” (2009)
Lady Gaga took performance to a whole new level with her 2009 performance of “Paparazzi,” which concluded dramatically when her on-stage character hung herself.
Beyonce Knowles: “Love on Top” (2011)
Knowles’ light and breezy performance of “Love on Top” hit a high note at the very end, when she dropped her mic, opened her jacket and rubbed her new baby bump in front of millions of viewers, one of which included then-papa-to-be Jay-Z.