August 20, 2013 4:50 PM ET
This Sunday, music’s other biggest night is going down at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (tune in to MTV starting at 9 p.m.) – and the VMAs are looking bigger than they’ve been in years, with performances by a crazily all-star crew, including Kanye, Miley, Daft Punk, Gaga, Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake (reportedly) with ‘NSync. How will they measure up to the glitziest, zaniest and most flat-out awesome VMA moments of all time? Refresh your memory with this countdown.
1. Kanye vs. Taylor, 2009
You knew this had to be Number One. The reason? Five short words: “I’mma let you finish but…” Four years later, Kanye’s bad timing remains utterly mind-blowing. Did this really happen?
Kayne West jumps onstage as Taylor Swift accepts her award for the “Best Female Video”.
2. Madonna, Britney Kiss, World Stops, 2003
The world stopped for a split second, when the Queen of Pop locked lips with her rival/protégé, Britney Spears. (Christina Aguilera snuck in a kiss too)
Britney Spears and Madonna perform at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.
3. Gaga Raids the Butcher Shop, 2010
Lady Gaga arrived to the 2010 VMAs in her most provocative outfit ever: a dress made completely of raw beef. (In case you were wondering, they were flank steaks.)
Lady Gaga arrives at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.
4. Blergh: Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley Kiss, 1994
"Nobody thought this would last," MJ told the VMA crowd after walking onstage with his then-wife and Elvis’s daughter, Lisa-Marie Presley. The union lasted less than two years, but their awkward kiss remains permanently burned into our memory.
Michael Jackson and his wife Lisa Marie Presley kiss at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards
5. Fiona Apple: ‘This World Is Bullshit!’, 1997
After winning the Moonman for Best New Artist, Fiona Apple used the platform to tell us all how it really is. The basic premise: “This world is bullshit!”
6. Krist Novoselic Brains Himself with Own Bass, 1992
Capping off a crushing rendition of “Lithium,” Novoselic hurled his bass skyward, only to have it come crashing down on his own head. He stumbled offstage afterwards, only to be kicked in the rear by bandmate Kurt Cobain.
Nirvana performs during the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards
7. Britney Blows Comeback, 2007
Opening the 2007 VMAs, an out-of-shape Britney huffed, puffed and lip-synched her way through “Gimme More.” Making matters worse, Sarah Silverman followed her onstage with this brutal line: “She is 25 years old and has already accomplished everything she is going to accomplish in her life.” Damn.
Britney Spears during the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards
8. Madonna Rules First VMAs, 1984
Clad in a white wedding dress and writhing in ecstasy, Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” set the standard for opening performances at the VMAs.
Madonna performs during the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.
9. Rage Against the Machine Bassist Wilds Out, Climbs Set, 2000
After Rage lost to Limp Bizkit for Best Rock Video (harsh!), bassist Tim Commerford went all “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me,” scaled some scaffolding onstage and refused to come down. He was later arrested. Said Rage’s Tom Morello, “I didn’t expect an evening of Tim vs. the NYPD.”
Rage Against the Machine bass player Tim Commerford sits on part of the set at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards
10. Van Halen Reunite! (And Then Break Up), 1996
When the four original members of Van Halen appeared onstage together VH fans could barely believe it. Their excitement was fleeting, though: after a fistfight backstage later that night, David Lee Roth was out again.
Van Halen at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards
11. Michael Jackson Believes He Just Won Artist of the Millennium, 2005
Britney just wanted to give MJ a birthday cake. Sadly, a confused King of Pop thought he was receiving an “Artist of the Millennium” award – only five years into the millenium. On the cringworthy scale, this one was a definitive 10.
Michael Jackson at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards
12. Damn, Britney! Where’d Your Clothes Go?, 2000
One minute Britney rocking a sleek black suit. Then she ripped it off, revealing a flesh-colored bodysuit, and began belting out “Oops… I Did It Again.” Go girl!
Britney Spears performs during the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards
13. …And Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, 2002
That same night, Em also slapped the foulmouthed puppet. Triumph later responded, “He should lighten up. I mean, my mom was a bitch too, but I don’t go writing songs about it.”
Eminem waves his hand in the face of Triumph, The Comic Dog, after Triumph involved Eminem in commentary about Moby during the MTV Video Music Awards
14. Eminem Beefs With Moby…, 2002
After Moby called out Em for misogynist lyrics, the rapper fired back at the VMAs, flipping Moby the bird and then, when accepting an award, called the DJ a “little girl” and threatened to “hit a man with glasses.”
Eminem and Moby
15. Diana Ross Feels Up Lil Kim, 1999
Why did Diana Ross give the near-naked MC an impromptu jiggle? Who cares! She’s Diana Ross – she can do what she wants.
Mary J. Blige, Lil’ Kim, and Diana Ross at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards
16. Weary Axl Debuts New GNR to Fans’ Dismay 2002
Fans who had been waiting 15 years for the return of GNR were let down when an out-of-breath Axl Rose brought out his crew of replacements (including actual Replacement Tommy Stinson and guitarist Buckethead, who wore a bucket on his head) for their first big TV performance.
Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses
17. Beyoncé Reveals Coming of Messiah, 2011
The world first learned that Blue Ivy was on her way when Queen Bey gestured to her belly at the end of “Love On Top.”
Beyonce performs during the 2011 MTV Video Mu
18. Courtney Love Ambushes Madonna 1995
How awesome was it when a wasted Courtney Love interrupted Madonna during her interview with Kurt Loder? Pretty awesome!
Courtney Love and Madonna
19. Pete Wentz Makes Out With Monkey, 2006
At Fall Out Boy’s emo peak, before he married Ashlee Simpson, bassist Pete Wentz brought a Capuchin monkey to the VMAs. He brought a monkey, people!
Pete Wentz arrives at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards
20. Lil Mama Interrupts Jay-Z, 2009
Minutes after Kanye bum rushed Taylor Swift, now-forgotten MC Lil Mama burst onstage in the middle of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ performance of “Empire State of Mind.” We never heard from her again.
Lil Mama, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys perform during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
21. Kid Rock and Tommy Lee Throw Down Over Pam Anderson, 2007
One Baywatch Babe plus two hard rockers equals the greatest VMA love triangle of all time! Kid Rock took out a half-decade’s worth of aggression by punching his longtime rival for Anderson’s affections. Afterward, Lee called Rock’s assault a “bitch slap.” (Which kind of makes Lee the bitch, right? Whatever.)
Kid Rock and Tommy Lee
22. Rose McGowan Bares (Almost) All, 1998
Accompanied by then-beau Marilyn Manson, actress McGowan rocked the most fabric-saving gown in VMA history.
Rose McGowan and Marilyn Manson
23. Britney Dances with a Snake, 2001
Her video for “I’m A Slave 4 U” was shocking enough. (Panties on top of leather!) But that’s nothing compared to the live python she draped around her neck at the VMAs.
Britney Spears performs in 2001.
24. Eminem Storms VMAs with Army of Slim Shadys, 2000
For his rendition of “The Real Slim Shady,” the Detroit rapper rolled into Radio City Music Hall with what looked like an entire high school’s worth of look-alikes.
Eminem during the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards