The 9 Most Controversial Moments In VMA History
More than any other award show, MTV’s Video Music Awards seems to run on controversy and just when you find yourself thinking, “I’m too old for this shit,” some celebrity goes and wears a meat dress, makes out with an equally attractive celebrity onstage, or does something else equally attention-grabbing, rendering your impending sense of old-age irrelevant.
Here’s a look at the biggest VMA controversies, from 1984 to 2015.
1984 – Madonna Feels Like A Virgin, Definitely Isn’t One
Despite the rampant use of cocaine and recreational hairspray, music videos (and the stars who made them) were a lot tamer 30 years ago when Madonna was making a name for herself as the baddest bitch in town. So when the lights came up on Madonna at the VMAs acting way more like a girl who just came out of a cake than a blushing bride, sh*t got real for a hot sec.
1994 – Nirvana Supposed To Shut Up And Play The Hit, Plays “Rape Me” Instead
Nirvana may have been the biggest grunge band of all-time, but they were still just a bunch of punks to MTV. Not one to be told what to do, Kurt Cobain straight up refused to play the band’s massive hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at the awards show, preferring to play “Lithium” with a dash of “Rape Me” sprinkled in at the beginning, just to make the big guys in the suits sweat a little and remind them that the artists are really in charge.
2001 – Britney Meets A Snake, Invites It To Perform On Stage With Her
Even when she first came out, Britney Spears was never that innocent. From tied up uniform blouses to red-hot cat suits, the young pop diva always skirted the line between innuendo and full-out raunch, or at least she did until 2001. Her “Slave 4 U” performance announced to the world that not only was Britney spears not a little girl anymore, but also that she was a total boss who knew how to accessorize with snakes. PETA wasn’t happy (nor was your mom), but the world kept spinning, as did Britney’s career.
2003 – Madonna Kisses Christina, Then Kisses Britney
The early 2000s were an age of extreme loyalty. *NSync or Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls or Bewitched, and most importantly Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears. Not one to choose sides, Madonna had her cake and ate it too (while the whole world watched no less). While there’s no exact statistics on how many young boys started masturbating for the first time that night, we hope that at least one of your little brothers has this moment locked in his mind vault for all time.
Also, let’s all say it together: poor Justin. Thank God he came out on top.
2009 – Kanye West Interrupts Taylor Because, Let’s Be Real, Beyonce
Nobody even remembers what went on in video for Taylor Swift’s now comparatively marginal hit “You Belong To Me”, but we’ll always remember that Kanye West thought Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” was better. Granted, maybe he should have waited until after Taylor had finished her acceptance speech to voice his concerns, but let’s face it, Yeezy was right. Beyonce for the win always.
2010 – Gaga Wears Meat As An Evening Dress
Being weird was Lady Gaga’s thing in the beginning, but after so many years of being the most out-there celeb, it can be hard to keep topping yourself. So what did Lady Gaga do? She wore a dress made out of raw meat. Once again, Peta was pissed, people were grossed out, and Gaga kept her pop provocateur crown.
2011 – Beyonce Opens Jacket, Rubs Belly, Lets World Know She’s Pregz
While singing “Love On Top” in a modest sequined pantsuit, Beyonce let the world know that Blue Ivy was about to drop. Well, the actual words were “I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside me,” but we know how to read between the lines.
2014 – Miley Cyrus Covers Herself In Plastic, Twerks On Married Man
She couldn’t stop, she wouldn’t stop, and that night Miley Cyrus made sure that the Internet couldn’t either. Scandalized by her outstretched tongue, rampant display of cultural appropriation, and even her lack of butt, nobody could stop talking about the singer’s performance, cementing her status as the reigning queen of controversy. Robin Thicke never recovered, but let’s be real, he had that one coming.
2015 – The Great VMA Twitter War AKA Nicki Minaj And Katy Perry Take On T. Swift
Despite “Anaconda’s” record-breaking track record and the popularity of “Feeling Myself”, Nicki Minaj didn’t get nominated for a Video of the Year award. Obviously, she was pissed, so she did what any responsible artist would do, she tweeted about it:
If I was a different “kind” of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well. 😊😊😊
— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
Not content to leave it there, Nicki took a shot at Taylor Swift, and not one to let herself get f-cked over without taking her revenge (see: “Bad Blood”, “Trouble”, “Dear John”), Taylor shot back, and The Great Twitter War began.
When the “other” girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination. 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊 — NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
@NICKIMINAJ I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot..
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) July 21, 2015
But apparently Nicki wasn’t talking about Taylor there. Nor was she talking about Taylor when she said “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year.” No, even though Taylor’s not only thin, but had a music video filled with very slim bodies get nominated for the award, Nicki maintains that she was just talking about the racism in the music industry in general.
So needless to say, Nicki wasn’t impressed by Taylor’s naive outburst, and neither were her legions of fans:
Huh? U must not be reading my tweets. Didn’t say a word about u. I love u just as much. But u should speak on this. @taylorswift13 — NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
Which apparently included Katy Perry, who waited a day before tweeting the following message which made it very clear whose team she was on:
Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalizes on the take down of a woman…
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) July 22, 2015
One day later, after it was clear the story wasn’t just going to go away on its own, Taylor Swift apologized to Nicki and the whole thing got brushed under the rug. Kind of.
Or at least it did until Miley Cyrus, the host of the VMAs that year, had to throw in her own two cents in an interview with the New York Times saying, “I don’t respect [Nicki’s] statement because of the anger that came with it. And it’s not anger like, ‘Guys I’m frustrated about some things that are a bigger issue.’ You made it about you. Not to sound like a bitch, but that’s like, ‘Eh, I didn’t get my VMA.’”
She even went so far as to say, “what I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind. It’s not very polite.”
On the actual night of the VMAs, Nicki and Miley shared the stage for a hot second and Minaj couldn’t help but express herself by saying, “And now back to this bitch who had a lot to say about me in the press the other day. Miley, what’s good?!”
The phrase “Miley what’s good” went on to launch hundreds of t-shirts and memes and just like that, this long-running controversy was put to bed.