Each year, MTV’s Video Music Awards boasts a fantasy lineup of every artist you’d ever want to see in concert. But unlike many festival extravaganzas, the most crucial performance is usually the opener. This prized slot always goes to the superstar guaranteed to bring the gasps with awesomely unexpected antics. Among the unforgettable opening acts are Britney Spears and Madonna’s infamous kiss, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky’s sizzling duet, and Eminem leading an army of bleach-blonde Eminems through New York City. This year, reigning pop queen Ariana Grande has been tapped to open the proceedings. How will she measure up to these past greats? We can’t wait to find out!
Start to mentally and emotionally prepare for this year’s festivities by rewatching the absolute greatest openings in VMA history. Don’t forget to tune into MTV this Sunday, August 24th, at 9/8c for the main event!
“Like A Virgin” by Madonna (1984)
Madonna kicked off the first-ever VMAs in appropriately irreverent style by rolling around onstage in a wedding dress. The appearance went on to rank among her most iconic performances of all time.
Pee-Wee Herman’s Comeback (1991)
After getting arrested in 1991 for public masturbation and becoming the punchline of every joke churned out by the media, Pee-Wee Herman shook off the criticism and made his comeback at the VMAs with a famous (and ironic) opening line.
Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley Kiss (1994)When the King of Pop and the daughter of the King of Rock shared a kiss onstage, the moment became an instant moment to remember in music history.
Chris Rock Opening (1999)Chris Rock opened the 1999 VMAs with an epic declaration of his arrival. Backed by a choir chanting the chorus to Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba,” Chris made a play on Kid’s musical introduction by shrieking, “My name is Chrissssssssss Rock.”
“Real Slim Shady” by Eminem (2000)Imagine the scene in New York City when a thousand Eminem clones in wife beaters and baggy jeans walked into the doors of Radio Music City Hall, none of them giving a f-ck.
Medley by P Diddy, Usher, Ginuwine, Busta Rhymes, Pharrell (2002)During the Diddy era, Puff danced his ass off onstage in a crazy medley with the help of some very famous friends.
“Like A Virgin” by Madonna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliot (2003)Two decades after Madonna’s first VMA performance, Madge caused an ever bigger stir when she shared an onstage kiss with both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
“You And I” by Lady Gaga (2011)Lady Gaga performed an opening monologue as her fictional male alter-ego Jo Calerone, ending it with a staggering version of “You And I” that featured a guest appearance from Queen’s Brian May.
“Cockiness/We Found Love” by Rihanna, A$AP Rocky (2012)Badgal Riri brought out A$AP Rocky to spit a verse of “Cockiness” and also grab her butt. She then welcomed Calvin Harris to the stage for the “We Found Love” finale before diving into a crowd of her adoring fans.
“Applause” by Lady Gaga (2013)
Gaga blew the crowd away with costume change after costume change during last year’s performance of “Applause.”