The MTV Video Music Awards have become a stage for musicians to be bold since the award show first premiered in 1984. Madonna’s performance of “Like A Virgin” at the inaugural show would set the tone for performances to follow.
The 2021 MTV VMAs are set to air Sunday evening. Musicians like Camila Cabello, Justin Bieber and more will be performing at this year’s show while Doja Cat hosts.
Ahead of the star-studded night, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable performances.
Madonna (1984, 1990)
Madonna performing at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, September 14, 1984. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Madonna made two stunning performances during her time in the spotlight at the VMAs. First, in 1984 as she performed “Like A Virgin,” and again, in 1990 with her performance of “Vogue.”
Both performances cemented Madonna’s legacy as a provocative performer.
Britney Spears (2000, 2001)
Britney Spears (wearing David Dalrymple) performing on the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in new York City, 9/7/2000. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Britney Spears has put on two memorable performances at the VMAs. In 2000, the singer performed solo at the awards show for the first time. Spears wore a nude bedazzled outfit and performed her hit songs “Oops!…I Did It Again” and “Satisfaction.”
The pop star managed to upstage herself the following year as she showed skin and danced with a tiger and python to “I’m a Slave 4 U.”
Alicia Keys (2001)
Alicia Keys rehearses for the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, 9/4/2001. ( Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Also in 2001, Alicia Keys stunned fans with her performance of “Fallin.'” The musician started her performance on the piano where she played a version of “Für Elise.”
Kelly Clarkson (2005)
Kelly Clarkson performs ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ during 2005 MTV Video Music Awards show at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via Getty Images)
Kelly Clarkson had the honor of performing at the VMAs in 2005, three years after she won “American Idol.” Her performance of her hit song “Since You’ve Been Gone” made history due to the rain that poured while Clarkson sang on stage.
Lady Gaga (2009)
Lady Gaga performs onstage during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on September 13, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Lady Gaga’s performance of “Paparazzi” in 2009 left fans speechless as she ended the song hanging from the ceiling by her arm, which was covered in fake blood. “Paparazzi” also won two VMAs for Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction.
Beyonce performs onstage during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via Getty Images)
Beyoncé’s 2011 performance of “Love on Top” at the VMAs left fans awe-struck as she used the performance to announce her pregnancy. After she was done performing the hit song, Beyoncé opened up her hot pink Dolce & Gabbana suit and showed off her baby bump.
Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke (2013)
Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke perform onstage during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center on August 25, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/WireImage via Getty Images)
Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke left fans shocked with their controversial performance of “Blurred Lines” in 2013. Cyrus’ twerking on stage made the performance one of the most talked about musical performances of all time.
Cyrus and Thicke’s show also featured giant dancing bears and foam fingers.
Jennifer Lopez (2018)
Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for MTV)
Jennifer Lopez’ 2018 medley of songs will forever be remembered by fans. The star sang 14 songs during her performance. Lopez began with “Waiting For Tonight” before transitioning into “On the Floor,” “Dance Again” and “Jenny From the Block” among others.
Lizzo performs onstage during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center on August 26, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage via Getty Images)
Lizzo had the honor of performing at the VMAs shortly after rising to fame over her song “Truth Hurts.” She performed one of her other hit songs, “Good as Hell,” at the 2019 show.
The musician’s performance is well-remembered due to the use of an inflatable butt and Lizzo chugging tequila out of a bedazzled flask.