The 10 Sexiest and Most Shocking MTV VMA Performances of All Time

Do you remember these iconic moments?
By Thomas Freeman ,

(Photos: Getty Images)

If the Grammy Awards are all about music-industry prestige, then the MTV Video Music Awards, or VMAs for short, traffics in outlandish and attention-grabbing moments.

Not that we are complaining. Ever since the first ceremony ever aired in 1984, featuring a very provocative performance from a young up-and-comer named Madonna, teenagers have eagerly awaited the so-called "Super Bowl for Young People" year-around (while their parents dread it).

With the 2018 show scheduled for Monday, with Cardi B leading the pack with the most nominations, there is no better time to revisit the sexiest and most shocking performances in the award ceremony's short history.

Here, in chronological order, the 10 sexiest performances that have defined contemporary music.

1. Madonna "Like a Virgin" — 1984

The Queen of Pop's breakout performance established her as a provocateur from the outset. Writhing around a stage in a wedding dress was far more shocking in the ‘80s than it would be now.

2. Janet Jackson "That's the Way Love Goes/If" — 1993

Ms. Rhythm Nation proved she was no longer just Michael's little sister with the sexually charged hits "That's the Way Love Goes" and "If." Her performance of both at the VMAs showed off her impeccable choreography and trademark abs.

3. Britney Spears "I'm a Slave 4 U" — 2001

The world has been a slave for Brit ever since she took took the VMA stage with a yellow python in 2001. The moment cemented her status as the biggest pop star of the new millennium.   

4. Britney Spears, Madonna & Christina Aguilera "Like a Virgin/Hollywood" — 2003

Same-sex kisses are no big deal now, but when Madonna laid one on Britney during a performance of "Hollywood" in 2003, it stunned America and probably inspired a lot of parents to block MTV on the family cable plan. 

5. Beyoncé & Jay-Z "Crazy in Love" — 2003

Audiences were unsure of whether or not Beyoncé could hack it on her own after establishing a solo career free from Destiny's Child, one of the best-selling girl groups in her-story. Her electric stage presence without Kelly and Michelle squelched any naysayers.

6. Shakira "Hips Don't Lie" — 2006

Shakira delivered one of the best-selling singles of all time with her global hit "Hips Don't Lie," blowing up across Europe, the US, Latin America and beyond. She gave her hottest performance of the song at the 2006 VMAs, where her hips were true to their word.

7. Lady Gaga "Paparazzi" — 2009

Before the world became fatigued by Lady Gaga's unrelenting weirdness, her performance of "Paparazzi," in her underwear and with fake blood geysering from her chest, was novel... and yes, kinda sexy.

8. Katy Perry, Russell Brand & Joe Perry "We Will Rock You" — 2009

Katy Perry is a pop star any way you cut it, but she proved she could hang with the rockers in a joint performance of Queen's "We Will Rock You" with then-husband Russell Brand and Aerosmith's Joe Perry. And we're definitely not complaining about her low-cut top.

9. Miley Cyrus & Robin Thicke "Blurred Lines" — 2013

The most talked-about VMA performance since Madonna and Britney's kiss in 2013 came when former Disney star Miley Cyrus bulldozed her good-girl image and assaulted a foam finger on stage. The performance was a hot mess, but Miley maintains it was a "strategic" hot mess.

10. Nicki Minaj "Anaconda" — 2014

Expectedly, Nicki Minaj's paean to big butts featured a hell of a lot of ass-shaking and quaking. America had officially begun a new chapter in its history by embracing a latent infatuation with the butt.

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