Let's be real: When it comes to the MTV Video Music Awards, it's never about who wins or loses. Everyone has long forgotten that the Cars' "You Might Think" took top honors at the first VMAs ceremony, or even that Beyonce's "Single Ladies" was the big winner last year, but no one will ever forget Madonna's career-making performance from 1984 or Kanye West's Taylor Swift bumrush from 2009..
With Chelsea Handler hosting and everyone from Lady Gaga to the "Jersey Shore" cast attending, this year's VMAs ceremony is sure to have its share of wacky watercooler moments. But will they compare with the 15 craziest incidents in VMA history? Review them below and decide for yourself..
Kanye West Doesn't Let Taylor Swift Finish (2009)
In a cruel move that's been likened to pig's blood being dumped on Carrie at the prom, last year Kanye ruined America's sweetheart's big moment when he hopped onstage to protest her winning the Best Female Video moonman over "Single Ladies," aka the BEST VIDEO OF ALL TIME (capslock is Kanye's, not Yahoo!'s). It may have been the greatest thing that ever happened to Taylor's career, which took off as the entire world sympathetically rallied around her. But it was still mean. A year later, Kanye is profusely apologizing all over Twitter and Chelsea's hinting that there may be some sort of West/Swift reunion at this weekend's VMAs. If so, will Kanye really let Taylor finish this time?
Britney's "Gimme More" Performance: Gimme Less, Please (2007)
Don't call it a comeback. Because it wasn't. Yes, the big hype in '07 was the fact that Britney Spears--a woman who'd made VMA history in the past by performing with an albino snake--would be kicking off that year's Vegas ceremony with a performance of her supposed comeback single, "Gimme More." But with worse lip-synching than "SNL"-era Ashlee Simpson, clodfooted choreography that in no way reflected the hours of rehearsal time she'd reportedly logged at the Millennium Dance Studio, and utterly confused/disappointed expressions on the famous faces of spectators like 50 Cent and Chris Brown (too bad the cameras didn't cut to Justin Timberlake's surely priceless reaction)...seriously, Kevin Federline could have done a better job opening the VMAs. This performance was trainwrecky enough to make fans shave their own heads in protest, and at the time it seemed like Britney's career was finally kaput.
Tommy Lee & Kid Rock In The Battle For Pamela (2007)
Apparently Pamela Anderson is the Helen Of Troy of rock 'n' roll. In 2007, the "Baywatch" babe's two ex-husbands, Tommy Lee and Kid Rock, got into a brawl during, of all things, Alicia Keys's otherwise mellow VMA performance--resulting in both rockers being escorted out by security. Kid was for all purposes the winner of this fight, since he managed to a) land a punch on Tommy's face and b) keep his cigar in his mouth throughout the brawl. (Kid was cited for misdemeanor battery for his assault on Tommy.) Host Jamie Foxx lightened the mood by later jokingly asking the audience to "stop white-on-white crime."
Madonna, Britney & Xtina: The Kiss Heard Around The World (2003)
All anyone remembers about the 2003 VMAs is the opening number featuring Madonna and the two logical successors to her pop-starlet throne, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. We just think it's sad that people only remember Madge swapping spit with Britney--she kissed Christina too, you know! But somehow it's that Britney/Madonna smooch that remains ingrained in every VMA viewer's brain. Missy Elliott also rapped with the trio, by the way, and her video "Work It" won Video The Year, too. No one remembers that either.
Michael Jackson Wins Non-Existent "Artist Of Millennium" Award (2002)
The King Of Pop was once of the king of MTV. In fact, MTV probably wouldn't have become the empire it is now without his groundbreaking early videos. So it's understandable that when Michael appeared on the VMAs--with Britney Spears presenting him with his 44th birthday cake and saying he was the "artist of the millennium" in her eyes--he thought he was getting a well-deserved Artist Of Millennium Award. The truly embarrassing part was that he mistook a cheap Styrofoam cake decoration for a trophy, then delivered an emotional acceptance speech that namechecked David Blaine. Oh well. Maybe Michael will get a posthumous Artist Of Millennium Award this year....
Eminem Feuds With Moby, Puppet (2002)
Marshall Mathers really needs to pick on people his own size. While Kid Rock at least had the decency to brawl with an equal opponent, in 2002 Eminem flipped off bookish, bespectacled techno star Moby (whom he'd ridiculed in "Without Me"), then later called Moby a "little girl" in one of his acceptance speeches and warned, "I will hit a man with glasses." He also shoved Conan-affiliated canine hand puppet Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, when Triumph attempted to interview Eminem about the Moby incident. Despite being the big VMA winner that year, Shady's shady behavior elicited rounds of audience boos. Where was Kanye to interrupt Eminem's nasty speech, when Moby and Triumph needed him most?
Rage Against The Machine's Bassist Rages Against...Something, We're Just Not Sure What (2000)
Rage Against The Machine are known for their organized protests, but there was nothing organized about the 2000 VMAs, when RATM bass-slinger Tim Commerford (who was calling himself "Tim2K" at the time, in honor of the new millennium) climbed on top of some stage scaffolding during the broadcast and refused to come down. No one was really quite sure what he was protesting, either--although we're going to guess it was the fact that Limp Bizkit had just won an award. Regardless, it was later revealed that rabblerousing documentary director Michael Moore had encouraged Tim2K to "follow his heart" and go through with this stunt.
Diana Ross Gives Lil' Kim A Hand (1999)
When Motown legend Diana met queen bee Kim (when they presented an award together with Mary J. Blige), a simple handshake just wouldn't do. Dirty Diana instead took a very hands-on approach, and enthusiastically jiggled Kim's purple-pastie'd left bosom onstage. Talk about a boob-tube moment!
Fiona Is One Sour Apple (1997)
When waify songstress Fiona Apple was only 20 years old, she was presented with a Best New Artist moonman by none other than Elton John, beating out frontrunners like Hanson, the Wallflowers, and Jamiroquai, the latter of whom won a ton of VMAs for "Virtual Insanity" that year. This was every young artist's dream. But not for Fiona. Instead she took her time at the podium to denounce the entire awards show. "Everybody out there who is watching this world, this world is bulls**t," she babbled, adding a Maya Angelou quote just to keep things classy. Where was Kanye in '97, to interrupt this?
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love: Van Halen's Botched Reunion Attempt (1996)
The reunion between Van Halen and off/on original frontman David Lee Roth on the VMAs stage--their first appearance together in 10 years--was so exciting. For about 47 seconds. Because that's about how long this particular VH reunion lasted. Eddie Van Halen's icy body language at the VMAs made it clear that he still loathed Diamond Dave--at times he was standing so far away from Roth, he may as well have been on a different show on another network--and Dave's constant goofy quips about Eddie's hip surgery didn't help matters. Rumor has it they nearly got in a fistfight backstage. Now in 2010, Roth and VH are reunited once more and working on a comeback album. So, will they appear at this year's VMAs? We guess that if they do, they'll split up immediately afterwards, and their comeback album will never come out.
Courtney Love Doesn't Let Madonna & Kurt Loder Finish (1995)
The most exciting moment of the '95 VMAs actually took place offstage, once the show was over, when loose-cannon rock widow Courtney Love hijacked VJ Kurt Loder's perfectly civilized interview with elder stateswoman Madonna. (Courtney got Kurt's attention by tossing her powder compact into the press pit.) A lesser pop star may have been intimidated by Courtney's crazy antics. But Courtney was no match for Madge, who in a refreshing change of pace came across as classy and totally non-controversial, smiling benignly while Courtney struggled to remain upright and babbled about Michael Stipe and Birkenstocks. This was live television at its finest.
Michael Jackson Kisses His Bride (1994)
Amid rumors that their tabloid marriage was a sham, a ploy to clean up Michael's post-child-molestation-accusations image, the King Of Pop and the King's daughter canoodled openly onstage at the 1994 VMAs. They convinced precisely three people that they were really in love, while their sloppy smooch effectively grossed out the other 5 million or so people who were watching. Lisa Marie later told Rolling Stone: "That [kiss] was not my idea, by the way. I was terrified. It was [Michael's] manager's idea. I thought it was stupid. All of a sudden I became part of a public relations machine."
The Beasties Sabotage R.E.M.'s Speech (1994)
The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," one of the GREATEST MUSIC VIDEOS EVER (capslock is Yahoo!'s, not Kanye's), ridiculously lost out in all categories. This shutout so angered Beastie Adam Yauch's lederhosened alter ego, Nathaniel Hornblower, that Nathaniel famously bumrushed the stage during Michael Stipe's typically PC speech, yodeling, "This is an outrage! This is a farce!" (over the injustice that "Sabotage" mastermind Spike Jonze had lost the Best Direction award to R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts"). Stipe just looked confused. But we think it was the VMA judges who were most confused. Spike should have won. We bet even Kanye would agree.
Nirvana Perform At VMAs, Chaos Ensues (1992)
Kurt Cobain never seemed at ease with the whole MTV megafame thing, which was at its peak in 1992, one year after Nevermind came out and changed the music business in ways he probably never imagined or intended. So when Nirvana performed at that year's VMAs, Kurt was his typical rebellious self--starting their performance with a few un-PC bars of their unreleased and unrehearsed tune "Rape Me" (against VMA producers' wishes) in one of the most chaotic and punk-rock appearances in MTV history. At the performance's conclusion, bandmate Krist Novoselic hurled his bass guitar in the air and tried to catch it, but it wacked him in the face instead. Krist blogged years later that Queen's Brian May had nursed him backstage with a glass of champagne, indicating that Krist had adjusted to the swishy MTV lifestyle much more easily than Kurt ever did.
Madonna's Opening Number: A Video Star Is Born (1984)
Older generations vividly recall the exact moment when they first saw Elvis twitch his pelvis on TV or when the Beatles first performed on "Ed Sullivan." But for children of the '80s, one of the most defining televised music moments was when Madonna kicked off the first annual VMAs. Given the many outrageous antics she'd pull off later in her career, it's hard to fathom now that back then, viewers were genuinely shocked when Madonna rolled around onstage to "Like A Virgin" in a see-through wedding gown, granny panties, and pile of rosary beads. But no one had ever seen anything like it at the time. And come to think of it, no one's seen anything like it since.