Standing in front of the massive windows in MTV’s Times Square studio, Gaga said, “I have a really big announcement, but I thought as usual instead of me announcing I would have Little Monsters announce for me.” With those words, a banner unfurled in the massive crowd outside reading, “GAGA TO OPEN VMAS!!”
The crowd, both in-studio and in Times Square, went wild, of course, and we got to thinking about past VMA openers. Lady Gaga is known as a killer live performer – her Monster Ball tour grew into a phenomenon and her performances at the 2009 VMAs and this year’s Grammys are already legendary. Will hers be the most memorable VMA-opening performance ever? Let’s take a look back at some of the best opening acts to get some perspective.
Michael Jackson, 1995
The King of Pop’s 1995 opening performance was a 10-minute mini-marathon medley of some of his biggest hits, including “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Scream,” “Beat It,” “Thriller,” “Black or White,” “Billie Jean,” Dangerous,” Smooth Criminal” and “You Are Not Alone.” It also featured an appearance by Slash, fog machines, a little pyro and an abundance of MJ’s signature dance moves.
Diddy featuring Faith Evans, Sting, Mase and 112,1997
In one of the VMAs most moving moments, Diddy segued from a standout performance of “Mo Money Mo Problems” into a moving tribute to the Notorious B.I.G., Diddy’s friend and mentor who was killed in a drive-by shooting on March 9, 1997, in Los Angeles. He was joined on stage by Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans, and Sting, whose song with the Police, “Every Breath You Take,” is sampled in Diddy’s tribute track, “I’ll Be Missing You.”
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 2002
To honor the first anniversary of September 11, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band opened the 2002 VMAs with an outdoor performance in NYC of “The Rising.” It was a stirring moment that only a class-act legend like Springsteen, one of Gaga’s musical heroes, could deliver.
Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, 2003
If she’s aiming for shock value, Gaga should look no further for inspiration than Her Madgesty’s rousing medley performance of “Like a Virgin” and “Hollywood,” which featured Spears and Aguilera in skimpy wedding dresses reminiscent of the one Madonna wore during her career defining performance at the first-ever VMAs in 1984.
Of course, while the performance itself was quite good, what everyone remembers is arguably the most talked-about moment in VMA history: the kiss.
Janet Jackson, 2009
Just a few months after the King of Pop’s passing, Madonna paid tribute to Jackson with a moving speech at the 2009 VMAs that hit on the perils of fame and celebrated the legacy of pop music’s most legendary performer. Following Madonna’s eulogy, an elaborate, dance-based tribute took over the stage featuring MJ’s baby sister Janet performing their duet “Scream” alongside video images of Michael.
From beginning to end, the tribute was a fitting and appropriate celebration of the King of pop’s legacy and ranks among the most memorable VMA openings ever.