Every artist wants to have the most talked-about performance of the night, whether they’re showing up to the Grammy Awards, MTV’s Video Music Awards, the BET Awards, or any other number of high profile music ceremonies. From wrecked stages to albino pythons, these performances feature some of the most infamous musical moments of the past several decades. These performers know not only how to get the audiences talking, but how to ensure their jaws are on the floor when the curtains close.
Britney Spears – 2001 VMAs
In late 2001, MTV was at a turning point. As boy bands and bubble-gum pop were beginning to fade, teenagers were turning to hip-hop and harder-edged pop. Britney Spears, apparently, got the memo. At the time, she was the biggest celebrity on the planet, selling out tours, signing multi-million dollar endorsement deals, and adored by kids and teens all over the world. At the VMAs that year, 19-year-old Spears spectacularly debuted her new single, I’m A Slave 4 U, by entering the stage in a cage with a live tiger, wearing a barely-there jungle themed bra, and draping a massive albino python around her shoulders while cooing, “Don’t you wanna dance up on me?” PETA took issue with the use of animals, parents were outraged by the overt sexuality, and Britney continued to rule MTV.
Lorde – 2017 VMAs
After releasing one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, Lorde was one of the most anticipated performers at the 2017 VMA ceremony. The plan was to debut her new single, Homemade Dynamite, just before releasing an all-star remix of the track featuring Post Malone, SZA, and Kahlid. When Lorde took the stage, though, the audience was visibly confused. The 20-year-old songstress, known for her captivating live shows and unique vocals, was silent: she pressed play on a boombox and proceeded to do an interpretive dance while an audio recording of the song played behind her. Cutaway shots of Ed Sheeran, Chance The Rapper, and several other A-list musicians showed the audience perplexed but enthralled as Lorde ran around the stage, being lifted by dancers, bopping along to her song but not singing a word. Later, she revealed that she had lost her voice before the show.