Britney Spears’ Greatest VMA Hits: Barely There Costumes, Giant Snakes And A Scandalous Lip-Lock

Whether she's wearing a python or irking her ex, Britney always steals the show.

LAS VEGAS — If the MTV Video Music Awards are the Super Bowl of popular culture, then Britney Spears is like Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw and Broadway Joe Namath all rolled up into one (except, you know, hotter and with better hair). No one rises to the occasion quite like she does.

Though Brit’s never actually won a Moonman (it’s true, look it up), she’s single-handedly provided VMA viewers with more memorable, controversial and certifiably bananas moments than anyone else … from her big coming-out performance in 2000 (the infamous nude-colored body-stocking with strategically placed sequins) to the ceremonial passing-of-the-torch lip-lock with fellow VMA MVP Madonna three years later, she’s constantly elevated her game and left everyone else in the dust.

And now comes the news that Spears will return to the VMA stage this weekend to perform “Gimme More,” from her yet-untitled new album, which is due on November 13 (see “Britney Spears To Open 2007 MTV Video Music Awards: It’s Official!” ). And since we’re coming to you live from Las Vegas, a town where, well, anything’s possible (and possibly legal), the stage has already been set for the biggest Brit-stravaganza of all time.

(Why wait until Sunday to get your VMAs on? See who might take home the most prized Moonman, what to bring to Sin City and much more.)

Expectations are ridiculously high, but we have no doubt that Spears will once again deliver the goods. After all, she’s already given us soooo many certifiably showstopping moments, which we’ve cobbled together below in a humble homage to the VMA’s unquestioned mistress of ceremonies.

» The Stage: The 2000 MTV Video Music Awards

» The Moment: Brit strips down to a barely there body stocking, sheds her good-girl image in the process.

Though she actually made her VMA debut in 1999 (performing a medley with ‘NSYNC), it was Spears’ sultry striptease at the 2000 awards that everyone remembers as her big bow. Wearing a black suit and matching fedora, Spears began a breathy version of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” then launched into her hit “Oops! … I Did It Again,” ripping away her clothes to reveal a flesh-colored bodysuit — with sequins in all the right places — in the process. Her striptease (not to mention the accompanying panting and grinding) served notice that Britney was no longer the pigtailed schoolgirl of the “… Baby One More Time” video, but rather a full-grown, supremely sexy woman. At performance’s end, VMA co-host Marlon Wayans proclaimed, “Girl done went from ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ to the strip club!”

» The Stage: The 2001 MTV Video Music Awards

» The Moment: Spears gets soaked and slithery, PETA gets sufficiently angry.

After wowing the nation the previous year (and ushering millions of teenage boys into puberty in the process), Spears obviously tried to go bigger for her 2001 performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U” … which apparently meant a rather puzzling rain-forest motif, complete with canned thunderclaps, a caged tiger, dancers dressed as zebras and the pièce de résistance: a giant albino python. Reactions were mixed — most thought Spears’ leafy costume and bizarrely serpentine pop-and-lock routine (made even more bizarre by the snake she had slung over her shoulders) were a bit silly — though the animal-rights organization PETA wasn’t laughing, claiming the animals used in the performance were mistreated and scrapping plans for an anti-fur billboard that was to feature Spears.

» The Stage: The 2002 MTV Video Music Awards

» The Moment: Michael Jackson thinks he’s dubbed “Artist of the Millennium” by Dominatrix Brit.

In a classic case of a birthday present gone horribly awry, Brit — dressed inexplicably as a “Saved by the Bell” mistress of discipline — took the stage to present Michael Jackson with a glitter-covered birthday cake. MJ, being, well, MJ, misinterpreted something Spears said in her speech, and decided that the cake was actually an award proclaiming him “Artist of the Millennium.” What followed was a classic moment of incredibly uncomfortable TV, in which Jackson delivered a rambling yet sadly touching acceptance spiel (“When I was a little boy growing up in Indiana, if someone told me I’d be getting the Artist of the Millennium award, I’d have never believed it,” he squeaked), while Brit smiled awkwardly and clasped her hands behind her back. The fiasco became part of VMA lore and was even mocked by the noted comedy team of Jack Black and Fred Durst the following year.

» The Stage: The 2003 MTV Video Music Awards

» The Moment: Brit and Madge share a smooch for the ages … and Christina Aguilera was there too!

If you ever wanted a visual representation of the cultural zeitgeists of two eras slamming lip-first into one another, look no further than Brit’s 2003 VMA effort, which featured her swapping spit with Madonna. An updated take on Maddy’s 1984 VMA performance of “Like a Virgin” — Britney started the performance in a white dress, atop the same wedding cake used in the ’84 show, and later she and Christina Aguilera would re-enact Madonna’s famous floor-humping routine. But things really got heated when Madge herself appeared in top hat and tails, and proceeded to (very slowly) lock lips with Spears. The crowd went wild, and cameras quickly cut to Britney’s ex, Justin Timberlake, who looked none-too-pleased by the events transpiring before him (the cut also caused viewers at home to miss Madonna’s smooch with Aguilera, leaving her forever as an afterthought). The image of Britney and Madonna’s kiss made front-page news the following day, and the message contained therein was clear: The pop-icon torch had most definitely been passed.

Wait — don’t cash out on the VMAs just yet! From Britney’s sultry comeback performance to the big winners, you saw it all — well, almost everything! Get yourself even richer with our wall-to-wall show coverage, party reports, videos and loads more at www.VMA.MTV.com. For reports, photos, video and much, much more from previous VMAs, dive into the VMA archives.