While most award winners make sure to thank their bands, managers, fans, studio and label heads and significant others during acceptance speeches, [artist id="3061469"]Lady Gaga[/artist] almost never lets an opportunity slip by without making a pitch for a cause. Given her massive support base in the gay community, typically that cause has to do with gay rights, and Sunday night’s VMAs were no exception.
Gaga walked the white carpet with four servicemen and women who had been discharged from the armed services for being openly gay or bisexual, a violation of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. She discussed their plight on the carpet and also paid homage to her gay audience by shouting them out during her win for Best Female Video for her “Bad Romance” clip, thanking “all the gays for remixing this video over and over.”
On Tuesday, she also exchanged tweets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , congratulating him for scheduling a vote next week on the repeal of “don’t ask.” It was just the latest in a rich history of political declaration from Gaga , but she’s not the only one who has used the VMA stage as a platform to make a political, personal or just plain confusing statement.
Comedian Andrew Dice Clay made a statement about free speech in 1989 when he busted out some of his signature expletive-filled adult nursery rhymes, earning the stand-up the first-ever lifetime ban from MTV.
As music lyrics came under attack from the Parents Music Resource Center, censorship was a hot topic the next year as well, with Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler taking aim at PMRC head Tipper Gore, joined by Queen Latifah, Sinead O’Connor and actor Eric Bogosian, who all chimed in on efforts to limit speech.
Late Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain made a not-so-subtle statement about free speech in 1992, when he played the first few bars of the controversial “Rape Me” before diving into “Lithium.” Even winning Best New Artist didn’t give fragile newbie Fiona Apple any peace, as the singer lashed out at the industry during her infamous acceptance speech at the 1997 event when she said of the music industry, “Everybody out there who is watching this world — this world is bullsh–!” All that rage came after she quoted poet Maya Angelou’s maxim, “Go with yourself.”
Madonna also got in on the action that year, slamming the paparazzi just days after Princess Diana’s death. “I’m not going to stand up here and rant and rave about the paparazzi or the irresponsible behavior of the editors of all the tabloids,” she said. “Because even if they never change, there is still something that all of us can do. It’s time for all of us to take responsibility for our own insatiable need to run after gossip and scandals and lies and rumors.”
A year later, Beastie Boys rapper Adam Yauch took time while accepting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award to condemn U.S. aggression in the Middle East and plead for more gentle attitudes toward Muslims in the wake of bombings by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the Sudan after attacks U.S. embassies. “The United States has to start respecting people from the Middle East in order to find a solution to the problem that’s been building up over many years,” he said.
Things got a bit weird in 2000 when Napster founder Shawn Fanning presented an award to noted Napster haters Metallica while wearing a Metallica T-shirt a friend had “shared” with him in an effort to make a comment on file sharing; a short time later, Metallica sued their fans and Napster for illegally downloading their songs, so that worked out. That same year, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford climbed the VMA set to make some kind of statement, though we’re still not sure what it was.
Though she’d made headlines the previous two years for her barely there outfits, Britney Spears ended up making a statement after the VMAs in 2001, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals slammed her performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U.” The set famously featured a white tiger and a giant snake draped around Brit’s neck, which PETA took issue with. Britney issued an apology afterward and promised not to use animals in her touring act anymore, later appearing in a PETA anti-leather ad campaign.
In 2006, rapper Mos Def was arrested at the show . Well, outside the show, actually, after ignoring police orders to shut down his impromptu gig outside Radio City Music Hall. Def performed his anti-Bush administration rap “Katrina Clap” and was promptly arrested by cops when he wouldn’t stop his bootleg performance.
Almost upstaged by the Tommy Lee/ Kid Rock brawl and Britney Spears comeback , VMA regular Kanye West announced that he’d never come back to the show in 2007 after he was relegated to a suite and not the main stage for his performance of “Stronger.”
Jordin Sparks had a little something on her mind in 2008 when she hit back at host Russell Brand for his jokes about the Jonas Brothers’ purity rings. “I just have one thing to say about promise rings,” the former “American Idol” winner said. “It’s not bad to wear a promise ring, because not everybody — guy or girl — wants to be a slut.”
And, of course, last year Kanye West made his feelings known about how great Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video was.
What’s your favorite VMA statement? Let us know in the comments below!
The Moonmen have all been handed out and the stars have gone home, but there’s plenty of MTV Video Music Awards news, interviews, behind-the-scenes scoop, party reports and more still to come, so keep it locked on MTVNews.com.