On Sunday, the MTV Movie Awards will hand out a big bucket of Golden Popcorn for Best Musical Moment, which is surely the only category in award-show history to feature shirtless beefcakes, weeping grisettes and a dancing Bradley Cooper.
And though the category itself is new, over the past twenty years, the Movie Awards have played host to no shortage of truly memorable musical moments. After all, everyone from D’Angelo to Weezer have performed at the show — not to mention Tom Cruise, in full Les Grossman regalia — and though no one’s taken their shirt off (yet), well, that hasn’t stopped the show’s musical guests from delivering the goods.
At this year’s show, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Selena Gomez and the cast of “Pitch Perfect” will look to carry on that tradition … but can they join the ranks of the Movie Awards’ all-time greatest musical performances? Here’s what they’re up against.
» The Black Keys and Johnny Depp, “Gold on the Ceiling,” 2012: Depp was given the MTV Generation Award at last year’s show, and he accepted the honor as only he could — by joining the Keys for a hard-riffing run through of “Gold on the Ceiling,” which rocked so hard that it caused Depp to actually lose a gold-capped tooth . Beat that, everybody.
» Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg, “California Gurls,” 2010: The first TV performance of what would go on to become one of Perry’s signature smashes (and the official anthem of summer 2010), it was a campy classic , featuring KP descending on a surf board, beach balls, bedazzled booty shorts, plenty of palm trees and, of course, Snoop, who rolled on stage seated in a golden throne.
» Amy Winehouse, “Rehab,” 2007: Sure, everything leading up to her performance was a nightmare — Winehouse showed up late for rehearsals, bolted for a party in Las Vegas hosted by photographer David LaChapelle, then didn’t tell producers she was back until an hour before the show was scheduled to begin — but, true to her form, none of that mattered, and the late, great singer wowed everyone with a sultry version of what would go on to become her signature hit. And the legend only continued to grow.
» Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy,” 2006: Arguably the oddest performance in Movie Awards history, Cee Lo and Danger Mouse took the stage in their “Star Wars” finery, backed by Storm Troopers, Boba Fett, Rebel Alliance pilots and what appears to be a few members of the Mos Eisley cantina band, too. Oh, and Chewbacca on drums. Sure, the song smokes, but it’s the lovingly nerdy details that make it all the better.
» Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Maps,” 2004: A hazy, downright dreamy take on their hazy, downright dreamy hit, it’s the perfect example of a smaller band taking full advantage of the big award show stage (sort of like Florence and the Machine’s star-making turn at the 2010 VMAs). The YYYs perform in a Day-glo forest, largely in silhouette, while gauzy dandelion tufts waft in the breeze. It all culminates with Nick Zinner’s skuzzy guitar runs and, of course, a whole lot of confetti. Beautiful, art-y stuff. What award shows should aspire to, really.
» 50 Cent, “In Da Club,” “Wanksta,” 2003: Fif operating at the height of his powers, snarling and swaggering his way through two of his most bruising hits while models blast targets with guns. A genuine moment in his rise to prominence, and a true heavyweight performance in every sense of the word.
» Eminem, “Without Me,” 2002: A fierce and flippant take on the lead single from his The Eminem Show album, it’s notable for several reasons: Not only is it Em’s first appearance on the Movie Awards (he’s since performed two more times), but it’s the only time he didn’t take the stage accompanied by well-endowed puppets or end up getting teabagged by Brüno. Em’s lean and mean, but the real highlight might just be his “8 Mile” co-star Brittany Murphy, who stands in the audience with her two middle fingers thrust in the air the entire time. Mad thuggish.
» Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink, “Lady Marmalade,” 2001: The definitive Movie Award performance, chiefly because it’s also the most Movie Award performance: a big, blockbuster of a song, from a big blockbuster of a film, performed with vampy, campy aplomb by four of the sexiest, sultriest women in the biz. Diva-tude for days. Gitchy-gitchy-yah-yah. Voulez-vous coucher avec moi. Ce soir. One thousand golden popcorns up, in just about every conceivable way.
» The Village People, “In The Movies,” “Psycho Bitch,” “My MTV,” 1993: The seminal conceptual disco group lampooned some of their biggest hits for the big show (“In The Navy” became “In The Movies,” etc.,) and earned a standing ovation in the process. Yes, this really happened, and it remains one of the most memorable performances in Movie Award history.
» Snoop Dogg, “Nuthin’ But A G Thang,” 1993: Combined with his performance with Katy, Snoop’s made quite a career out of stealing the show at the Movie Awards. Here, he’s in all his corn-rowed glory, beanpole skinny and stalking the stage at the ’93 awards, flanked by Dr. Dre and backed up by the legendary Funkadelic. Really, there’s nothing else to say about this one. It’s awesome.