There are going to be plenty of virgins at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday… Meaning artists making their first VMA appearance or performance this year. What did you think we meant by “virgin”?
5 Seconds of Summer are making their first trip down the red carpet, Fifth Harmony are performing on the Pre-Show, Iggy Azalea — who’s going big with seven nominations — will make her first headlining VMA performance, Ariana Grande is graduating to the big stage after an upgrade from the 2013 Pre-Show spot, and Lorde will get her first chance to rub elbows with her fellow VMA nominees during the August 24 show at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
Which got us thinking about some of the other great VMA debuts in history. Here are the 24 best first times at the VMAs:
Sure, 1984 marked the first-ever VMAs, but, man did Madonna make a debut no one could ever forget when she rolled around on the stage in that wedding dress to “Like A Virgin.”
2. Michael Jackson
The late King of Pop appeared on the VMAs for the first time in 1988, where he won the first-ever Video Vanguard Award (now named in his honor).
It’s hard to remember a world where Axl and the boys were fresh faces, but 1988 also marked the first time they swaggered into the VMAs, leaving a trail of broken furniture and trashed green rooms in their wake, no doubt. There is nothing like the first time you saw “Welcome to the Jungle” on the VMA stage.
If you’re going to make a big entrance, you really want to do it like these grunge gods did in 1992, where Kurt Cobain gave the network’s execs a momentary panic attack when he played the first few notes of the NSFTV “Rape Me,” before dropping into “Lithium.” Also, bassist Krist Novoselic braining himself after tossing his bass in the air is a classic moment.
Playing the VMAs first time in 1995 following the death of her husband, Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love and her band Hole ripped through “Violet” and then trashed her equipment.
6. Fiona Apple
Ah, the infamous “This world is bulls—” speech! Fiona got our attention in 1997 when she accepted the Best New Artist award by giving an instantly classic speech about the vapidness of Hollywood.
Who can forget where they were when Britney hit the VMA for the very first time to perform “… Baby One More Time” in 1999? With *NSYNC, no less. Epic.
Speaking of classic, the sight of Slim Shady stalking the stage with a blinking “Role Model” sweatshirt in 1999 for “The Real Slim Shady” and then hooking up with mentor Dr. Dre on “Guilty Conscience?” Iconic.
9. Avril Lavigne
Not only did Avril take home her first Moonman for Best New Artist in a Video, she also kicked off the 2002 VMA Pre-Show by playing her smash hits “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi” on the Radio City marquee.
10. Justin Timberlake
Sure he’d made the scene in 1999 and 2001 with *NSYNC, but JT didn’t play the VMAs solo until 2002 when he hooked up with the Clipse for “Like I Love You.”
11. Kanye West
Before he became Yeezus, Kanye hit the 2004 VMA stage (in a suit, striped shirt and bright orange tie) with soul icon Chaka Khan, John Legend and Syleena Johnson for a breathless run through “Jesus Walks”/”All Falls Down”/”Through The Wire.”
12. Kelly Clarkson
The first “American Idol” winner celebrated her arrival in 2005 by playing “Since U Been Gone” with a crop top, capris, no shoes on, and — oh yeah — a huge thunderstorm in the middle of the audience.
13. 50 Cent/Rihanna
Curtis got two spots to shine in 2007, not only performing his smash debut single, “In Da Club,” but also hooking up with Timberlake for “Ayo Technology” in Las Vegas at the wildest VMAs ever. Rihanna also made her big VMA debut, performing both “Umbrella” and “Shut Up and Drive,” the latter with Fall Out Boy.
14. Katy Perry
Before she was pop’s reigning princess, Katy was just a girl who liked to kiss girls, and she liked it at the 2008 VMAs.
15. Lady Gaga
Go big or go home has always been Gaga’s M.O. And for her 2009 VMA debut, she went REAL big with a lavish Victorian set and fur-covered mask and white bikini during a “Paparazzi” performance that ended up with the singer suspended in mid-air and covered in blood.
16. Taylor Swift
We’ll let her finish, but 2009 was also the year that Taylor Swift performed at the VMAs for the first time with a one-of-a-kind subway-to-the-stage “You Belong With Me.”
Before all those trophies, Drizzy was just a guy who got “Fancy” at the 2010 show with Mary J. Blige and Swizz Beatz on a glittering, Copacabana-like stage befitting the hip-hop Sinatra.
18. Justin Bieber
Oh, that hair! Oh that letter jacket! Oh that hand heart! And the drum solo! JB also made his VMA performance debut in 2010 with a medley of “U Smile/Baby/Somebody to Love” that elicited so many screams it still has our ears ringing.
How was Adele not in our life before this? her 2011 “Someone Like You” was simple, elegant and totally badass.
20. Blue Ivy
Okay, so technically, Jay Z and Beyoncé’s baby girl was still in utero at the 2011 show. But when Bey patted her belly and smiled after “Love on Top,” well, suddenly we knew that a star was (about to be) born.
Everything before this performance of “One Thing” was simply B.O.D. (Before One Direction).
22. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
What better way to cap a tremendous year than making a huge musical and social statement? Which is exactly what Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did when they ditched the thrift store for a dramatic run through their marriage equality anthem “Same Love” at the 2013 VMAs. Oh, and Jennifer Hudson dropped by.
Talk about a major per-show! Both Ariana and Austin blasted into the VMA ranks with red carpet strolls that include their respective hits “The Way/Baby I” and “What About Love.”
Miley had been to the VMAs before, but she’d never performed like that. Her unforgettable bump-and-grind (and grind) with Robin Thicke in 2013 basically made the entire world twerk.