About the Show
Thursday, September 05, 1991
Hosted by Arsenio Hall
In 1991, the MTV Video Music Awards celebrated MTV's 10th anniversary by completely flipping the script. That's right, we brought in Arsenio Hall to host -- for the fourth consecutive year! And as if that wasn't stirring the pot enough, we held the show in ... Los Angeles -- for the fourth consecutive year! At the Universal Amphitheatre -- for the ... oh, you get the idea.
All joking aside, the 1991 VMAs was an important event for us. There was a huge reason to throw a party: MTV had not only lasted a decade, but was a thriving juggernaut with a significant pop culture legacy.
And fittingly, the 1991 Video Music Awards show was scene of many moments:
Historic: The Video Vanguard Award was renamed the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in honor of his contributions to the culture of music videos.
Violent: Contrary to popular belief, Poison's Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille threw down backstage after it was decided that DeVille's performance sucked, not because C.C. looked RIDICULOUS with pink hair.
Controversial: The VMA stage welcomed the first public appearance of Paul Ruebens following the actor/comedian's arrest for lewd-conduct earlier in the year, an event that made him a popular punchline of the time. In costume as his beloved character Pee-Wee Herman, he coolly responded to a standing ovation by asking, "Heard any good jokes lately?"
When it came to the Moonmen trophies, R.E.M. may have been losing their religion but they certainly weren't losing awards as they walked away from the '91 VMAs with six for their hit "Losing My Religion." Among the haul for Michael Stipe and his pals from Athens, Georgia, were trophies for Video of the Year and Best Breakthrough Video.
But R.E.M. did lose one award, as the all-important and hard-to-score Viewer's Choice award went to Queensryche for the video for their smash-hit ballad "Silent Lucidity."
And 1991 was the year that C+C Music Factory showed the world that grown men can mix bondage attire with bike shorts and still be cool while dancing. And that's why we gave Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul a break, instead honoring C+C with the Best Choreography Moonman for the video for their workout staple "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)."
R.E.M.When it came to performances, MTV continued to prove that there is no equal to the VMAs when it comes to music. Big winners R.E.M. jangled their way through "Losing My Religion," there was the aforementioned Poison performance of "Unskinny Bop" that caused a ruckus that got C.C. DeVille booted from the band, and C+C Music Factory literally made everyone sweat.
Dialing down the speed metal that was their calling card, 1991 saw Metallica redefine their sound to something more commercially viable, broadening their appeal and immensely increasing their popularity worldwide. Nonetheless, they still had balls enough to make the VMA audience's knees tremble with the nightmarish "Enter Sandman," And this was years before the band sought group therapy and got in touch with their inner children.
There were also performances by the likes of Prince, EMF, Guns N' Roses and Van Halen, but it was chiseled hip-hop veteran LL Cool J who brought the thunder with his performance of "Mama Said Knock You Out." Like his video for the song, LL came out clad in boxing attire and proceeded to throw lyrical punches that left everyone watching laying spent on the canvas.
Don't call it a comeback, the MTV Video Music Awards were alive, pulsing and more relevant than ever, even with Arsenio in the driver's seat.