About the Show

Thursday, September 04, 1997

Hosted by Chris Rock

When it came time for the 1997 Video Music Awards, MTV decided to stick to familiar territory. The event was once staged at New York City's grand Radio City Music Hall. And, sensing it was time to switch hosts (no offense two-timer Dennis Miller, but we didn't want to get into four-peat Arsenio territory again), so we dipped back into the Saturday Night Live well and grabbed Chris Rock to lead the VMA charge.

Not getting enough airtime, Chris had ditched SNL a few years earlier and spent a short time with In Living Color, before hosting his own Emmy-winning HBO talk show and taking his stand-up comedy to a hysterical new level. If America was previously unsure, it was around 1997 that Chris' genius was being collectively realized. But let's face it, the Academy Awards never would have picked him to host in 2005 unless we'd broken him in with the VMAs, right? Damn straight.

Most VMA hosts are remembered for lines in their monologues, but Chris Rock's 1997 moment is likely his response to Fiona Apple. You see, in a rambling acceptance of the Best New Artist award, Fiona bashed MTV (gasp!) and the music industry (horror!), saying, "this world is bulls---" and encouraged the audience by quoting Maya Angelou: "Go with yourself."

"Let's hear it for Fiona X!" Chris Rock cracked, which only added to the Fiona firestorm that followed the '97 VMAs. Oh, sweet Fiona, thank you for melting down during our show!

The 1997 MTV Video Music Awards was also the place to see Martha Stewart and Busta Rhymes sharing a stage (she liked his pigtails), as they presented the Best Dance Video award (won by the Spice Girls for "Wannabe," by the way). Speaking of awards, Beck won plenty of 'em at the 1997 VMAs. He walked with the Best Choreography and Best Art Direction awards for "The New Pollution" (which he performed during the show) and his "Devil's Haircut" netted the Best Editing, Best Direction and Best Male Video Moonmen.

Jamiroquai and Jay Kay's awesomely giant hat won four awards -- including Breakthrough Video and Video of the Year -- for "Virtual Insanity." Prodigy nabbed the Viewer's Choice Award for "Breathe," as well as the International Viewer's Choice Award - Europe for the same clip.

The 1997 VMA performances were both memorable and meaningful, as Sean Combs/Puff Daddy/P.Diddy/Diddy performed his hit single "I'll Be Missing You." The song was dedicated to the recently-deceased Notorious B.I.G. and included Biggie's widow, Faith Evans, R&B group 112 and a surprise appearance by Sting, who recreated the song's sample of his vocal from The Police classic "Every Breath You Take."

The Spice Girls treated the Radio City crowd to a delicious dish of street-cred-free music with "Say You'll Be There" and Marilyn Manson continued to be "that guy you shouldn't bring home to mom" with his performance of "The Beautiful People." Also throwing down on stage were U2, the Wallflowers with Bruce Springsteen, Jewel, and the all-star mash-up of Lil Kim, Left Eye, Missy Elliot, Da Brat, Ashley Martinez on "Not Tonight."

Does it get much sweeter? Hell naw!