The MTV Video Music Awards are unparalleled in cultural significance. Year after year, the ceremony showcases the best that we as a society have to offer from the world of arts and entertainment. From Cindi Lauper’s incoherent ramblings in 1984, to rapper Lil’ Mama storming the stage at last year’s event, the VMAs continually produce moments that define entire generations. In honor of the upcoming 27th installment, here’s a look back at the greatest moments in VMA history.
1984 – Hosts Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler looked on in horror as Madonna’s labia snagged on a stage light during her raunchy performance of “Like a Virgin.” Luckily, the material girl had lost all feeling below the waist years earlier, and walked away with only minor burns.
1988 – Long known for his charitable work, singer Michael Jackson went the extra mile by flying the entire Harlem Boy’s Choir to Los Angeles for the ceremony. In a further display of generosity, the King of Pop rented an entire floor of the Beverly Hilton for the boys to have to themselves.
1989 – Controversial comic Andrew Dice Clay’s appearance earned him a "lifetime ban" from the network after his vulgar, misogynist act shocked audiences. The act later went on to become the basis for 95% of MTV’s programing.
1989 – Madonna shocked viewers with her video for “Like a Prayer,” which featured the singer making out with black Jesus and acting like a whore.
1990 – Madonna shocked viewers by dressing like Marie Antoinette and acting like a whore.
1991 – A fistfight erupted between Poison’s Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille after a disagreement over who had the sweeter perm.
1992 – Nirvana front-man Kurt Cobain accepted the coveted “Golden Shotgun” award for the band’s "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video. The award was later discontinued.
1993 – Madonna shocked viewers by wearing a tuxedo and acting like a whore.
1994 – The audible sounds of Elvis Presley screaming in hell were picked up by microphones as his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, locked lips with her then husband, Michael Jackson.
1999 – Afeni Shakur and Voletta Wallace, the mothers of the recently slain Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., traded gunfire, with a stray bullet killing singer Marilyn Manson.
1999 – Lil’ Kim shocked viewers by acting like a whore.
2000 – Limp Bizkit vocalist Fred Durst accepted the award for Best Rock Video. No really, Limp f*cking Bizkit.
2003 – Justin Timberlake’s "Cry Me a River" beat out Johnny Cash’s "Hurt" for Best Male Video, proving, once and for all, that there is no god and we are all alone in the universe.
2003 – Madonna shocked viewers by teaming up with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and acting like a whore.
2005 – R.Kelly performed his rap opera, "Trapped in the Closet," as millions of people around the world simultaneously made pee-pee jokes.
2009 – The ghost of Dr. Martin Luther King hovered nearby, weeping openly as Kanye West rushed the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, setting the civil rights movement back by at least ten years.
2009 – Lady Gaga shocked viewers by acting like an asshole.
2009 – Madonna shocked viewers by paying tribute to Michael Jackson and not acting like a whore.