Award show performances are where stars are born. With millions of fans watching, artists must live up to the pressure of proving themselves to be the best of the best. Year after year, artists take turns to deliver a noteworthy performance that’ll either be remembered years to come or be forgotten by the next morning. Nonetheless, each performance showcases why each artist differentiate from the other.
Throughout history of award shows rather it be the Grammy Awards or the MTV Video Music Awards, artists take a stand for themselves in the most epic ways. Whether it means to be creatively ambitious on stage or show off a flashy move set or even stripping it back and letting the vocals do all the work, a performance can make or break an artist. With the ongoing pandemic leaving award shows up in the air, let’s revisit some of the best award show performances that are noteworthy for your quarantine viewing party.
The definition of iconic, the MTV VMAs performance single handedly cultivated Eminem into superstardom. Bringing the music video to life, the emcee cemented his status into an emerging rap superstar. Nearly twenty years later, the moment is a signature moment in the award show history.
“Runaway” - Kanye West featuring Pusha T, MTV Video Music Awards 2010
A year after infamously interrupting Taylor Swift at the same award show, Kanye West made his grand return with an epic show-closing performance. Earlier the night, the songstress addressed the situation with her own take, a performance that indicated that she forgave the rapper for his actions. Though it was a respectable presentation, Kanye had a different approach, premiering “Runaway” live with a show-stopping performance that is still talked about today.
“m.A.A.d City” & “Radioactive” - Imagine Dragons & Kendrick Lamar, Grammys Award 2014
Known for the outrageous, semi-awkward, and unexpected collaborations, the Grammys awards break the rules when it comes to genres colliding on the grandest stage of them all. One of the most unusual mashups was when rock band Imagine Dragons and Best New Artist nominee Kendrick Lamar joined forces for an energetic performance of “m.A.A.d City” and “Radioactive”. The high-intensity performance required everyone in attendance, and at home, to get up off their seats and rock out to a chaotic showcase that nobody wanted to end.
“Blinded By Your Grace” PT 2 & “Big For Your Boots” - Stormzy, BRIT Awards 2018
The forecast at the 2018 BRIT Awards called for a downpour of rain. But it was your ordinary storm, as Stormzy stood tall and gave it his all on two of his most powerful athematic songs. A politically charged freestyle was enough to have the nation talking”.
“Get Lucky” – Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rogers and Stevie Wonder, Grammy Awards 2014
Minutes before their historic album of the year win, Daft Punk graced the stage for an all-star performance. Enlisting fellow collaborators Pharrell Williams and Nile Rogers, as well as Stevie Wonder, the electronica duo embraced the funk for an oh so groovy performance.
“Hard Out Here For A Pimp” – Three 6 Mafia & Taraji P. Henson – Academy Awards, 2006
Breaking the norms of the expectations of the prestige of the Academy Awards, Three 6 Mafia rewrote the rules in 2006 and reimagined the ceremony from a southern rap perspective. With help from Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson, the trio tore the house down with a performance that was the highlight of the evening. Later that night, Three 6 Mafia went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song.
“Lithium” – Nirvana, MTV Video Music Awards, 1992
The grunge band Nirvana were a notable act for 90’s pop culture. Shifting the perspective of the rock genre, Nirvana were rebels on the scene, and this performance proved that. Performing an Nevermind album cut, the performance is iconic for all of your average Nirvana standards, but it’s memorable for the moment bassist Krist Novoselic threw his instrument in the air and it landed on his face.
Michael Jackson’s Medley – MTV Video Music Awards, 1995
MTV’s Video Vanguard award is named after the one and only Michael Jackson, and to honor the prestigious award, MJ delivered an epic 15-minute medley of his greatest hits. Ranging from “Billie Jean” to “Thriller”, Jackson proved why he was capable of any and everything.
“I’ll Be Missing You” – P. Diddy, Faith Evans and Sting, MTV Video Music Awards, 1997
Paying tribute to the late, great Notorious B.I.G, fellow rapper P. Diddy orchestrated a powerful and emotional performance. Friend of the beloved rapper, Diddy (then “Puffy”) invited the rapper’s widow Faith Evans and Sting to join an array of gospel singers while the fallen legend was projected on a massive screen.
Missy Elliot Vanguard Medley – MTV Video Music Awards, 2019
After years and years of fans petitioning for Missy Elliott to be honored by MTV for the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award it finally happened. Dominating the early 2000s with hit after hit, the female emcee has a catalog of numbers that every music fan knows. Revisiting looks and sets from her iconic music videos, Elliott proved why she deserved that award, and why she should’ve been one of the first in line to be honored.