20 Best MTV VMAs Opening Performances

Michael Jackson, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga and more: Who kicked it off the best?

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2. Janet Jackson's Michael Jackson Tribute (2009)

The 2009 Video Music Awards came less than two months after the death of Michael Jackson — a name so synonymous with MTV that there's an award named after him — so there was no doubt the King of Pop would be a focus of the ceremony. Madonna, his nearest peer in those halcyon MTV days, opened things up with a speech about Jackson, which then segued to a troupe dancing along with some of MJ's greatest videos. The highlight, of course, was Janet Jackson performing their dual hit "Scream" alongside video of her late brother. It was cathartic to watch the Jackson siblings dancing together onstage, Janet in the foreground, Michael on the video screen, their moves perfectly synchronized. After the miscast memorial concert at the Staples Center a month earlier, this was the King of Pop tribute America deserved.

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