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20 Best MTV VMAs Opening Performances

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

MTV VMAs

Michael Jackson and Slash open the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

If the Grammys are “music’s biggest night,” then the MTV Video Music Awards are music’s most memorable. For three decades, the VMAs have had an incomparable ability to distill a year’s worth of pop music into a single killer ceremony-opening performance. Things don’t always turn out well — Britney’s 2007 comeback, for starters — but that’s what makes the VMAs the most adventurous award ceremony in the game. We relived the illustrious history of the VMAs, handpicking the best 20 opening performances, from the Eurythmics storming the second-ever show in 1985 to Lady Gaga’s debut as Jo Calderone in 2011.

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Madonna feat. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott (2003)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, there is a famous kiss that happened within these five minutes, but don’t let that overshadow the monster summit of talent and fame collected on one stage. This is Madonna, arguably the most famous female pop musician who ever lived. This is Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, twin titans of teen-pop, both between multi-platinum albums. This is a tribute to the most iconic Video Music Awards performance of all-time (Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” in 1984) that ultimately became the second most iconic Video Music Awards performance of all time. And after a wedding, who would be better for the reception than Missy Elliott? How we settled for Mya and Pink on “Lady Marmalade” after this is anybody’s guess.

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