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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best MTV VMAs Performances

Neil Young jamming with Pearl Jam, Britney wearing a snake and your other favorite moments from MTV’s wild show

britney spears vmas

Britney Spears performs at the The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York City, New York (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The 2014 MTV Video Music Awards aren't likely to go down in history as anything all that memorable. Sure, Miley let a homeless teen accept an award and Nicki Minaj had a (possibly planned) wardrobe malfunction, but mostly it was rather pedestrian — at least discounting Beyoncé's epic show-closing mega medley. Shortly before the broadcast we asked our readers to vote on their favorite moments from the history of the show. Here are the results. 

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Madonna – “Like a Virgin” (1984)

Madonna had a handful of hits before the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards, but her performance of "Like a Virgin" that night changed her career forever. Not many people had heard the song at that point, but when she came out in a wedding dress and began writhing around on the floor, all eyes were on her. She later claimed she had no idea the camera were zooming into her thighs, but it certainly didn't hurt her sales and it soon became her first Number One hit. 

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Pearl Jam and Neil Young – “Rockin’ in the Free World” (1993)

Right after whipping the crowd at the 1993 VMAs into a frenzy with "Animal," Pearl Jam brought out surprise guest Neil Young and managed to up the energy in the room even more. This was Young at the height of his Godfather of Grunge stage, making him the single coolest classic rock figure in the world. Pearl Jam had been playing "Rockin' in the Free World" since early 1992, but this was the first time they ever do it with Young. The combination was explosive and two years later they teamed up in the studio to record Mirror Ball. 

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Nirvana – “Lithium” (1992)

MTV expected that Nirvana would play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. The network had been playing the video for months on end and it was up for a slew of awards. Executives freaked out when they learned they had no intention of playing the song, and before they went on one of them said, "Just don't play 'Rape Me.'" Big mistake. Cobain began the group's performance with a few bars of "Rape Me" (no doubt causing the MTV suits to nearly have a collective stroke) before kicking into a killer rendition of "Lithium." Near the end, Krist Novoselic threw his bass into the air, only to have it land directly on his head and nearly knock him unconscious. It's maybe the most unintentionally funny moment in the history of the show. 

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