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42 Quintessential VMAs Moments From MTV’s Golden Age, 1990-1999

The MTV Video Music Awards (aka the VMAs) already had seven shows under its belt by the time the 1990s rolled around. Madonna shocked the world with her wedding dress romp on stage to “Like A Virgin” at the inaugural show in 1984, so it was only fitting that she ushered in a new decade with her French Revolution-inspired “Vogue” in 1990. If audiences thought that was wild, they hadn’t seen anything yet as the decade brought about some of the most iconic moments in music history from the show that everyone stayed home to watch (hey, DVRs weren’t a thing yet and VCRs were too hard to program).

The 10 years showed a major shift in musical trends as the synthesized pop and heavy metal of the 1980s gave way to grunge and rap — and along with that, the fashion changed dramatically. Celebrities weren’t sure whether to dress up or dress down anymore on the red carpet, but many followed Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s lead to “Come As You Are.” Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. were the couple that you forgot ever dated, but their presence reminded you that their relationship truly was a relic of the decade before.

And then there were the performances where Michael Jackson sang while Slash played guitar (and oh yeah, he kissed wife Lisa Marie Presley to prove their marriage was real) and Ricky Martin stole the show in the last year before the turn of the century with “Living La Vida Loca.” These are the moments MTV can’t replicate in 2022 but wish they could as the show tries to capture the magic that the 1990s brought. But it was an unbridled feeling of excitement (and danger) in an era before social media when an obviously inebriated Courtney Love interrupted a Madonna interview by throwing items from her makeup bag at her — this was on top of being dragged off the pressroom stage earlier in the evening — let’s be honest, stuff like that would never happen now.

With the next VMAs just around on the corner on August 28 (tune in on MTV at 8 p.m. ET!), enjoy the look back at MTV VMAs history with some of the red-carpet fashions that were happily left behind, the superstars we lost, and the moments that we will always remember.

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