With tonight's MTV Video Music Awards as the hot topic on everybody's lips, the pop culture world is zeroed in on what has often proven to be the music industry's most talked about night of the year. While there's been multiple pop culture milestones and career-defining moments over the years, these jam-packed (and occasionally lackluster) shows have left a handful of great performances to go under-appreciated in the VMA pantheons. We at the Weekly have decided to right this wrong and bring you five of the most underrated performances in Video Music Awards' history.
INXS – “What You Need” 1986
While they would go on to be more famously associated with later VMA performances and videos, INXS' Video Music Awards debut remains the unheralded strongest marriage between a live rock performance and MTV's attention-deficit-fueling presentation that the network's '80s incarnation had to offer. The low-budget high-ambition contrast captures what made both the band and the network the barometer of cool.
U2 and Dana Carvey – “Even Better Than The Real Thing” 1992
While not a bad show, the 1992 Video Music Awards are most remembered for their trainwreck moments. From Nirvana's Krist Novoselic catching a bass in his face to Bobby Brown dropping an F-Bomb (still preferable to the crack vial he allegedly dropped on the telecast two years prior) to Howard Stern's “Fartman,” it's a night where things didn't go so smoothly. But even with the odds against it, host Dana Carvey, in his beloved Garth from Wayne's World character, joined U2 on drums via satellite from Detroit to perform “Even Better Than The Real Thing” without a hitch.
Salt-N-Pepa – “Medley” 1994
When watching a VMA performance, as an audience member, you want to see the absolute best an artist has to offer. Salt-N-Pepa decided to deliver just that by performing their absolute biggest hits in one incredible medley which even saw the elusive Big Twan Love-Her join the stage for “Shoop.” 1994 was one of hip-hop's biggest years at the Awards, also boasting Snoop Dogg's incredible “Murder Was the Case” performance, as well as Boyz II Men's “I'll Make Love to You” and Beastie Boys' “Sabotage.”
Marilyn Manson – “The Dope Show”
Few artists have ever benefitted from a strong VMA performance the way Marilyn Manson's television debut on the 1997 Awards catapulted him into the pop culture stratosphere. Much less mentioned, is his return performance the very next year. Manson exchanged the political and S&M motifs for an unapologetically glamorous serving of shock that included the Goddess Bunny, pink riot cops, and more ass-less spandex, prompting Busta Rhymes to stand up from his seat and yell “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!”
Florence and the Machine – “The Dog Days are Over” 2010
The 2010 Video Music Awards are largely remembered as a non-event. With the previous year's Kanye West-Taylor Swift incident still fresh in people's minds, the show repeatedly reminded us of what happened as both parties gave separate performances that never really climaxed. While Lady Gaga's meat-dress and Rick Ross whisking host Chelsea Handler off the stage were two of the few bright spots, the best musical moment was the breathtaking Florence and the Machine “The Dog Days Are Over” performance that was almost out of place with how elegant and tasteful it was. With a use of camerawork that was almost Maya Deren-esqe in terms of the choreography, it gave us the night's strongest visuals and will hopefully be rediscovered in years to come.