(InStyle) -- It's been almost three decades since the first-ever MTV Video Music Awards. And from the very beginning, stars like Madonna aimed to please their fans by shocking them, with a combination of risqué routines -- remember that "Like A Virgin" floor dance? -- and outré fashion.
So, in anticipation of the award show's 27th iteration, which airs on Sunday, September 12 at 9 p.m. EST, InStyle looks back at five of the most memorable VMA performances and appearances ever, and wonders: Can we still be shocked, or have we seen it all? We'll be watching.
At the inaugural ceremony in 1984, Madonna attained instant superstar status thanks to a scandalous rendition of her already-controversial single, "Like A Virgin." Clad in a lingerie-inspired "wedding dress," complete with veil, "boy toy" belt, gloves, and a see-through polka dot skirt, she danced atop a giant cake, writhed on the floor and generally set the bar sky high for all subsequent would-be pop stars.
Lil' Kim didn't perform at the 1999 show, which may have been for the best, given the extreme precariousness of her glittering purple ensemble. Instead, she presented the award for Best Hip-Hop Video with the help of a slightly nonplussed-looking Mary J. Blige and Diana Ross, who couldn't resist reaching over and jiggling the pasty-covered part at the podium.
It was Britney Spears's second time at the VMAs -- she'd debuted the previous year, singing a relatively tame version of her first single, "... Baby One More Time." But in 2000, she stepped up and changed the game, opening with a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" (which she performed while dressed in a menswear-style pinstriped suit), before segueing into her hit "Oops! ... I Did It Again," and tearing off her shirt, jacket and pants to reveal a surprising nude-tone two-piece bodysuit.
In 2003, for the 20th Video Music Awards, VMA MVPs Britney and Madonna teamed up (along with Christina Aguilera) for a startling performance that nabbed each of them a second spot on our top-five list. The show opened with each of the younger stars paying tribute to Madonna's first-ever VMA appearance nineteen years earlier, singing "Like A Virgin" in not-so-virginal white. Then the Material Girl herself turned up in a suit to sing "Hollywood" ... and to kiss Britney, then Christina, on the lips. (Missy Elliot popped out of a "wedding chapel" to rap the finale.)
Lady Gaga began her performance at last year's VMAs precisely where Madonna ended hers 25 years before: Dressed in white and rolling on the ground. But it's difficult to imagine anyone -- even Madge -- engineering the spectacle that followed as Gaga ran through "Poker Face," and "Papparazzi," then wrapped things up by rubbing fake blood all over her torso, face and hair. (She even got some in her eye, for maximum ick.) The other ensembles she donned that night were only slightly less startling: Her sheer red Alexander McQueen dress, topped with a lace mask and matching crown, was a standout.
Want more VMA style shockers? Visit InStyle.com to see the rest of our picks!
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