5 of the Best Video Vanguard Performances at the MTV Video Music Awards

Every year at the MTV Video Music Awards, an artist is given the Video Vanguard Award. The coveted prize goes to a time-honored musician who has amassed a strong portfolio of music videos. Michael Jackson is the award’s namesake, which should tell you enough about the caliber of artist that stands to receive this award.

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Over the last few years, every Video Vanguard winner has given a career-retrospective performance during the award show. This year’s recipient will be Shakira. While we wait for her medley performance on September 12, let’s look back at some of the best VMA Vanguard performances, below.

[RELATED: Taylor Swift, SZA, Miley Cyrus Among 2023 MTV VMA Nominees]

1. Pink

Pink gave a stunning performance at the VMAs in 2017, featuring hits like “Raise Your Glass,” “Get The Party Started,” and “So What.” When it comes to live performances, few people are more adept than Pink. Her powerful stage presence as well as her slew of iconic videos get their dues in this medley performance.

2. Britney Spears Tribute

For Britney Spears’ Video Vanguard Award, she was treated to a tribute performance featuring dancers dressed in her iconic music video looks. The schoolgirl outfit from “…Baby One More Time” was accounted for. The red jumpsuit from “Oops!…I Did It Again” was present too. Though we would’ve loved to have seen Spears perform herself, it was a stunning tribute to a through-and-through video star.

3. Beyoncé

Beyoncé was feted for her visual contributions in 2014. To help showcase why she was more than deserving of her Video Vanguard Award, Queen Bey gave a medley performance of her 2013 self-titled record. Few performances are as polished as this one. It’ll come as no surprise to any Beyoncé fans, but she never misses a mark during this sprawling performance of tracks like “Blow,” “Pretty Hurts,” and “Haunted.”

4. Missy Elliot

Missy Elliot gave a staggering performance at the 2019 VMAs. From contortionists and bubble suits, to elaborate choreography, Elliot’s tribute to her lauded career was something to behold. The performance was made all the more otherworldly with the addition of augmented reality. Alien spaceships, abductees, rain storms, and more were added to the broadcast for viewers at home.

5. Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj was last year’s Video Vanguard recipient. For her performance, she turned the Barbie vibes all the way up to 10 (which was fortuitous given the Barbie explosion that has happened this year). Though Minaj’s performance was perhaps the least grandiose of all the Vanguard medley performances on this list, she held her own with her crowd-pleasing hits.

Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

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