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On September 12, 2021, the 38th annual MTV Video Music Awards was held.
If you made a list of the most influential things in popular music of all time, you could argue that MTV and the music video would be in the top three on that list (I’d put the inventions of the phonograph record and the electric guitar higher on the list).
The MTV Video Music Award was created in 1984 as an alternative to the Grammy Best Short Video award, which also was awarded for the first time in 1984. MTV had been in existence for three years before the first ceremony. Unlike the stodgy Grammys, the MTV awards ceremony quickly became an event full of excesses and shocking stunts, largely geared to getting the media attention that many of these artists (and their record companies) craved. And of course, the show featured lots of memorable performances by the hottest artists of day. Nearly 40 years later, the show really hasn’t changed much.
The coveted trophy is the Moon Man (in 2017, the name was officially changed to “Moon Person”). The iconic astronaut planting an MTV flag on the moon is taken from the earliest days of MTV – the first image ever on MTV was that of an Apollo 11 astronaut standing next to a flag on the moon, with the MTV logo replacing the stars and stripes.
Here are some stats and memorable moments regarding the MTV Video Music Awards.
- The latest ceremony gave awards in 23 categories, recognizing different music genres, technical and directorial merit, as well as Video of the Year, Song of the Year, Artist/Group/Collaboration of the Year and New Artist of the Year.
- In 2021, MTV awarded the Global Icon award for the first time – the recipient was the Foo Fighters. This replaced the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award (Jackson’s name was attached to the award in 1991) from 1984 to 2019, and the MTV Tricon Award in 2020. These awards are a lifetime achievement award of merit, recognizing “outstanding contributions and profound impact on music video and popular culture.” The first recipients of the award in 1984 were the Beatles and Richard Lester – Lester was the director for the Beatles’ films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! MTV said that these films essentially invented the music video.
- The most awarded artist of all time is Beyoncé, who won 29 awards between 2000 and 2021. Her song Formation won six awards at the ceremony in 2016. The second most awarded artist is Madonna, with 20 wins. Surprisingly, Michael Jackson is tied for 15th on the list, with only eight wins. Her sister Janet is one ahead of Michael, with nine wins.
- The video that received the most awards is Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, which won nine awards in 1987. The video is groundbreaking in its use of claymation and stop action animation – Gabriel laid under a sheet of glass for 16 hours during its filming, one frame at a time. It makes every list of the Greatest Videos of All Time. Gabriel actually won ten awards that night, since he also won the Video Vanguard award that year.
- Easily the most tasteless moment of the awards ceremony was in 2010, when Lady Gaga wore a dress made entirely of raw beef while accepting her Video of the Year award for Bad Romance. Literally…tasteless. The dress now is on display at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – after being preserved, it now is a kind of beef jerky. Gaga had other memorable moments at the awards – in 2009, a blood-soaked Gaga hanged herself onstage during her performance of Paparazzi.
- Other memorable moments – Madonna’s French kiss of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera in 2003; Kanye West storming the stage in 2009 during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video and taking the microphone to complain that Beyoncé did not win; Madonna’s sex-laced performance of Like a Virgin in a wedding dress during the inaugural ceremony in 1984; Miley Cyrus bringing twerking to the masses during her appearance in 2013 with Robin Thicke; and Diana Ross’ squeeze of Lil’ Kim’s pastie-covered breast at the 1999 show.
- If you’d like to see Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, go to my AWESOME page from May 2, 2021 to check it out. Watch Madonna become an overnight icon with her performance of Like a Virgin from the 1984 show. Remember – this was 1984…what she did that night was groundbreaking.