All of Britney Spears' Iconic VMA Performances, Ranked: From '...Baby One More Time' to 'Gimme More'
By John Boone
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We've said it before, but it bears repeating: if MTV throws a Video Music Awards and Britney Spears isn't present, did they really throw a Video Music Awards at all?
Mercifully, that is not a question that will be answered this year, as Music Television themselves broke the news that Britney is back and performing "Make Me..." alongside G-Eazy during this year's VMAs -- a world-premiere performance of the track, if you don't count the time she used it to wake Jimmy Kimmel up. Which we don't.
This year also marks Britney's first VMA performance in nearly a decade. To celebrate the news and help bide our time until her big return, we're looking back on all of her past performances to determine which is the most iconic.
5. "Gimme More" in 2007
The performance starts with a close-up of Britney's...uneven weave, which is actually almost a perfect metaphor for the rest of the number. Dressed in a bedazzled bra and panty set and high heeled boots, Britney halfheartedly moves through a series of hip swivels and crotch grabs and doesn't even both lip syncing half the words.
It's hard to watch now -- a sad reminder of Britney's troubles at the time -- except to realize how far she has come since: The 2007 VMAs was in Las Vegas and now she is the queen of the strip with her Piece of Me residency.
4. "...Baby One More Time" in 1999
Meanwhile, watching this makes us so, so happy. This is a perfect distillation of vintage Britney. A #TBB, if you will. Back when she still did the schoolgirl thing. Back when pop stars were spray tanned to the gods and wore midriff-baring baggy pants. (Now they wear no pants at all.) Back when you knew all of Britney's dancers' names -- Andre! T.J.! -- and every Britney performance included an extended dance break. Back when *NSYNC was a thing! This is a time capsule of the '90s, and we just want to hold it and cherish it and never let it go.
3. "Like a Virgin" in 2003
Need we saying anything more than: THAT. KISS. Without it, this is merely a fun performance -- Brit-Brit and Xtina wear Material Girl wedding dresses and coo "Like a Virgin," Madonna comes out of a wedding cake and they dance around -- but with that kiss and the camera shadily cutting to Britney's ex, Justin Timberlake, it was forever cemented in the pop culture zeitgeist. (Sidebar: Why has Britney Spears never recorded a collabo with Missy Elliott?)
If ever a "yaaass" was more appropriate. The number kicks off with Britney in a black fedora and sparkly business suit for a breathy performance of Oops, I Did It Again deep-cut "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" -- Britney's cover of the Rolling Stones' boringly titled "Satisfaction" -- before she stripteases to a diamond-encrusted, flesh-colored two-piece. (Think "Toxic" before "Toxic.") The best part of the ensemble, though? This was when pop stars were allowed to wear sneakers! Yas, dancing in sneakers! Yaaass!
1. "I'm a Slave 4 U" in 2001
This isn't just Britney's most iconic VMA performance. We challenge you to find any VMA performance by any artist more iconic than Britney basically competing with a yellow boa constrictor to see who can slither around the stage more. And the clear winner is Britney. This might be the most iconic performance -- VMAs or otherwise -- ever. No disrespect to The Beatles, or whoever.
How will "Make Me" stack up? Tune in to the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 9:00p.m. to find out! In the meantime, Britney's Billboard Music Awards medley -- complete with a stripper pole and giant guitar -- might provide a preview of what we can expect.