Photo: Frank Micelotta / Getty
Despite the amount of bewilderment that the VMA stage brings to the world every year, no performance could ever top the shock that created 2003's opening act.
Picture the scene: On your left, Britney Spears. A virgin-turned-vixen, she has just released the sweat-drenched I'm a Slave 4 U, the source of many a wet dream for millions of straight males and sexually-confused boys in the country. On your right, Christina Aguilera. The arch-nemesis who has managed one of the most successful backflips in pop history, scoring a career-defining hit with the stirring LGBT anthem Beautiful only minutes after she stepped out on a boxing ring wearing close to nothing.
Both are talented, polarizing starlets vying for the "New Queen of Pop" title... except the Queen is still alive and well. That night, at Radio City Music Hall in New York, Britney and Christina take turns singing the first verses of Madonna's Like a Virgin, rolling all over the stage in the same wedding gowns that Her Madgesty wore in 1984. It's a tribute, you see. Then, Madonna herself emerges! Stepping out from a giant wedding cake, she procedes to a quick tango with each of her pretenders while her new song Hollywood is playing. Could this get any better?
All the camera angles are perfectly set to capture the moment: Suddenly, Madonna pulls Britney up and gives her a big wet smooch. Britney even has her tongue out. Then, it's Christina's turn. Sadly, we miss most of the action because the producer decides to cut to a reaction shot of Justin Timberlake, Britney's ex, who seems to take a few seconds to register what has just happened. Poor Christina. Meanwhile, the cast of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy is going wild in the audience, and Missy Elliott bounces out of nowhere, turning the show into a big slumber party.
Did the kiss symbolize Madonna's passing of power to Britney? Ten years later, the picture isn't so clear. Madonna is still the highest-paid celebrity, even though she hasn't scored a big hit in almost as much time... but, then again, neither has Britney nor Christina. The quest for the next Queen of Pop goes on, this time with an army of Rihannas, Selenas, and Katys trying to break into the ranks. Who will it be?