By now I’m sure you’ve heard about Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s outburst at the iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas last month and subsequent fallout. The dust has settled, the singer is now out of rehab, and Green Day’s album ¡Uno! debuted at #2 with 140,000 copies sold. Sometimes musicians can rebound from an unexpected events like this, but other times, the backlash is too much to overcome. Music is nothing if not drama-packed, and these newsworthy events made me reflect on other shocking live moments in music history. I definitely had an endless amount of memorable moments to choose from, but here are my favorites:
5. Milli Vanilli lip syncs
Lip syncing is nothing new when it comes to live performances. After the wrong track played during Ashlee Simpson’s performance on Saturday Night Live in 2005 (another contender for top shocking live music moments), everyone accepted their suspicions of widespread artist lip syncing, but I want to rewind to 1989, the year pop artists Milli Vanilli quickly rose to fame and, with one performance, turned their success into disgrace. During a live performance aired by MTV, their smash hit “Girl You Know It’s True” began to skip, revealing that the breakdancing pair were imposters. The duo was stripped of their Best New Artist Grammy, and their career never recovered.
4. Sinead O’Connor’s rips the Pope
During rehearsals of her performance of “War” on SNL in 1992, O’Connor held up a picture of a starving African child before instructing the audience to “fight the real enemy!” Live, however, she swapped out the photo for Pope John Paul II and ripped it to shreds. The startled director refrained from switching on the applause sign, leaving audiences across the world silently shocked. O’Connor’s name now rests on the short list of performers banned from the live television show.
3. Eminem and Elton John duet
This one wasn’t as much shockingly unexpected as unexpectedly wonderful. Eminem, who had woven insults towards homosexuals into his music, performed his heavy hit “Stan” with the openly gay music legend Elton John at the 2001 Grammys. Eminem’s song was gut-wrenchingly serious, a strong departure from John’s soft rock, but the convergence of two music icons that couldn’t be more opposite will go down in live music history.
2. Janet Jackson bares it all
During the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, 90 million people hit the rewind button on their TiVos after Justin Timberlake sang, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” and pulled off part of Janet Jackson’s costume, revealing her right breast. Half a million complaints later, the FCC fined CBS a staggering $550,000. The NFL also announced that MTV, who produced the performance, would never be involved with another Superbowl halftime show again. That’s one expensive “wardrobe malfunction.”
1. Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift at the VMAs
How could the number one spot go to anyone but ‘Ye? His now infamous interruption of country cutie Taylor Swift accepting Best Female Video over Beyonce was water cooler gossip and internet fodder for weeks. The event spawned memes, inspired catchphrases (“I’mma let you finish but…”), and provided more evidence that rap royalty can sometimes be, well, unpredictable. What is more shocking about this incident? Expecting good behavior from West when he was sipping on a bottle of Hennessey from the moment his limo arrived up until the famous microphone steal or that West thought the awards handed out that evening were worth arguing over? You be the judge.