Last Monday, MTV announced that Missy Elliott will be awarded the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the VMAs on August 26. The golden moonperson has been given out since the show’s inception in 1984, when it was awarded to David Bowie. It’s been a long time coming for someone who has been delivering dazzling and innovative visuals for decades (see videos for “The Rain” and “Beep Me 911”). For years, Missy’s fans have protested upon discovering that the prestigious award would be given to an artist who had no business winning it before her.
There were times when it seemed that the winner was chosen based on who was thought capable of putting on the most captivating and viewer-attracting medley of their greatest hits, rather than the merit of their music videos. However, it’s hard to be mad on Missy’s behalf when she has always exhibited the depth of her humility, and how grateful she is for whatever recognition or accolades happen to come her way. While countless listicles have ranked Missy’s videos, not many have commended her ability to translate her singular visions to the stage. “Iconic” may be a term that is thrown around far too much these days, but when used in reference to Missy or her oeuvre, it is certainly apt. Everything she does leaves you with images and looks that stick in your mind. We will now recollect some of Missy’s best performances in order to get us even more hyped for the medley we will see on Monday night.
2001 VMAs – “Get Ur Freak On” & “One Minute Man”
A staple in Missy performances is the grand entrance. At the 2001 VMAs, she arrived on stage via massive descending chandelier that she nonchalantly held on to in her metallic, camo jumpsuit. Her wide smile radiated the confidence of someone who had recently released their third studio album and was receiving immense praise from critics and love from fans. “Get Ur Freak On” got even freakier when Missy shouted “REEEMIXXXX”, to reveal a red slide that appeared out of the mouth of the giant statue of a woman’s head. A contrastingly white-fitted Nelly Furtado slid onto the scene, bopping around and rapping slightly offbeat.
2003 AMAs – “Work It”
Fast forward to 2003. “Work It” is playing everywhere: out of portable CD players, out of cars, and on your TV’s music channels. The hit was inescapable, not that you wanted it to be. You liked making weird noises during the chorus. Seeing Missy perform this song was an event. When she brought it to the AMAs stage, she decided on the theme of a return to the pillars of hip hop. The set emulates the streets where hip hop was conceived: a graffiti-covered brick wall, a swing-set, a slide, breakdancers in vibrant Adidas sweatsuits. What takes this performance to an even higher level of legendary is the appearance from Alyson Stoner, mouthing the words as she dances like she did when she won over the world’s love in Missy’s videos.
2005 BET Awards – “Lose Control”
While the footage on YouTube that we’re left with is grainy, you can still get the gist of how well Missy executed her extra-terrestrial vision in this performance. Misdemeanour magically appears within a spinning spacecraft before getting jiggy in her silver outfit. This party anthem is so powerful that it still has people losing control when it comes on. Fatman Scoop certainly caught the spirit, as he rolls around on stage and pulls off his shirt while serving as hype man. Ciara comes out and kills the choreo. Towards the end, the song is sped up into a juke mix and the footwork just gets crazier.
2017 VH1 Hip Hop Honours – “She’s A B****”
Missy proved that she only gets better with time when she participated in VH1’s tribute to 90s hip hop by performing her 1999 hit, “She’s A B****”. She took the dark, futuristic aesthetic of the song’s classic music video and recreated it on stage. She emerged from a pool of murky waters with black-clouded skies projected behind her. She seamlessly transitions into the choreography and then when the beat starts breaking down, she runs off – reappearing shortly after on a pedestal in a black latex coat whose tail spans most of the stage.