The 22nd edition of the Europe Music Awards hits Milan on Sunday. The EMAs are 10 years younger than MTV’s other big awards ceremony, the Video Music Awards, and you should think of them like the VMAs’ younger, sloppier sibling. It’s the kind of show where P Diddy will offer a ring to the first girl in the crowd to get naked onstage, and someone will actually do it. Here’s a brief history of the show, in its 10 most notorious moments.
1995 BONO CALLS THE FRENCH PRESIDENT A WANKER
When the EMAs were younger they were serious, political, and sweary – nowadays, they’re just sweary. Following a political speech from Jon Bon Jovi, of all people, which criticised Jacques Chirac for French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, U2’s Bono addressed the Parisian crowd by saying, “What a city, what a night, what a crowd, what a bomb, what a mistake, what a wanker you have for president.”
1996 METALLICA TROLL MTV BY SINGING/SWEARING ABOUT BESTIALITY
Unhappy with the restriction on their more explicit material – they were asked to play the swearword-free ‘King Nothing’ in a very PG-seeming show – Metallica rebelled by a punchy one-two of offensiveness. First was ‘Last Caress’, which is about rape and murder. Then came a cover of Anti-Nowhere League’s ‘So What?’, which blends bestiality and statutory rape with lots of swearing. Two big fat middle fingers to MTV.
2000 ROBBIE WILLIAMS IS TOO HONEST ABOUT EVERYTHING FOR EIGHT SECONDS
A pretty wired Robbie won the award for Best Song for ‘Rock DJ’ and then decided to say, “I think it’s a terrible song and a silly song.” And he then continued his honesty streak, exclaiming, “When I was growing up, I dreamt about being a popstar. I’d like to thank MTV for my three houses, my five cars and my supermodel girlfriend. Live the dream.” Yeah, Robbie. #livethedream.
2001 DAMON ALBARN DROPS TRUTH BOMBS, ACTUALLY SAYS “FUCK THE MUSIC”
This show was one of the first entertainment broadcasts following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Albarn was clearly quite shocked that Gorillaz had won Best Song and, accepting the award in a CND T-shirt, he turned to politics, saying “Fuck the music. Listen. See this symbol here [on his T-shirt] – this the symbol for the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament. Bombing one of the poorest countries in the world is wrong. You’ve got a voice and you have got to do what you can about it, all right?”
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2002 P DIDDY PAYS A WOMAN TO UNDRESS
Who knows what was going through ceremony host Diddy’s head when he got a girl in his Barcelona audience to undress in exchange for one of his rings? “Y’all see this pinky ring right here?” he enquired. “Imma take this ring off, and the first young lady to come up here and get butt naked, get nude, I’m gonna give this ring to you.” One girl does, snatches the ring, and then runs off the stage before he can “get a good look at that ass.”
2003 CHRISTINA AGUILERA HAS STINKY BEEF WITH KELLY OSBORNE
There was some precision-engineered beef at the 2003 EMAs. Ozzy Osborne’s daughter Kelly had slagged off Christina’s Christmas CD on their family reality show The Osbornes (“I wanted to fucking stab myself”) before making comments about Aguilera such as “she’s one of the most disgusting human beings in the world” and “I’ve seen drag queens who look better.”
Christina responded on the red carpet by saying “I personally think she has a crush on me because she seems so obsessed with talking about me”, but then went way further by using her face as a dartboard in a skit while hosting the EMAs. “If Christina Aguilera has to resort to throwing darts at my head after everything she’s achieved and everything she’s done, then she’s a really sad, sorry person,” saith Kelly, “and I take it as a complete compliment.” Says Aguilera: “Honey, if you can dish it out, you’ve got to learn how to take it back”. Bored yet?
2005 BORAT CAUSES HAVOC
Sacha Baron Cohen’s brief reign as host was manic because, in character as the moustached buffoon Borat, he seemed determined to push everyone’s buttons. His introductions were always off-key – Coldplay were Green Day and vice versa – while some were plain menacing: “Please prepare yourself for masturbation because next are international singing prostitutes, Pussy Cat Dolls”. Then there was his weird, staged theft of Chris Martin’s trousers, following which he tried to sell the young boy that was wearing them to the Coldplay frontman. Not sure MTV would allow that skit today.
2006 KANYE DOES A YEEZY RANT BEFORE IT WAS COOL
We all know about Taylor Swift getting interrupted by ‘Ye at the 2009 MTV VMAs – but what about French duo, Justice, whose ‘We Are Your Friends’ – a remix of Simian’s ‘Never Be Alone’ – had just won Best Video at the 2006 EMAs? “Ah, hell no” Kanye exclaimed as he took the mic. “This video cost a million dollars, fam. I had Pam Anderson. I’m jumping across canyons and shit. If I don’t win, the award show loses credibility. It’s nothing against you [Justice], I’ve never seen your video, it’s nothing against you, but hell no.” See that moment, in all its car-crash glory, below.
2008 RICK ASTLEY WINS BEST ACT EVER BECAUSE OF TROLLS’ CAMPAIGN
It’s one thing to Rickroll people you know. It’s quite another to Rickroll an international awards ceremony. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Green Day, U2 and Tokio Hotel were among the nominees for Best Act Ever in 2008, but thanks to an organised internet voting campaign by a group of mischievous trolls, Rick Astley took the gong. Katy Perry and Perez Hilton had no idea what to do with themselves, other than dance to Astley’s ubiquitous track ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, which, incidentally, is the sound of award-show bullshit that Kanye’s always banging on about.
2013 MILEY LIGHTS UP A SPLIFF WHILE ACCEPTING AWARD
“I couldn’t fit this award in my bag, but I did find this,” says Miley, pulling out a fat one and lighting it on the stage, while wearing possibly the steepest leotard ever made. “So thank you guys very much.” It was in Amsterdam, so not amazingly shocking, but if you do a bad lipreading without the volume, it looks exactly like she’s saying, “Everybody look at me! Right now! I’m pretty sure this has never been done before!”