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MILEY'S FOAM FINGER
Why It Worked: Twerking on Robin Thicke during a duet of "Blurred Lines" wasn't enough of a spectacle for the attention-loving star – she needed something else to put the performance over the top (okay, more over the top). Touching herself and Thicke in places not usually targeted on national television using a giant foam finger? Yeah, that'll do it.
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Why It Worked: As the audience held its breath, Pink, strapped into a harness 60 feet above the Radio City Music Hall stage, did acrobatic twirls and tumbles on a flying trapeze as she sang "Sober." It was a risky performance that confirmed her rep as one tough chick – and catapulted her career to superstar heights.
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KATY'S BOXING RING
Why It Worked: She needed to make a "Roar" as the final act on that year's VMAs. With the dark evening sky as a backdrop, the pop star – in a leopard bra and shiny shorts – sang ferociously from a boxing ring set up under the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. And to make sure she had the audience's rapt attention, she also jumped rope!
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JANET'S VIDEO SCREEN
Why It Worked: This tribute from a sister to her late big brother hit all the right notes. Though Michael Jackson had passed away months before, that didn't stop Janet from sharing the stage with him at the awards show, via video monitor, in an energetic recreation of their 1995 "Scream" dance video.
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Why It Worked: Where to start? Well, there was Minaj's cotton-candy pink and egg-yolk yellow beehive. Then there was the outfit, a colorful mash-up of purple metal, pink tulle and accessories that ranged from an ice cream cone necklace to furry animal socks over legwarmers. And to complete the look, Minaj dragged around some stuffed animals on a chain. It was silly, inventive and girly – just like the singer herself.