That striptease, that python, that kiss. These three things are synonymous with Britney Spears' performances at the MTV Video Music Awards. Now the world will possibly get another one-word defining performance from Spears when she returns to the 2016 MTV VMAs to perform once again. It's been nearly a decade since the singer took the stage at the awards show, and it couldn't come at a better time. Spears has called her upcoming album, Glory, out August 26, her most personal yet, tweeting that her ninth studio album is "the beginning of a new era." What better way to kick off this new era than with her sixth VMAs performance, which marks the live world premiere of her latest single "Make Me..." with G-Eazy.
Spears is the pop star of the Millennium, so it also seems fitting that she will grace the stage for MTV's 35th anniversary — especially since MTV previously made it clear in their biography that pop music wouldn't exist without her: "Spears didn't just become a star — she was a bona fide pop phenomenon." The relationship is symbiotic though, since it's easy to say that, without MTV, the Britney Spears the world knows and loves wouldn't exist either. Anyone under the age of 35 grew up watching Spears, who's had her share of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, both of which were captured in VMA performances.
Her first solo outing at the 2000 Video Music Awards began with a cover of The Rolling Stone's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which seems funny now since everyone watching was satisfied with her performance. She strutted around that stage in that nude crystal embellished catsuit singing "Oops! ...I Did It Again" into her wireless headset mic, surrounded by her male dancers, who couldn't hold a candle to her moves, like she owned the damn place.
And, for a few years, she really did. In 2001, she performed "I'm A Slave 4 U" with a python draped around her neck (a stunt Spears deemed "so dumb" in 2016) and proved she was then, and forever would be, pop's ultimate princess. Even when she wasn't the main event at the VMAS, she managed to steal the headline. It was she that showed girls that they could do anything boy bands could do better with a 1999 medley of “Baby One More Time” / “Tearing Up My Heart” with *NSYNC. She also became the focus during Madonna's 2003 hits with that steamy lip lock seen 'round the world, which Spears told MTV News was her favorite VMA performance. "The kiss was amazing," she said. "Being onstage with someone of that caliber is just iconic."
But not every VMAs performance was iconic in a good way. Spears earned headline with her 2007 VMAs appearance, her most recent, but it was for all the wrong reasons. When she took the stage to perform "Gimme More," she looked lethargic. It was deemed her big comeback after being in the news not for her music, but for her mental state. (It was only seven months after the world saw a shaved Spears take an umbrella to a paparazzo's car.) Watching it then, and again now, it becomes clear that it was way too soon for the star to be back in the public eye. She barely does the dance moves and seems to be lip-synching off time — a surprise considering how precise and energetic her other VMAs performances had been.
That's why this upcoming performance feels like redemption and a chance to show who she has become over the course of the last decade. Spears may not be the teenager we first met in 1999, but, at 34, she's become a mature performer who is honing her skills in Las Vegas. This is her chance to let people see where she is now and for us to catch another glimpse at the star who's won six VMAs, including the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 2011. This is her chance to reintroduce herself to the world on the stage that christened her pop's great hope 17 years ago. This is Britney, b*tch. Never forget it.
This is also an opportunity for Spears to reclaim her VMAs crown with a performance that is more like what we're used to from Brit Brit. She's talked about Glory being a chance for her to show a new side of herself, and what better place to show off this new adult version of herself than at the VMAs? This is a new beginning in a familiar location — sort of a safe space to get her re-started. It's a powerful return to a place where she's already shown what a powerful performer she is. It's going to be a performance that none of us will want to miss, as only the queen of pop can do.