Entertainment

11 Madonna Live Performances That Changed Pop Music Forever

From the VMAs to the Grammys to iconic tour moments.

At 63, Madonna can count herself as one of the most iconic and legendary figures of modern pop music. Not only did her songs forever alter the genre itself, but her rich live performances also broke boundaries for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and more. Now, with a career-spanning reissue series set to be released by Warner Records, NYLON looks back at some of her most impactful live moments ever.

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“Like A Virgin” At The 1984 MTV VMAs

Madonna, all alone in a wedding gown with no backup dancers, band, props, or set design, still managed to whip up a hullaballoo in the press the next day. Just like that, a legend was born.

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“Vogue” At The 1990 MTV VMAs

Marie Antoinette meets NYC ballroom culture’s dance-of-choice, vogueing, in what is perhaps Madonna’s most instantly recognizable live performance ever.

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“Express Yourself” At The 1990 Blond Ambition Tour

Madonna exuded power and sensuality in a Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra while performing “Express Yourself.” Rightfully, every pop star today is still riffing on the iconic look.

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“Sooner Or Later” At The 1991 Academy Awards

The haters who claimed Madonna couldn’t sing had to eat their words when she channeled Marilyn Monroe in this performance of “Sooner Or Later,” which went on to win Best Original Song later that night.

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Madonna Tribute Performance At The 2003 MTV VMAs

Yes, there was the kiss that rocked the nation — but this performance was also a star-studded medley that offered a fascinating pop-girl update to Madonna’s original “Like A Virgin” performance from 1984.

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“Live To Tell” On The 2006 Confessions Tour

Ever the entertainer, Madonna performed “Live To Tell” while floating against a massive cross wearing a crown of thorns around her head, choices that inflamed the religious community. Of course, that instantly raised this to legend status.

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“Hung Up” At The 2006 Grammy Awards

The Grammys love a cross-genre performance. Madonna and Gorillaz delivered in 2006 with their strobe-lit disco party throwback rendition of “Hung Up.” Also: those thighs!

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2012 Super Bowl Halftime Show

By 2012, Madonna’s legacy and influence on pop music had pretty much been cemented, and she acknowledged that fact by putting on a very regal and unforgettable show that just happened to be in the middle of the 2012 Super Bowl.

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“Living For Love” At The 2015 BRIT Awards

Madonna falls in the first few moments of this live performance, but it’s the way she picks herself back up and smoothly continues on that makes this one for the books.

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'Like A Prayer', 'Beautiful Game' and 'Hallelujah' at the 2018 MET Gala

This exclusive performance given only to the guests in attendance at the 2018 MET Gala lives on thanks to YouTube, where it’s obvious she took the year’s religious theme to heart.

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“Medellín” With Maluma At The 2019 Billboard Music Awards

One of Madonna’s most recent live performances, she proves that she’s still got it even while dressed up as a polka-dotted maid-pirate.