5. 50 Cent
While it’s not exactly jarring to see rappers perform live over a backing vocal track, it is a rarity to witness an MC go all-out Britney Spears. But that’s what happened during 50 Cent’s showing on the 2007 BET Awards. The Get Rich or Die Tryin’ rhymer made a grand entrance during a performance of his single “Amusement Park” as he was lowered from the heavens onto the stage. But once the chorus faded out, Fiddy continued to mouth the track’s lyrics as his longtime DJ, Whoo Kidd, accidentally played the instrumental version. The multi-millionaire business pitchman was forced to wander around the stage before the song was eventually re-set. What up, gangsta?
4. Ashlee Simpson
The operative word is Saturday Night Live. But apparently Ashlee Simpson didn’t get the memo when she appeared on the long-running sketch comedy series. Jessica’s younger sister was all set to sing her title-album track “Autobiography,” but instead the words and music to “Pieces of Me”—which was performed earlier during the show—were pumped from the speakers. At that point, a closed mouth Ashlee broke into an impromptu square dance as the program abruptly cut to commercial. "I feel so bad," Simpson said during an interview following the jaw-dropping broadcast. "My band started playing the wrong song. I didn't know what to do, so I thought I'd do a hoedown.” Brilliant.
2. Michael Jackson
It’s the transformative television performance that propelled a music superstar into the King of Pop. Michael Jackson’s game-changing solo set on NBC’s Motown 25 was the Moonwalk seen around the world during the Gloved One’s transcendent workout of “Billie Jean.” As writer Steve Ivory wrote of the taped March 25, 1983 showing at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, “After Jackson left the stage, the show had to be halted so that entire production and building could regain it’s composure; so that men in the audience could straighten their ties and woman could adjust their wigs.” It was a jolting coming-out-party of sorts for MJ following a totally live feel-good reunion with his Jackson 5 brothers. It was monumental. And it was also lip-synched. Despite that fact, the payoff proved to be unimaginable for Jackson. The day after Motown 25 aired, Michael Mania had officially kicked off as Thriller sold more than one million copies in Los Angeles alone on its way to becoming the highest selling album of all-time.
1. Whitney Houston
Before her widely public struggles with substance abuse, the late Whitney Houston possessed one of the most celebrated voices in pop music history. Which is probably why no one did a double take when it was discovered that the legendary diva’s now landmark performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during Super Bowl XXV in 1991 was actually pre-taped. Indeed, there was little outcry of outraged pitchfork-carrying observers given that Whitney’s National Anthem was delivered under the backdrop of the Persian Gulf War. American patriotism put such notions to rest as a global audience of 750 million tuned in for the broadcast. When Whitney’s version of the “Star Spangled Banner” was released to the public on February 12, 1991 it peaked at no. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, spending an impressive 11 weeks on the charts.