If you had told us 10 years ago that music videos would soon be obsolete, there’s no way we’d have believed you. Yet, here we are: It’s 2018, and although most artists still opt for visuals when it’s time to drop an album, the cold, hard truth is that they just don’t hold the same weight they did back in the day. With the demise of countdown shows such as TRL and 106 & Park, as well as the unlimited access of a mostly free Internet, we no longer wait with bated breath for a music video to go along with our favorite songs.
There’s no real anticipation or details shrouded in mystery; they come, we watch, and then they go. But as bleak as the evolution of music videos can sometimes look, we have annual celebrations like the MTV Video Music Awards to remind us that they’re still here and pretty damn fun to watch. And this year, a select group of fierce ladies—such as Ariana Grande and Cardi B—more than delivered with not only repeat-worthy tunes, but just as enticing hair and makeup looks to obsess over. So before the 2018 edition of the VMAs take place tonight, we’re reminiscing on a slew of iconic music video beauty looks that we’re still enamored with after all these years.
Beyonce—The Entire Lemonade Film
Not only did the reigning queen of music deliver a selw of unforgettable looks, from the straight-back cornrows in “Don’t Hurt Yourself” to those waist-length waves in “Hold Up,” this entire album became a pop-culture movement.
The dreaded-up hair. The oil-slicked eyelids. Oh, and who could forget those ass-less chaps?! This video marked the artistic shift of a bubblegum-pop-singer-turned-badass singer-songwriter.
The singer—who tragically died in 2001—delivered one of her most memorable looks to date in this video. We’re still obsessed with her pin-straight hair and intense smokey eye.
Britney Spears—“I’m a Slave 4 U”
Dewy skin goals and beachy hair goals were instantly achieved when Spears released one of her sexiest (and sweatiest) videos to date.
Lady Gaga—“Bad Romance”
Considered by many to be her best video ever, this futuristic visual gave us a slew of head-turning looks. Our personal favorite is short curly hair paired with a set of larger-than-life bug eyes.
Gwen Stefani—“What You Waiting For?”
For her premiere solo video, the No Doubt frontwoman delivered an updated version of Alice in Wonderland, complete with couture-inspired clothes and makeup.
Missy Elliott—“She’s a Bi*ch”
Elliot has always been ahead of her time and to be honest, it’s hard to pick just one favorite visual. But this one includes her most ambitious makeup yet and simply cannot be ignored.
Marilyn Monroe would be proud of this homage to her classic “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” performance in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Although the singer has been routinely accused of cultural appropriation within her music videos (see “Dark Horse” and “This Is How We Do”), this space-inspired jaunt is one instance where she did standout beauty the right way.
Jennifer Lopez—“I’m Real (Remix)”
This year’s Video Vanguard recipient is the queen of glam, but one of our favorite music video moments is when she basically defined effortless beauty in a now-iconic Juicy Couture set.
This list isn’t complete without Hollywood’s reigning beauty chameleon. The BDSM-inspired video during Rih’s red-hair phase is filled to the brim with head-turning hair and makeup inspo.
Shania Twain—“Man! I Feel Like a Woman”
We’ve got two words for this ’90s classic: smokey. eye.
The bejeweled, hi-def makeup combined with gravity-defying hairstyles had us ready to board the nearest spaceship.
Salt N Pepa—“Push It”
This rap trio is not only an important part of hip-hop history; they also embodied ’80s fashion and beauty with their asymmetrical ‘dos and boldly printed fashions.
Cher—“If I Could Turn Back Time”
Who better to balance a barely there bodysuit with larger-than-life hair than this music, fashion and beauty icon?
Cyndi Lauper—“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”
Long before the beauty industry began its love affair with unicorn-inspired makeup, Lauper delivered rainbow vibes in the video for her feminist anthem.
Janet Jackson—“That’s the Way Love Goes”
This pop icon has reinvented her look more times than we can count, but her burgundy curls in the early ’90s were definitely a standout moment. (Plus, how could you not love the J.Lo cameo?)
Sinead O’Connor—“Nothing Compares 2 U”
Barely there makeup and a buzz cut. Natural beauty at its finest … and an excellent Prince cover to boot.