1989 MTV Video Music Awards

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1989 MTV Video Music Awards
DateWednesday, September 6, 1989
LocationUniversal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles
CountryUnited States
Hosted byArsenio Hall
Most awardsPaula Abdul and Madonna (4 each)
Most nominationsMichael Jackson (9)
Television/radio coverage
Produced byDick Clark
Doug Herzog
Directed byBruce Gowers
← 1988 · MTV Video Music Awards · 1990 →

The 1989 MTV Video Music Awards aired live on September 6, 1989, honoring the best music videos from April 2, 1988, to June 1, 1989. The show was hosted by Arsenio Hall at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.[1]

This year four new "genre" categories (Best Heavy Metal Video, Best Rap Video, Best Dance Video, and Best Post-Modern Video) were added, alongside the International Viewer's Choice awards. Also, the award for Best Concept Video was retired this year, and the eligibility cutoff date was moved two months down from April to June, making this a 14-month eligibility year.

In terms of the awards, Madonna and Paula Abdul were the night's biggest winners with four awards each, while rock group Living Colour was the second biggest winner, taking home three moonmen that night. On the other hand, Michael Jackson was the most nominated artist of 1989, receiving nine nominations for two of his videos: six for "Leave Me Alone" and three for "Smooth Criminal", but only took home one award for Best Special Effects.

The award for Video of the Year, went to Neil Young's controversial video for "This Note's for You", making this the first time since The Cars' win in 1984 that an act takes home the main award without winning any other one. Unlike The Cars, though, Young's video did not have any other nominations that night except for Viewer's Choice, which until 1994 had exactly the same nominees as Video of the Year. The Viewer's Choice award, however, went to another video that also stirred up controversy: Madonna's "Like a Prayer."

The ceremony is notable for comedian Andrew Dice Clay's stand-up routine that included adult versions of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, leading MTV executives to ban him from ever appearing on the network again,[2] and Def Leppard's performance of "Tear It Down" would be the last live appearance of guitarist Steve Clark before his death on Tuesday January 8, 1991.


MTV announced in mid-June that Arsenio Hall would host the 1989 Video Music Awards, which would be held on September 6 at the Universal Amphitheatre.[3] Nominees were announced at a press conference held at the Saxon-Lee Gallery in Los Angeles on July 11.[4] The addition of four "genre" categories was meant to reflect MTV's new programming strategy, which shifted away from freeform video rotation to specific shows dedicated to certain genres.[5][6] Thus, Best Dance Video reflected the videos on Club MTV, Best Heavy Metal Video reflected Headbangers Ball, Best Rap Video reflected Yo! MTV Raps, and Best Post-Modern Video reflected Post-Modern MTV. For the first time, the ceremony was broadcast via satellite on MTV's international affiliates, leading to the introduction of the International Viewer's Choice awards.[7] The ceremony broadcast was preceded by Ken & Kevin on the Road to the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, hosted by Ken Ober and Kevin Seal.[8]


List of musical performances
Artist(s) Song(s) Ref.
Madonna "Express Yourself"
Bobby Brown "On Our Own"
Def Leppard "Tear It Down"
Tone-Loc "Wild Thing"
The Cult "Fire Woman"
Paula Abdul Medley
"Straight Up"
"Cold Hearted"
"Forever Your Girl"
Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora "Livin' on a Prayer" (intro)
"Wanted Dead or Alive"
The Cure "Just Like Heaven"
Cher "If I Could Turn Back Time"
The Rolling Stones "Mixed Emotions"
Axl Rose and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "Free Fallin'"
"Heartbreak Hotel"


Winners and nominees[edit]

Winners are listed first and highlighted in bold.

Video of the Year Best Male Video
Best Female Video Best Group Video
Best New Artist in a Video Best Heavy Metal Video
Best Rap Video Best Dance Video
Best Post-Modern Video Best Video from a Film
Breakthrough Video Best Stage Performance in a Video
Best Direction in a Video Best Choreography in a Video
Best Special Effects in a Video Best Art Direction in a Video
Best Editing in a Video Best Cinematography in a Video
Viewer's Choice
(presented by Pepsi)
International Viewer's Choice: MTV Europe
International Viewer's Choice: MTV Internacional International Viewer's Choice: MTV Japan
Video Vanguard Award
George Michael

Other appearances[edit]

  • Kevin Seal – appeared in a couple of pre-commercial segments telling viewers what was 'coming up' on the show
  • Richard Lewis – performed a brief stand-up routine
  • Fab Five Freddy – appeared in a pre-commercial segment telling viewers what was 'coming up' on the show
  • Julie Brown – appeared in a series of taped vignettes before some commercial breaks
  • Adam Curry – appeared in a couple of pre-commercial segments telling viewers what was 'coming up' on the show
  • Daisy Fuentes – appeared in a pre-commercial segment telling viewer's what was 'coming up' on the show
  • Andrew Dice Clay – performed a brief stand-up routine
  • Ken Ober and Colin Quinn – appeared in segments about Viewer's Choice voting procedures throughout the show


  1. ^ "Past VMAs – 1989". Retrieved October 12, 2007.
  2. ^ "The 2010 VMA Countdown: Andrew Dice Clay Earns Himself A Lifetime Ban". October 18, 2010. Archived from the original on October 18, 2015. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
  3. ^ "ABC picks up 'Father Dowling'". Pensacola News Journal. Gannett News Service. June 22, 1989 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ Jones, Kasey (July 12, 1989). "Guns N' Roses, Paula Abdul and Bobby Brown dominate MTV award nominations". The Baltimore Sun – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ Johnson, Kevin (September 6, 1989). "MTV sings praises with tonight's video awards". The Salinas Californian. Gannett News Service – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ Banks, Jack. Monopoly Television: MTV's Quest To Control The Music, p. 124, at Google Books
  7. ^ "MTV Video Music Awards to be telecast Wednesday". Scranton Tribune. September 2, 1989 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "TV this week". The Commercial Appeal. September 3, 1989 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "YouTube – komekome『MTV Video Music Awards』". Archived from the original on June 30, 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2009.