MTV Icon was a series of annual television specials produced by MTV between 2001 and 2004, each paying homage to a musical artist or band selected as a cultural icon, in a format similar to the network's annual Video Music Awards and Movie Awards events. A live audience of musicians, celebrities, and fans would view a biographical film depicting the career of that year's chosen icon, interspersed by celebrity introductions and live performances of popular artists playing cover versions of the icon's songs. The iconic artist would then accept an award and perform a live set of their own at the close of the show. The series celebrated Janet Jackson in 2001, Aerosmith in 2002, Metallica in 2003, and The Cure in 2004.
In 2002 hard rock band Aerosmith was chosen as MTV's Icon. MTV Entertainment President Brian Graden remarked that "Aerosmith is one of those very few bands whose influence pre-dates and spans the entire history of MTV. They have become a fixture at the network, and we are thrilled to be able to honor them in this fashion for their continuing contributions to music and music video." The event began with the previous year's icon Janet Jackson delivering a testimonial about the band, and featured performances by The X-Ecutioners, Nelly, Ja Rule, DJ Clue, Sum 41, Pink, Shakira, Kid Rock, Train, and Papa Roach, concluding with a five-song set by Aerosmith themselves.
The Cure were the fourth and final act to be named an MTV Icon.
The 2004 MTV Icon special was held at the Old Billingsgate Market in London to a crowd of over 1,000 and named post-punk/gothic rock band The Cure as the icon of the year.Marilyn Manson hosted the event, which featured Blink-182, AFI, Razorlight, and the Deftones performing cover versions of Cure songs. Cure frontman Robert Smith joined Blink-182 onstage to perform "All of This", a song he had co-written and sung on for their eponymously titled 2003 album. During set changes the audience were shown many of the band's music videos from throughout their career. The Cure themselves closed the show by performing a number of songs including "Friday I'm in Love". Their performances of "Taking Off", and "10:15 Saturday Night" were selected to be shown in the final broadcast, representing bookends of their career ("Taking Off" being their most recent single while "10:15 Saturday Night" was the first track on their 1979 debut album). Tim Weber of BBC News remarked of the performance that "from the first riff it was obvious that they have managed to haul their music firmly into the 21st century. The Cure may still be the masters of mourning, but their performance had an edge and drive that would do any nu metal band proud. Even old favourites like 'Friday I'm in Love' were—almost—purged of the popcorn sound of the New Wave 1980s."MTV Icon: The Cure premiered October 31, 2004, on MTV2.