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In the end, it was a tie between good and evil. Eminem and 'N Sync, the year's top-selling artists, each nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards, went home with three apiece.
'N Sync's "Bye, Bye, Bye" earned Best Pop Video honors, and was also given the Viewer's Choice Award, the only prize voted on by the fans. For his part, Eminem took home Moonmen for Video of the Year and Best Male Video for "The Real Slim Shady." He also earned extra points for his role in Dr. Dre's "Forgot About Dre," which earned Best Rap Video honors.
Aaliyah's "Try Again," from the Romeo Must Die soundtrack, also earned a pair of awards, Best Female Video and Best Video From a Film.
Blink-182's "All the Small Things" was named Best Group Video, while Destiny's Child took home a Best R&B Video Moonman for "Say My Name." Sisqo's "Thong Song" won Best Hip-Hop Video, and Limp Bizkit won Best Rock Video for "Break Stuff."
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were given the Video Vanguard Award for lifetime achievement, saw the directors of their "Californication" video take home the Best Direction Award, shortly after they performed the song.
The event was held at New York's Radio City Music Hall, and hosts Shawn and Marlon Wayans, the first twosome to host the ceremony in its 15-year history. The duo began by dissing members of the audience, à la last year's host, Chris Rock, but rather then embracing the siblings, the crowd rankled, until the Wayans turned the mic over to a pair of old-schoolers, Stephen Tyler and Dr. Dre, who introduced the evening's first performer, Janet Jackson, who let loose with "Doesn't Really Matter."
From there, much of the evening was a standard music industry award show, albeit skewed toward the MTV generation. There were highlights, sure, but there were plenty of forgettable moments as well. It seemed that the majority of the presenters, including U2's Bono and the Edge, the Wallflowers' Jakob Dylan, Eve, and Sting, all have albums due in the near future, and every actor that handed out an award has a film that opens in the coming months. Madonna, whose new album is due later this month, didn't put in an appearance.
Highlights, however, included:
Most Scattered Award: Macy Gray, upon receiving her Best New Artist Moonman, gave a rambling speech and then had to be guided to the wings by Kate Hudson and Jakob Dylan.
Best Parody: The Wayans version of Macy Gray's "I Try," which featured Marlon Wayans as an enormously afro-ed Gray. The, ahem, climactic moment came as he lifted his skirt, revealing red afro-ed nether regions.
Worst Parody: The Wayans brothers portraying a breast-touching Venus and Serena Williams. The tennis-playing sisters addressed this in a video introduction for Sisqo, who performed a two-song medley that, unsurprisingly, culminated in both crotch grabs and the "Thong Song."
Best Acceptance Speech: Aaliyah, who brought her brother up to the stage to help her bring home her Best Female Video Award. Speaking with charm and grace, she closed her speech by dedicating her award to her grandfather and the memory of her grandmother. A close second was Red Hot Chili Pepper Flea, who thanked his daughter, telling her that he "hoped she had a great first day at school."
Funniest Presentation: No, not Chris Rock. Jim Carrey, a late addition to the lineup, asked the audience, "Can anyone tell me what the hell I'm doing here?" Acknowledging his utter lack of music industry connection, he broke into a credible bit of Jesus Christ Superstar and introduced Eminem's performance, saying, "He scares me a little. I've got to be honest. I enjoy his music, but he scares me. His lyrics are totally socially unacceptable, but, you know what? I think if we spend some time with our kids, we'll be OK."
Worst Presentation: Ugh, the teaming of WWF's Chynna and Survivor's Richard Hatch. Banal and unfunny, Hatch was unsuited to the live camera, and the pair deteriorated into a bit of faux wrestling that was truly unimpressive.
Most Inappropriate Presentation: … And the award goes to Robert De Niro, who was there only to plug his upcoming film, Meet the Parents. Hey, he's a great actor, but he stumbled over the titles to "Thong Song" and "Californication," the only two videos he actually had to mention.
Best Presentation: Destiny's Child and Wyclef Jean began by following cue cards, Jean asking if he could become the fourth member of the now three-part act. As he began singing "Say My Name" terribly, the members of Destiny's Child joined in, and you could actually see him decide to drop back, and out, of the performance. The trio finished the song together, sounding even better than on their studio version.
Share the Wealth: Napster founder Sean Fanning introduced Britney Spears' performance with Carson Daly, wearing a Metallica T-shirt. Drummer Lars Ulrich, sitting in the crowd, could be seen either wincing in pain or nodding off.
Worst Actor: The aforementioned Ulrich, who joined Marlon Wayans in a Napster sendup, invading a college student's dorm room and relieving him of everything he had — including his girlfriend — in the name of "sharing."
Biggest Soy Bomber: Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim C showed up unexpectedly as Limp Bizkit accepted its Best Rock Video Award. Behind the podium was a 15-foot tall structure that began shaking as Fred Durst began his acceptance speech; all eyes quickly went to the top, on which the bassist was sitting and grinning maniacally. "Stage dive, dude," advised Durst, as security quickly arrived, the telecast cut away, and the Wayans brothers proclaimed, "They are going to kick his ass!"
Quickest Quick Change: Like her or not, Britney Spears can get out of her clothes in a jiffy. She began her performance wearing a sequined suit and a fedora, doing an overly dramatic rendition of "Satisfaction." But as "Oops! … I Did It Again" kicked in, she flew out of her clothing, revealing a skintight, flesh-colored body suit and some grinding hip action that prompted Marlon Wayans to later say, "She's gone from the Mickey Mouse Club to the strip club!"
Most Revealing Outfit: Lil' Kim's spider-web dress couldn't compare to the considerably more classy Toni Braxton, who was definitely not wearing a bra under that wide-open jacket.
Biggest Surprise: Whitney Houston, who took the stage to present the Best Video of the Year Award.
Most Surprising Pairing: Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, who introduced Houston.
Best Backing Group: Blink-182 closed out the show, performing "All the Small Things," accompanied by an enormous group of tattooed midgets and dwarves, bouncing on trampolines, suspended on bungees, crowd surfing, and wrapping things up with a more-than-unrespectable kick line. Apparently, rock and roll will never die. — Anders Wright
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