Video Music Awards Party Over

The MTV Video Music Awards began with many people expecting it to be the ultimate showdown between angst-ridden rap and squeaky-clean entertainment, as Eminem and ’N Sync headed into the MTV Video Music Awards with six nominations each.

Shawn Wayans kicked off the event posing as comedian Chris Rock, last year’s host. He proceeded to insult most of the star studded audience, and ended up getting pounced on in a mock riot with Britney Spears and boy band lookalikes.

Steven Tyler and Dr. Dre handed out the first awards for Best Group Video, to Blink 182 for “All the Small Things,” then a surprised Jennifer Lopez picked up the award for Best Dance Video “Waiting For Tonight.”

She was practically speechless about the distinction, saying “I’m just happy, if I forgot you I’m sorry.”

The rest of the nominees span all types of music: alternative rock-rap veterans Red Hot Chili Peppers have five nods, along with pop starlet Christina Aguilera, headbangers Metallica and singer Sisqo, whose claim to fame is the “Thong Song.” Britney Spears is close behind with four nominations, including three for “Oops! … I Did It Again.”

Battle of the Most Outrageous

At this show, you don’t have to do anything spectacular in terms of racking up the moon man statuettes to end up in headlines the next morning. The broadcast, which unofficially kicks off the back-to-school season, is generally memorable more for its wild fashion statements and onstage antics than the winners’ tallies.

Past extravaganzas have included such occurrences as Howard Stern descending on the stage as his own version of a superhero, Fartman, and a young Madonna crawling the stage in a wedding dress for her early hit “Like a Virgin.”

Not to be outdone, Marlon Wayans mooned the crowd at the beginning of this year’s festivities.

Tonight’s event has all the personalities to make for an equally entertaining experience, with musical performances by ’N Sync, Eminem, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spears, Aguilera, Blink 182 and Rage Against the Machine.

The presenters include actor Robert De Niro and a long list of chart toppers including Lil’ Kim, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst. And in keeping with its reputation for attracting the top names in pop culture, TV’s Survivor millionaire Richard Hatch has agreed to present an award.

Wayans’ World

The ringleaders of the whole show are the Wayans brothers, the comic duo who topped the box-office charts this summer with their hit Scary Movie.

“They have never been put in a situation of an awards show before, so I think in a way you’re going to see them in a different light. And I think people are kind of intrigued to see what they’re going to do,” said Tom Calderone, VP of music and talent programming at MTV.

The Wayanses are the first pair to share the stage as co-hosts since the first awards were handed out in 1984, with Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler at the podium.

The brother team started with the spoofs for the event, dressing up as tennis champs Venus and Serena Williams in promos for the award ceremony.

Thongs, Roaches and Pink Hair

No one can say the race for Best New Artist lacked in color — Macy Gray sporting a deep red afro snatched the award for “I Try,” beating out young female singer Pink, who has a cropped bubblegum-colored hairstyle in the video for “There You Go,” Christina Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants,” R&B singer Sisqo’s anthemic “Thong Song,” and alternative rockers Papa Roach for “Last Resort,” also a hit song this summer.

And winning this award could be a good omen. Consider last year’s champ, Eminem, who went on to score one of the top-selling albums of 2000 with his Marshall Mathers L.P. The album spawned the video “The Real Slim Shady,” where the singer challenges wannabe rap singers.

The video for that song is up for the coveted Video of the Year, with ’N Sync for “Bye Bye Bye,” D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication” and pop-punksters Blink 182’s “All the Small Things,” which spoofs the boy bands that continue to dominate MTV.

Slim Shady vs. ’N Sync Calderone is not surprised the event is largely becoming a showdown between Eminem and ’N Sync.

“In reality that’s kind of what MTV is right now, it is Eminem and ’N Sync, and I think that both provided really good videos as well as great drama behind the scenes,” said Calderone.

’N Sync has attracted throngs of female fans and racked up the most album sales in a week, ever, when No Strings Attached debuted in March. The album also generated the hit “Bye Bye Bye,” which is also up for Best Group Video, Best Dance Video, Best Choreography and the Viewer’s Choice award. In the video, the five band members pretend to be puppets and ultimately end up in a high-speed car chase in an attempt to lose a girlfriend.

In Eminem’s case, the behind-the-scenes drama includes legal troubles ranging from ongoing court hearings for weapons charges to defamation lawsuits and a recently announced split from his wife Kim Mathers, none of which deterred fans from calling in to make sure his video “The Real Slim Shady” became a staple earlier this year on MTV’s afternoon show, Total Request Live. The video is also up for the Viewer’s Choice award, along with Best Rap Video and Best Male Video.

Winners aside, Calderone says they’ve been working all year to ensure an evening filled with eye-opening moments, and to satisfy the viewers expecting this year’s event to top its predecessors. “Literally, the day after the Video Music Awards, we sit there and go, ‘OK, what are we going to do next year?’”

ABC Radio’s Andrea Dresdale contributed to this report.