With 14 of 21 awards given out during the three-hour broadcast from New York's Radio City Music Hall, performances ranging from pop to hip-hop to modern rock filled much of the show.
The 20th annual MTV Video Music Awards began with a big surprise, with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera singing Madonna's "Like a Virgin" while decked out in racy wedding attire similar to what the Material Girl wore during her performance of the song at the 1984 ceremony. Madonna herself then appeared to sing her latest single, "Hollywood," at one point exchanging open-mouth kisses with both Spears and Aguilera. Missy Elliott joined the fray to offer a few lines from her hit "Work It."
Aguilera returned later to perform a medley of "Dirrty" and "Fighter" from her latest RCA album, "Stripped," with assistance from Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro and rapper Redman. "You'll be hearing those songs at strip clubs for years to come," quipped host Chris Rock.
With 14 of 21 awards given out during the three-hour broadcast from New York's Radio City Music Hall, performances ranging from pop to hip-hop to modern rock filled much of the show. Metallica ended the show on a high note with a covers medley of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way," Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" and Michael Jackson's "Beat It."
Introduced by rapper DMX, Mary J. Blige performed parts of "Let Me Be the 1" and "Love @ 1st Sight" with brief guest appearances by Method Man and 50 Cent before a huge crowd outside in Rockefeller Center.
Chris Martin -- who during Coldplay's acceptance of the best group video award for "The Scientist" noted, "I know we don't look as good as Destiny's Child" -- led the U.K. band through a performance of the somber song. "I hope you guys didn't slit your wrists to that one," Rock said afterwards.
After dangling upside down as she descended to the stage, Beyoncé pulled a troupe of dancers through her singles "Baby Boy" and "Crazy in Love." Although Sean Paul wasn't on stage to deliver his part of the former, Jay-Z bounded out from the wings to add his bit to the latter.
Reunited veteran pop act Duran Duran was startled to receive the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award when they took the stage to present an award with Kelly Osbourne and Avril Lavigne. "This is a surprise," singer Simon LeBon said. "Thank you to the whole MTV generation."
Justin Timberlake saluted Johnny Cash, over whom he triumphed in the best male video category. Cash's clip for "Hurt" won the award for best cinematography in a video, but the country legend was unable to attend the ceremony after being hospitalized earlier this week in Nashville with a stomach ailment.
"It's an honor to be in a category with Eminem and 50 Cent, people I admire, John Mayer, too," Timberlake said. "But, my grandfather raised me on the music of Johnny Cash. I was raised in Tennessee. This should be his. In some cool way, I guess I share this with him and he deserves a round of applause."
The show took a few pokes at itself, particularly when Jack Black took the stage dressed as Michael Jackson and mocked Jackson's speech from last year's ceremony, when the artist mistakenly thought he was accepting an "artist of the millennium" trophy.
Referencing his tussle last year with the puppet Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Eminem appeared with a puppet from the Comedy Central show "Crank Yankers" to announce how he now felt "violence was wrong." But in no time, the puppet's annoying yelps led Eminem to slap and then choke it, as the crowd roared in delight.
Among those who presented awards or introduced performances were artists Kelly Clarkson, Ludacris, Evanescence, Sean Paul, Nelly, Murphy Lee, Outkast, Iggy Pop, Mya, and Run-D.M.C., actors Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Pamela Anderson, Hilary Duff, Jimmy Fallon, David Spade, Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore, and tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.
Coldplay, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake tied for the lead with three wins each at tonight's ceremony.