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Madonna, Spears, Aguilera Open MTV Awards

August 29, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera gave a writhing tribute to Madonna as MTV kicked off its 20th annual Video Music Awards on Thursday by reaching into its past.

Dressed in the same kind of white bustier wedding dress that Madonna wore while performing ``Like a Virgin″ during 1984′s inaugural show, Spears and Aguilera gyrated on stage while singing a cover of the not-so-innocent tune. Then, while Madonna sang her new song ``Hollywood″ in an all-black outfit, she shared an open-mouthed kiss with both Aguilera and Spears, proving the former teen stars have come a long way since their Mouseketeer days.

Typically, MTV’s annual celebration of music videos takes a back seat to wacky antics, barely there outfits and eye-popping performances.

But this year, things may be different.

``Hurt,″ a haunting video by 71-year-old Johnny Cash, was nominated for six VMA awards and threatened to upstage the usual craziness at the night’s extravaganza at Radio City Music Hall.

Although Cash had hoped to attend, he was hospitalized with a stomach ailment.

Cash’s video, nominated for video of the year, best male video and best direction, among others, was hardly a staple on MTV over the past year. His cover of the Nine Inch Nails song wasn’t played very much, and most die-hard MTV watchers may not recall even seeing it. But it resonated with those who vote on the nominations, including music executives, video directors and journalists.

More people were familiar with Missy Elliott’s ``Work It,″ the most nominated video with eight. The music clip was loaded with special effects, dancing and surreal images. It won the evening’s first award, for best hip-hop video, which Elliott picked up after participating in the Madonna tribute.

Nominated for seven awards was Justin Timberlake’s ``Cry Me a River″ video, which takes a not-so-subtle dig at ex-girlfriend Spears; the video features Timberlake exacting revenge on a cheating Spears look-alike.

Chris Rock was the show’s host, and got in some early zingers, including one at Ashton Kutcher, whose currently dating Demi Moore, more than a decade his senior.

``You gotta watch out for Ashton Kutcher, because he’ll take your daughter and your mother!″ he joked.

Knowles was among the performers, and her extravagant stage show was top-secret.

Knowles says the show is special because ``you’re able to do some things that are not so serious that you couldn’t do at another awards show. It’s kind of silly and fun, so you can do more creative, silly things.″

The party started even before the show; MTV took over nearby Rockefeller Center for performances by Sean Paul and the Black Eyed Peas. Among the celebrities making appearances on the red carpet were 50 Cent and his new squeeze, actress Vivica A. Fox; Ashanti, wearing a pink dress that looked as if it was pasted on with small squares; Aguilera, also wearing a pink dress _ made of feathers; and Snoop Dogg, accompanied by two women he led around by the collar with a long chain.


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