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This year’s MTV Video Music Awards turned into an old-fashioned Motor City showdown.
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This year’s MTV Video Music Awards turned into an old-fashioned Motor City showdown.

Eminem took home four awards, including Video of the Year and Best Male Video, for "Without Me," edging out fellow Detroiters The White Stripes, whose stop-action Lego clip, "Fell in Love With a Girl," nailed three VMAs, including Breakthrough video. P.O.D. and Missy Elliott, each with six nominations, were shut out.

Given past excitement, this year’s VMAs were, at times, a fairly subdued affair. Sure, there was Ludacris and his aptly named Disturbing tha Peace posse holding up traffic with a bleep-filled pre-show parade down Sixth Avenue, while a soaked Avril Lavigne, who'd later pick up a Moonman as Best New Artist in a Video, played atop the Radio City Music Hall marquee in a driving rainstorm.

But it was Bruce Springsteen's surging version of "The Rising," the title track of his new album, which set the tone by signaling a resurgence for New York since last Sept. 11 with an opening performance in front of the American Museum of Natural History. Too bad he wasn't at Radio City Music Hall, because he missed Christina Aguilera's strategically placed halter-top. Aguilera's scarves vied with Lisa Marie Presley's "Bite Me" T-shirt, David Lee Roth's combover and Axl Rose's hair extensions for tackiest fashion statement of the night.

Other multiple winners included Pink, who won Best Female Video and Best Dance Video for "Get the Party Started," and No Doubt, who copped both Best Group Video and Best Pop Video for "Hey Baby."

Early in the show, Britney Spears, paying tribute to the Al Pacino movie Cruising in Village People leather and motorcycle hat, presented Michael Jackson with a cake and present to mark his 44th birthday, which Jackson mistakenly accepted as an "Artist of the Millennium" award. The Gloved One went on to thank a laundry list of people, including magician David Blaine, whom he claimed to "believe in," but curiously, not Macaulay Culkin. Host Jimmy Fallon followed with the night's best line, commenting on how good Jackson looked for his age, he quipped: "Between you and me, I think he's had some work done."

Surprise guests included the first televised performance by Guns N Roses' new line-up fronted by the enigmatic, dreadlocked, visibly bloated Rose. The band closed the show with a raucous three-song medley, including "Welcome to the Jungle," a new song, "Madagascar" and "Paradise City" that brought the festivities to a confetti-blown finale as breathlessly reported by Kurt Loder. The band included guitarists Buckethead and Richard Fortus, ex-Nine Inch Nail Robin Finck, longtime keyboardist Dizzy Reed and ex-Replacement Tommy Stinson on bass. Both The Hives and The Vines, playing across the stage in a mock battle of the bands, put on explosive sets. Also on hand was James Brown, who had to be identified for the crowd with a flashing neon sign. Justin Timberlake made his hotly anticipated debut as a solo act while his bandmates looked on, undoubtedly with concern over their own future.

Former N.Y. Mayor Rudy Giuliani received a big hand and thanked the crowd for contributing to the city’s coffers with last year’s VH1 telethon Concert for New York City. Sheryl Crow followed with a song dedicated especially to New York. The show was moved up from its usual post-Labor Day starting date in deference to the upcoming anniversary of the events of Sept. 11.

A tribute was paid to the late TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes by sobbing bandmates Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, after Carson Daly announced the establishment of a $25,000 educational scholarship for students "as committed to the fight against AIDS as Lisa was."

In addition to Video of the Year and Best Male Video, Eminem's wins included a Best Director nod for Joseph Kahn and Best Rap Video, while White Stripes took Best Special Effects and Best Editing in addition to Breakthrough Video for their Michel Gondry-directed vid.

Em was booed upon receiving the Best Male Video honor from longtime nemesis Aguilera after being goaded by Conan O'Brien's Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (voiced by SNL writer/filmmaker Robert Smigel) into a confrontation with Moby. The bad boy rapper almost punched out the puppet, then whined when the crowd turned hostile after he referred to Moby as a girl. "Yeah, keep booing. I will hit a man with glasses," he said, glaring at the techno star seated in the crowd, though Slim Shady did end up getting cheered when he took home Video of the Year, the final award of the night. 

Other winners included Linkin Park (Best Rock Video), Mary J. Blige (Best R&B Video), Kylie Minogue (Best Choreography), Chad Kroeger w/Josey Scott (Best Video From A Film), Moby (Best Cinematography), Coldplay (Best Art Direction), Jennifer Lopez f/Ja Rule (Best Hip-Hop Video), Dashboard Confessional (MTV2 Award) and Michelle Branch (Viewer's Choice).

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