- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2004

MIAMI (AP) — Holding its festivities for the first time in the city of skin, last night’s MTV Video Music Awards was sizzling, energetic and colorful — yet tame, by MTV standards.

There were no wardrobe malfunctions, and Britney didn’t kiss Madonna like last year — or anyone else, for that matter (neither attended last night’s event).

Even Christina Aguilera was classy, dressed demurely as she debuted a jazzy number, “Tilt Ya Head” with rapper Nelly. And the sometimes raunchy comedian Dave Chappelle even kept it relatively clean — despite teasing that he wouldn’t.

“It’s the biggest mistake you made since Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl,” he joked, alluding to the MTV-produced Super Bowl halftime flesh show that created a firestorm earlier this year.

Still, MTV provided the already-broiling Miami with even more sizzle last night as MTV brought its annual party to the city for the first time in the awards’ 21-year history.

OutKast’s vivid “Hey Ya!” won four awards, including video of the year. Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” the most nominated video with six, also won four awards. The gritty black-and-white “99 Problems,” depicts his own killing as a metaphor for his much-ballyhooed retirement, which has yet to happen.

“I felt like I was trying to push the envelope,” Jay-Z, dressed in a dapper white suit and hat, said as he accepted the award for best rap video. “That was my punishment, and this is my reward.”

Usher won his first MTV award as he took best male video for “Yeah!”

“This is my first time coming up here. Let me take my time with this,” he said.

Later, he took a dig at teen idol (and ex-Britney boyfriend) Justin Timberlake, who has been touted as his rival.

“I guess there ain’t really any competition between me and Justin no more, right?” Usher said as he picked up his second award of the night for best dance video.

As usual, the awards were an afterthought to explosive performances and surprise cameos.

Alicia Keys gave a dramatic, soulful appearance, of her hit “If I Ain’t Got You,” and was buoyed by Stevie Wonder on harmonica. Moments later, she joined Mr. Wonder and Lenny Kravitz as they sang a classic Wonder hit, “Higher Ground.”

The daughters of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and President Bush made an appearance — the Bush daughters on videotape — to urge people to vote. Even the Rev. Al Sharpton made an appearance connected to voting — not for the election, though, but for the viewer’s choice award.

Acclaimed rap newcomer Kanye West staged a dramatic version of “Jesus Walks,” then instead of using a Chaka Khan sample for his hit “Through the Wire,” brought the R&B; veteran onstage to sing the real thing.

Perhaps the most surreal, and bizarre, performance came from the Polyphonic Spree, the rock choir that performed in multicolored, choirlike robes.

There was also an appearance by uber-twins Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. Mary Kate, who recently was treated for an eating disorder, alluded to her ordeal before introducing Jessica Simpson. “Thank you to everyone. You have been very supportive for the last couple of months,” said Mary Kate.

Both Usher and Mrs. Simpson arrived on the red carpet not by car, but by luxury yacht. Mrs. Simpson arrived with husband and “Newlyweds” co-star Nick Lachey on a 68-foot yacht. The biggest entrance came from P. Diddy, who arrived aboard a towering yacht along with Naomi Campbell and Bruce Willis.


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