Expect the unexpected

Television: MTV Video Music Awards always unpredictable, never stodgy.

September 07, 2000|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

It used to be that all the producers of MTV's annual Video Music Awards show had to worry about was what the guests might say. Now they fret over what the stars will wear.

Last year, for instance, rapper Lil' Kim turned up in an outfit that left half her dM-icolletage hanging out (though her outfit did include a color-coordinated pasty). And, as the show's executive producer, Salli Frat- tini, admits, "Over the years, people have tried to one-up something that happened the year before."

So will Frattini and her staff enforce a dress code when MTV's "Video Music Awards 2000" airs live from New York's Radio City Music Hall tonight? "Not really," she says. "We don't dictate anyone's style. They come as they are."

As well they should, because that casual, anything-can-happen strategy has been at the heart of the Video Music Awards' appeal. Where the Grammy Awards telecast tends to find the music industry on its best behavior, the VMAs has traditionally been where things get a little wild.

Not that the show ever goes completely out of control. "Listen, we look out for the Standards And Practices regulations that we have at the network," says Frattini. "Something inappropriate may happen, or someone may dress inappropriately, and we're very conscious of it, whether we have to cut to a wide shot or look at a different angle.

"But I will also say that Lil' Kim came dressed the way she did because she looked great. She was covered, and it happened to be one of the most popular press photos from the show. I still see it, a year later."

Lil' Kim will be one of the presenters on this year's show, and while there has been no advance word on what she'll wear, odds are she'll have plenty of competition from fellow fashion plates Toni Braxton, Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and model Gisele Bund- chen, to name a few.

Then there's "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch, whose appearance may negate the "What to wear?" question altogether.

But it isn't all eye-candy at the Video Music Awards, as there's quite a lot of music on tap as well. In addition to Jackson and teen queens Aguilera and Spears, this year's show will include performances by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Baltimore's own Sisqo, multi-platinum boy band 'N Sync, rappers Eminem and DMX, pop punks Blink-182, and rockers Rage Against the Machine.

There have also been rumors that on the show Madonna will give her first performance since giving birth to her son, Rocco. Frattini, however, laughs at such reports. "What a rumor that is," she chuckles, though she does add, "I'm not at liberty to comment at this time."

Hmmm. Looks like we'll have to wait until show time to see.

Another potential problem area for the show is rapper Eminem. Already, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Against Discrimination (GLAAD) and the National Organization for Women have announced that they will demonstrate outside Radio City Music Hall to protest what they consider to be misogynistic and homophobic lyrics in the rapper's songs.

If that weren't enough, Eminem's video for "The Real Slim Shady" - which is up for Video of the Year and four other awards - complains about where he was seated at last year's VMAs, and casts aspersions on Aguilera's morals. Could Eminem end up being the first performer in MTV history to be denounced both inside and outside the hall?

"I think a lot of it is hype," Frattini says. "I don't think, industry wise, his reputation is as bad as the press makes it out to be. And we have a very special performance planned for him. I think it's really going to bring down the house."

Speaking of bringing down the house, comedy has traditionally been a big part of the show. This year's Video Music Awards will see Shawn and Marlon Wayans, the team behind the comedy smash "Scary Movie," replacing Chris Rock in the role of host.

"I think it's actually the first time we've had two hosts," Frattini says. "Usually, we go after hosts with comedy experience, who really know how to ad-lib. We don't have a predictable evening ahead of us, and we need somebody who can bounce back quickly, keep the audience and the viewers at home involved - which is why Chris Rock was so fantastic."

And the Wayans? "I think they're going to be hysterical," she says, with the confidence you'd expect from a TV producer. "I think they're going to add a great, spontaneous element to the show."

'Video Music Awards 2000'

When: 8 tonight.

Where: MTV

In brief: MTV's awards show promises to be edgy and unpredictable.

MTV nominations

Here are the nominations for the Music Video Awards 2000:

Video of the Year: Blink-182, "All The Small Things"; D'Angelo, "Untitled (How Does It Feel)"; Eminem, "The Real Slim Shady"; 'N Sync, "Bye, Bye, Bye" ; Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication"

Best Male Video: D'Angelo, "Untitled (How Does It Feel)"; Eminem, "The Real Slim Shady"; Kid Rock, "Cowboy"; Moby, "Natural Blues"; Ricky Martin, "Shake Your Bon Bon"

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