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It's party time, MTV-style, in Miami

Channel poised to hand out awards for videos it no longer airs. By Michael Ventre
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

I expect a breast to be exposed. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if two or more pop out. It may even turn into an epidemic.

The MTV Video Music Awards happen Sunday night. Last year, MTV celebrated the 20th anniversary of these august ceremonies.  Since then, we’ve had the Janet Jackson incident at halftime of the Super Bowl, when she and Justin Timberlake cooked up a costuming malfunction, resulting in a boob brouhaha.

So I think we have to believe that those involved in Sunday’s MTV extravaganza will feel obligated to top that. There is a certain professional pride at stake. They can’t allow some sports telecast on network television to corner the market on outrageous behavior. The MTV Video Music Awards are all about outrageous behavior, because they sure aren’t about videos anymore.

Back in the day, MTV focused on introducing the hot new music acts to the world with cool veejays. Lately, though, MTV has shown fewer and fewer actual videos on its video channel. It’s a little like the History Channel not showing any more history.

But all is not lost at MTV. Instead of music videos year round, MTV has boiled its identity down to this showcase event, where it invites celebrities from all corners of the entertainment world to serve as performers and presenters. In the process, expletives, nudity and suggestive acts have become as commonplace as Kaballah water in Madonna’s dressing room.

And remember, this is cable, which is out of the purview of the FCC. So anything goes. And it usually does.

A kiss is just ... a media sensationLast year will be remembered for the kisses shared onstage by Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. The stunt was supposed to be scintillating, but it came off as just your basic premeditated lesbian lip-lock among superstar pop divas. Old hat, really. Of course, that didn’t stop MTV. The net doesn’t show too many videos anymore, but it managed to show that clip a few thousand times.

A few years back, Marilyn Manson showed his naked butt cheeks at the show. So did Howard Stern. I don’t know what either’s posterior has to do with music. If they somehow used their hind quarters to make music, then I hope the folks watching at home took that opportunity to take a refrigerator break and skip that particular awards category.

Eminem also has figured prominently in the festivities. Besides performing songs with lyrics that angered gay and lesbian groups, he also produced blowup dolls he called “Christina Gag-uilera” and “Ditzy Spears,” proceeded to pummel them, then kicked them into the audience. Apparently Eminem isn’t a big fan of the lesbian lip-lock.

Sunday’s show will present plenty of opportunity to top previous editions of the VMAs. For one, it will take place in Miami instead of New York. Miami is now being touted as the Hip-Hop Capital of the World, which is a positive development for most hip-hop stars. New York has a state and a city tax whereas Miami has neither. Considering the size of posses and entourages these days, establishing a base in Miami saves the average artist a lot of jack.

On Sunday, the presenters will comprise an eclectic blend of talent that includes Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Will Smith, Hilary Duff, Jimmy Fallon, Shaquille O’Neal, Brandy, Nick Lachey, Queen Latifah, P. Diddy, Lenny Kravitz and John Mellencamp. The performers on hand will include OutKast, Usher, Lil Jon, Hoobastank, Nelly, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys and Jessica Simpson.

Most of those people don’t sound like the type who would bare their butt cheeks or utter expletives. But you never know. If Shaq does either, I hope it’s an expletive.

Have the Lava handyAlso, there is no host per se, but several will handle the mike, including Dave Chappelle, one of the funniest men alive. Dave has done a skit in which he plays a blind white supremacist who doesn’t know he’s black. That bit of twisted logic would be the perfect fit on a show celebrating music videos by a channel that doesn’t show music videos anymore. And just a warning, but Dave occasionally lets a curse word slip here or there.  If you wanted to wash his mouth out with soap, you’d have to use Lava.

The competition for the awards will be fierce. Jay-Z leads all nominees with six for his “99 Problems” video. Beyonce, No Doubt, Usher and OutKast each received five. Even though videos aren’t MTV’s bread and butter these days, the awards still hold some cache.

It’s almost like an exercise in nostalgia. Artists recall, for instance, what videos did for Michael Jackson, Public Enemy, Don Henley, Prince, Depeche Mode and a host of others, so there is still the belief that the magic of music videos will translate into record sales and increased popularity. But then reality hits when they realize the only time fans can be assured of seeing the videos is once a year during the VMAs, when they give out awards for those very same videos. On the plus side, if they’re only going to be shown once a year, then they can take their time making them.

There will be a 250-foot enclosed (and air conditioned) red carpet at this year’s event that will lead right to the beach because many of the celebrities will arrive by yacht. I hope the MTV execs had the good sense to pass out Dramamine before the voyage. The sight of world-famous music stars leaning over the rail and throwing up might not convey the super-cool vibe the network covets.

There will be loads of festivities leading up to the MTV Video Music Awards as well. Miami will be abuzz with parties, concerts and gatherings. Lots of alcohol will be consumed, many limos will be hired, and several people will have to be untangled from their own bling bling. For yet another year, MTV will make its case that the party is more important than the reason for the party.

Michael Ventre is Los Angeles-based writer and a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.