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MTV Video Music Awards: live blogging

Not, it's not technically reality television, but I'm claiming the VMAs as my own this evening anyway. MTV claims it won't be replaying the show, so I'm blogging it for posterity. Won't you join me? (I'll be updating this entry, so hit refresh for more as the evening progresses.)

However, I'm not going to cover every minute of the pre-show because, well, there are some dumb questions flying through the air. Plus, all the buzz is about Ms. Britney Spears, who will supposedly be opening the show.

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Sway interviews Rihanna and at the end asks her where Shia LaBeuof is. There were some rumor flying around after a photo of the two of them at a club showed up. (Although seriously, it almost looked like they happened to be at the same place at the same time.) Anyway, she looks pretty mad that he'd bring that up. "You too?" she asks.

Lil' Mama is dressed like an overgrown baby in a purple outfit with a hood that looks like a bonnet, but she says it's because she is the baby of the event.

Bleach blond John Norris interviews Alicia Keys about her new album. He introduces her by saying there are tons of beautiful women at the Palms in Vegas tonight, while red carpet footage of Carson Daly plays. Whoops!

I am out of touch, and some new VJ whose name I don't know interviews Nelly Furtado. She says that she almost wore the same dress that Alicia Keys is wearing, and she also says she's looking forward to Britney's performance and that she thinks she can make a comeback.

SuChin Pak interviews the cast of The Hills. Lauren is wearing her own creation, a tank dress with sparkly Charlie Brown-ish zigzags all over it. Nothing much of substance comes up here.

Mary J. Blige says she's glad the red carpet is inside -- it's running through the Palms instead of being outside in the heat. The VJ I don't know asks Mary about Britney, too, and then about the Kanye West vs. 50 Cent standoff. She says they are both great in their own right. She says it's old-school competition without being violent.

Someone named Kim interviews Hayden Panettiere from Heroes in the fan lounge. She gets about 20 seconds of air time, during which she says she saw Maroon 5 and Robin Thicke perform last night.

Common talks to Sway about Vegas and his recent new album and who all is performing tonight.

John Norris talks to Boys Like Girls about going to Kanye's party last night and about performing poolside earlier in the day in the heat. They, like everyone, talk about the planned performances and Britney's hopeful comeback.

After the break, Norris talks to 50 Cent about how this Vegas thing is so different from the usual awards show. It's unlike the usual award preshow in that everyone is talking about Britney. But they're all saying the exact same thing, so frankly, despite the attempts to rush from person to person and topic to topic to appeal to the ADD generation or whatever, it's freakishly boring. Or maybe I'm just too old for this stuff now. Norris asks whether too much has been made about his and Kanye's faceoff on Tuesday, like it's outside of 50's control. He says it's good for hip-hop.

Preshow performance time -- at least they aren't likely to sing about Britney! They, in this case, are Nicole Scherzinger and Lil Wayne. I really don't know if this solo career is going to work out for her -- she was the lead Pussycat Doll, and she stood out among them, but alone, she's kind of generic. Even the audience right in front of her doesn't seem that excited. After she performs, Norris says, "That is just the first round, many more incredible performances to come," as if to say, "Don't worry -- it's going to get better."

Gym Class Heroes, among the nominees for best new artist, pause to talk. They say they filmed one of their videos in the Palms near right where they are and that it was a ton of fun, a big party.

Ludacris and Jennifer Hudson talk to SuChin about the crazy atmosphere. They discuss that his birthday is Tuesday and Jennifer's is Wednesday and that they are working on an album. "Virgos rule the world," he says. And, of course, they talk about Ms. Spears.

Sway talks to a tux-clad Kanye West about his album party the previous night. He says his album is ready for the clubs and cars and that it was great to perform. He says he got into a zone and "like right now I'm dreaming, and like whatever I want to do, I can do." He says if he wins video of the year, "It's good, because it goes down in history. ... People don't remember No. 2." Sways asks him if the thing with 50 is a marketing scheme or a true rivalry. He says it's totally a marketing scheme, and it was his idea, and he doesn't have beef with anyone. "It's the biggest release date in music history," he says. Um, OK.

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John and SuChin talk to stars of The Kingdom Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner. They all agree Vegas rocks and clear these two right off the carpet. Nice.

Sway talks to Paris Hilton about how she is taking a break from her film, which is a scary thought. He decides to ask her about her business acumen instead of anything else, and she mentions her clothing line and perfume and stuff. She says since her prison stint, she's been doing a lot of charity work. And of course she wants to see Britney.

Are they milking this or what?

Vegas band Panic at the Disco, who won video of the year last year, is excited to have the VMAs in their hometown. They approve of John Norris' outfit, which includes a velvet scarf. They say they are starting work on tracking their next album.

Pharrell talks for two seconds about how cool the performances are going to be, and then commercials ... for the show.

John Norris talks to the Foo Fighters, whom I adore, and who are joined by Cee-Lo. They discuss all the people who will be collaborating with them.

My DVR skips the last two minutes of preshow, and suddenly, here we are at the moment everyone's been talking about all night: Britney!

She's clad in a sparkly black bra and undies, surrounded by writhing women in vinyl pants as she performs to "Gimme More." I don't think anyone is going to claim she is singing, since she doesn't even seem to be giving that much energy to making the lip-syncing believable. There are guys in suits dancing, too, and some of the women do some acrobatics on stripper poles. The audience doesn't look that psyched. Annnnd ... we can all move on with our lives now.

Overall, though: The song isn't too bad, the dancers were pretty good (although the end, when everyone was surrounding her and undulating to the beat, it looked pretty much like that part of the video for "Toxic"), and the lip-syncing was terrible. Is that going to really make the second stage of her career? I wouldn't call it a comeback just yet, but I don't think any more damage, which some people might have been hoping for this evening. (Updated two days later: Hah! Shows how much I know!)

Opening act Sarah Silverman comes out and says that wow, "Britney Spears is only 25 years old ... and she has already accomplished everything she is going to accomplish in life." But she doesn't stop there: "Have you seen her kids? They are the most adorable mistakes!" (She goes on, but I can't repeat that.) Some members of the audience look like they don't know what to do. Jennifer Garner looks horrified. I bet Britney is not too excited that she agreed to do this anymore.

She sees Paris Hilton and says she's not going to make fun of her, but then she does in more unprintable ways. She says, regarding 50 Cent, "It is so cute that he is still alive."

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Next, Sarah says she saw Cee-Lo backstage and asked if he ever exerienced any racism in Atlanta. "And he said something interesting, he said, 'I'm Kanye West.'" Oh dear.

Alicia Keys comes out and says thanks to Sarah for not taking aim at her. She says they have a beautiful crowd out there tonight, and the crowd does not respond at all until she gives them a pointed look. She sends us upstairs to where Kanye is performing upstairs at the "Good Life Party." Then Justin Timberlake and Timbaland's "Southern Hospitality Party." At Fall Out Boy's "Friends or Enemies Party," she tries to talk to Pete Wentz, but you can't hear a thing.

Nicole Scherzinger and Eve come out to present the first award, Monster Single of the Year, "the song you couldn't escape and didn't want to." There are 12 nominees. I'm not typing 'em out. The winner is Rihanna's "Umbrella," which is an obvious choice. Rihanna thanks MTV for all its support, and her label, and Jay-Z, and Dream for writing and Tricky for producing.

Cut to Kanye performing "Stronger" at his party -- for a little bit anyway. If everyone but Britney only gets to perform clips, that is going to be annoying.

Back from the commercial, he's still performing. Oh, no, that was a Rhapsody ad. Coming back from the commercials for real, Akon's singing with Mark Ronson.

Bill Hader and Seth Rogen from Superbad tell people to vote for best new artist by text or online.

Robin Thicke and Jennifer Hudson announce the nominees for the new Quadruple Threat award. Most of these people include "clothing line" on their list of accomplishments. Anyway, Justin Timberlake wins and he says he wants "to challenge MTV to play more videos." And that's about the extent of his speech. Cut to Fall Out Boy performing in one of the other suites.

Back from the commercial, there's the Foo Fighters performing in their suite party. I wonder whether the cello player will break her instrument against the floor when the concert's over. That would rule, actually.

All these suite parties are making the actual big room look kinda staid. Wouldn't you be mad if you got a ticket to the VMAs and then it turned out three-quarters of the performances weren't going to happen in the room you were in?

Kanye West and 50 Cent come out to present the award for Earth-Shattering Collaboration. Beyonce and Shakira win for "Beautiful Liar." It looks like the Golden Globes -- people have to scoot in their chairs so she can get to the stage. Beyonce thanks Shakira, who is in Canada, for doing the song with her, and she thanks the producer and MTV.

Maroon 5's Adam Levine sings in front of the Mark Ronson group for a few seconds before a commercial.  Back from the commercial, it's a bit of the Timbaland and Justin Timberlake party.

Rosario Dawson introduces the next performer, Chris Brown. He starts out in a little fair booth, dancing like a puppet. There are a couple of little kids up there at first, too, and kids dancing are always adorable. He and his dancers perform at the giant lighted tables that all the audience members are sitting around. He is totally lip-syncing, but it's still fun, and the first full performance since Britney that is happening in the main room.

Then Rihanna comes out to perform "Umbrella." She and Chris dance together while she sings. Then she leaves and he starts doing the Billie Jean dance, which leads into another song, and the kid dancers are back, too.

Soulja Boy performs at Kanye's party. Dave and Seth ask you to vote for best new artist again, or at least to vote against people you don't like.

The girls from The Hills come out to present male artist of the year. And it's Justin Timberlake. Timbaland comes up, takes the mike, and presents him the award himself. He says, "Nobody likes to be reminded that they're getting older, and whatever Chris Brown just did reminds me that I am getting older cuz damn." He reiterates the "play more videos, not reality shows" theme. Just ignore that one, girls from The Hills.

Cut to Cee-Lo performing with the Foo Fighters on the way out to commercials. Then 50 performs at the Southern Hospitality room as Justin Timberlake comes back with his award. He and Timbaland join in on the performance.

Shia LaBeouf is there to present best female artist. He says he's sworn to secrecy not to reveal the name of the next Indiana Jones movie, but he's in Vegas, so what the heck? It's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he says. And the winner is Fergie, who is absent, so Ludacris is supposed to be accepting, but he doesn't hear. Then he is going to come up, but Shia takes it instead.

Pamela Anderson introduces Kanye West, performing again from his party. Then there's a clip from the Fall Out Boy party.

Megan Fox introduces the party going on in the nightclub Rain, run by maestro Timbaland. Then, on stage, Linkin Park performs.

Kevin Connolly and Adrian Grenier come out to present the award for best group, Adrian filming on his own camera the whole time. Fall Out Boy wins, and a guy in a rabbit suit gives it to them in their party room. They like music and kids picking up guitars. Great speech!

Cut to Foo Fighters' room. Then, after the commercial, Rihanna is back, performing "Shut Up and Drive" in the Fall Out Boy room.

Alicia Keys gets to perform in the big-kids room. She sporting awesomely huge hair and a pants and boots combo that makes her thighs look similarly big but less awesome. (I'm not saying she is big, just that these clothes are ill-fitting.) Curtains open, and there is a whole big band up there, and it's medley time with the piano! She tears up "Freedom" and dominates even though there are about 20 people on stage with her.

Kanye and Common perform for a few seconds before commercials. And Fall Out Boy room with Gym Class Heroes on the way back in.

Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner come out, and Jamie orders people to make some noise. He talks about a fight between Kid Rock and Tommy Lee. He says he is going to buy Kanye's CD and that he didn't get any money for that. He is totally freaking out Jennifer, since he isn't following the script at all. Finally, she gets to the script so they can present best new artist. She says the winner is "Gym Class Fall Out." People go crazy in the Fall Out Boy room. No speech.

Hey, there's 50 in the Southern Hospitality Room.

Miss South Carolina Teen appears to tell people they can see the performances on the internet since they are NEVER REPLAYING THIS AGAIN (or so they claim). She mocks her unfortunate moment of Web glory and tries to have a sense of humor about it.

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Mary J. Blige tries to get the audience to shut up by telling them, "Thank you." That last one silences everyone. She's presenting Dr. Dre with the ... well, I don't know what. Lifetime achievement? Or just bringing him out so he can present video of the year. Rihanna wins for "Umbrella." She says it was unexpected and thanks her manager, her best friends and the fans.

Diddy shows up and says they need to stop the violence in rock n roll, making fun of the Kid Rock thing from earlier. They say there will be one more performance, but not till after commercials.

Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado are the big finale. I had thought maybe they were doing so many performances elsewhere because this room couldn't handle big production numbers, but this definitely proves that theory wrong. It's a big ole medley and it ends with a tiny snippet of their song "Give It to Me." I thought they were going to do a little more of that song, and suddenly, it's over.

Post-show? You're on your own.

Final thoughts? Britney was boring, especially after an hour of people talking about how interested they were. Splitting up the performances into so many different rooms was kind of a mess because it just made it seem like no matter what, you were missing something. It cut between the rooms, the awards and everything else so fast that it seemed like nothing got much attention.

What did you think?

(Photo by Associated Press)

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