It's not whether you snare an award that means the most at MTV's Video Music Awards. It's how many bleeped words you spew - or how much flesh you show.
In the last few years, the next day's water-cooler chat has centered on whether Britney's nearly naked dance seemed erotic or desperate. And whether Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst dissed Christina Aguilera in their dishy duet.
For this year's show (tonight at 9 on MTV) rumor has it that Britney will perform "I'm a Slave 4 U" surrounded by circus animals.
Some worthy videos are up for awards, including Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice," featuring a high-flying dance starring Christopher Walken. Director Spike Jonze's piece earned nine nominations.
The remake of "Lady Marmalade" from the movie Moulin Rouge and featuring Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink as prostitutes is up for six. So are Missy Elliott's herky-jerky "Get Ur Freak On" and 'N Sync's kaleidoscopic "Pop."
Bad boy Eminem got five nominations for his cautionary tale "Stan," as did U2 (for the inspirational "Beautiful Day") and Destiny's Child (for the reality-show-piggybacking "Survivor").
Here's a guess at the top awards.
Best Male Video: While Lenny Kravitz's "Again" exudes star attitude, it's no match for Moby's "South Side" (which features him in drag) or Eminem's "Stan," which has an actual story line. Given the foulmouthed rapper's popularity, he's bound to win.
Best Female Video: Based on a relentlessly repetitive groove and equally minimalist melody, Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" features two killer effects: Missy's neck stretching like elastic, and the camera tracking her phlegm in the same way Korn traced the path of a bullet for its multiple award-winning "Freak on a Leash."
Best New Artist: Despite a trite story in which Alicia Keys visits her troubled lover in jail, "Fallin' " stays true to its intent: to show the world this young woman can belt.
Video of the Year: The two most creative clips here are Missy Elliott's and Fatboy Slim's. Given Jonze's prestige with voters (and his multiple wins for a Fatboy clip years ago), expect the Walken piece to dance off with the top trinket.
What: MTV Video Music Awards
When: Tonight at 8