VMA Preview: Over the Top Spectacle, Humor Will Rule the Night

By Lauren Bertolini and Michael Preston
|  Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011  |  Updated 3:54 PM EDT
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The 26th annual MTV Video Music Awards air live this Sunday night from Los Angeles, and judging from the show's checkered history, it's impossible to know what storyline will dominate the headlines Monday morning.

Kanye West, who dominated headlines last year after he hijacked pop starlet Taylor Swift's acceptance speech, is set to take the stage again at this year's awards. The performance has sparked rumors of a possible reunion between the hip hop artist and Swift. 

Acid-tongued talk show host Chelsea Handler is the ringmaster of this year's high-powered celebrity circus and she's already cracking her whip at every star in sight. In a series of interviews with MTV News in advance of the show, she's already expressed her desire to make out with Eminem ("I don't see why I wouldn't"), called Justin Bieber a "sexual deviant" ("He's using the flirty card with everyone he meets, and I'm not gonna fall for that") and marveled at Lady Gaga's elaborate costumes ("Whatever she wears is amazing. You could watch her for hours and just eat cereal. You don't even need the cereal").

The ubiquitous Gaga gathered a record 13 nominations this year for "Bad Romance," which is up for Best Female Video, Best Pop Video and Best Dance Music Video. Eminem's "Not Afraid," from his triumphant comeback album "Recovery," follows with 8 nominations and will go head-to-head with Gaga for Video of the Year.

The race for Best New Artist promises to be highly competitive and will likely come down to either tween superstar Justin Bieber for "Baby" or to Ke$ha for her inescapable "Tik Tok," though indie super band Broken Bells could sneak through the back door. 

The battle over the Best Collaboration moon man has an interesting sub-plot involving pop music's reigning power couple. Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" with Alicia Keys squares off against not one, but two Beyonce videos, "Telephone" and "Video Phone (Extended Remix)" both made with, who else, Lady Gaga.

Eminem leads a strong stable of performers that also includes West, Bieber, his mentor Usher and Canadian rap sensation Drake.

The list of presenters is also impressive with Justin Timberlake, "Glee's" Jane Lynch, Ellen DeGeneres, Rick Ross "Twilight's" Ashley Greene, Kim Kardashian, "Gossip Girl's" Penn Badgley and, yes, the cast of "Jersey Shore" on hand to give out the night's awards. 

Travis West, a former competitor on "So You Think You Can Dance" and lead choreographer for this year's VMAs, thinks this year's show has the potential to be special.

"The stage here, the set is really futuristic and spacey," he said."  We wanted to create something epic for the VMAs this year."

Tune in at 9 p.m. on Sunday to find out just how epic it will be.

Check out Lady Gaga's video for "Bad Romance," the second most popular YouTube video of all time with over 270 milion views as of September 2010. Only Justin Bieber's "Baby," has more views.

Selected Reading: MTV, Us Weekly, E Online

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