Top Five Moments at MTV's VMA

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Eminem takes the Best Rap Video award at the MTV Video Music Awards

No award show bends as consistently below the limbo bar of exuberant tastelessness as the MTV Video Music Awards. The 2002 version was no exception. Here are the top 5 moments of self-promotion, weirdness and general stupidity:

5. Shakira

She's Colombian and her English flows like a Berlitz tape. But no one was looking at Shakira's mouth last night. With four inches of premium leather stretched magically over the expanse of her backside, Shakira jiggled through the four minutes of her mini-hit Objection like a modern Charo. Jennifer Lopez's ass had no comment.

4. American Idol

Why would MTV promote a Fox show by allowing Idol's judges and finalists to present the best new artist award? Because MTV has only two allegiances: ephemera and ratings. Idol has plenty of both to spare.

3. Guns 'N Roses (or Axl and Some Random Guys)

A dozen years after he last meant much to anybody, Axl Rose reappeared, cornrowed and backed by what appeared to be one of the guys from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Buckethead, a guitarist who wears a KFC tub on his head and thus could well be Joe Satriani. The three song medley — Welcome to the Jungle, Madagascar and Paradise City — was competent, but felt a lot like the world's most outrageous lounge act. After the show, Axl told MTV's Kurt Loder that despite a 10-year incubation period, the new GNR album still isn't done. He's co-writing with Ralph Ellison.

2. Eminem vs. Moby vs. Triumph vs. Eminem

Some background. At last year's Grammy awards, Moby said that Eminem was a talented rapper, but that his infamous homophobia set a poor example for young fans. Eminem, was outraged and struck back at Moby, calling him a "36-year-old bald headed fag" on the song Without Me.

Now: at last night's VMAs, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (a hand-puppet operated by comedy writer Robert Smigel) approached Moby to make light of the situation ("First of all, everyone knows you're 35!") Eminem, sitting a few rows in front of Moby, got out of his chair and tried to end the segment. He was very, very angry and had two members of his posse with him. MTV, which likes its spontaneity rehearsed, cut away from the segment. Moments later, Eminem won an award, stumbled during his acceptance speech, and blamed "that girl Moby" for distracting him. When the audience booed, Eminem added "I will hit someone with glasses." Presumably he meant Moby.

Rap has had plenty of feuds over the years, and they've all been idiotic. But at least past instigators had the guts to pick on other rappers who were physically imposing. Tupac ridiculed the 6?4 300-pound Notorious B.I.G. Nas went after the much-larger Jay-Z. Eminem picked on a scrawny vegan pacifist DJ — and a handpuppet. Very bold.

Smigel was heartbroken that MTV cut him off. "I had a great line," he told TIME. Then, in the voice of Triumph, he performed what would have been his closing joke, aimed at Eminem. "My mom's a bitch, too, but you don't hear me rapping about it! Thank you, Goodnight!"

1. Michael Jackson, Artist of the Millennium

Britney Spears presents the King of Pop with a birthday cake and a glitter-splashed trinket which he presumes is his Artist of the Millennium award. Bach and Mozart are outraged. MTV denies any such award exists. Nevertheless, Michael proceeds to give an acceptance speech. Later, upon exiting Radio City Music Hall, all fans in attendance receive Artist of the Millennium awards.