No one knew what to expect when MTV presented the first Video Music Awards in 1984. Over the years, that out-of-left-field wackiness is likely the reason a channel that rarely shows music videos anymore keeps giving awards for them. Handing out Moonmen is just a pretext for getting unpredictable stars in a room together to see what jumps off. Kanye West-like ego eruptions are still the best part of the show, even as producers attempt to manufacture Twitter-worthy moments.

So, here are a few things we know about this year's VMAs:

At press time, there was no host. The last time that happened was 2007.

Lady Gaga will open the show. This might crash the Internet.

There will be a Britney Spears tribute. What the tribute entails remains a mystery. VMA executive producer Amy Doyle told Billboard.com, "Obviously, everything from her choreography to her fashion to her videos will be covered]. We said, 'Let's challenge ourselves to do something unique.' "

Amy Winehouse is expected to be honored. Doyle said the VMA producers are "talking about acknowledging" Winehouse, who died July 23. "She was very near and dear to us."

No matter what happens, this year's edition of the Video Music Awards has a lot to live up to. Here's a look back at some of the highs (and lows) of VMAs past:

 

 

1984

 

FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME Madonna, dressed in lace and garters, does her racy, iconic performance of "Like a Virgin."

 

 

1985

 

BAD BOY Host Eddie Murphy, whose salty language kept censors busy, takes Glenn Frey and Morris Day on a behind-the-scenes tour and winds up picking up a date in the women's restroom.

 

 

1986

 

BUT WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Swedish synth-pop band a-ha rules the night, taking home eight awards for the groundbreaking video for "Take on Me." To put that in perspective, Jay-Z has only six Moonmen over a 15-year career.

 

 

1987

 

ROCK AND RHYMES Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith perform their classic rock-rap remake of "Walk This Way," which would later lead to unintended consequences -- Limp Bizkit.

 

 

1988

 

BREAKING BAD Michael Jackson sings "Bad," his first-ever performance on the show.

 

 

1989

 

TEARS OF A CLOWN Comedian Andrew Dice Clay supposedly earns a lifetime ban for performing his raunchy, profanity-filled nursery rhymes.

 

 

1990

 

SHE TAKES THE CAKE Madonna's Marie Antoinette-inspired performance of "Vogue" remains an all-time top VMA moment.

 

 

1991

 

GETTING CHEEKY Paul "Pee-wee Herman" Reubens makes his first appearance after his arrest for indecent exposure. Speaking of exposure, Prince shows off his yellow, buttless pants.

 

 

1992

 

HEADBANGER'S BALL Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic nearly knocks himself unconscious when he fails to catch his guitar in midair. Howard Stern presents an award as Fartman.

 

 

1993

 

DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY RuPaul and comedian Milton Berle, who kept touching Ru's "lady bits," share an uncomfortable moment while presenting.

 

 

1994

 

THE KISS, V1.0 Newlyweds Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley perform one of the most awkward lip-locks in history.

 

 

1995

 

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID The most interesting moment happens after the show, when Courtney Love interrupts Kurt Loder's interview with Madonna. At one point the Material Girl snaps, "Courtney Love is in dire need of attention right now."

 

 

1996

 

WHY CAN'T THIS BE LOVE? The original members of Van Halen appear together for the first time since 1985, stirring up hopes of a reunion tour. But Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth still can't stand to be in a room together, so no tour.

 

 

1997

 

REALLY BIG SHOW Puff Daddy (the future P. Diddy), Faith Evans and Sting pay tribute to slain rapper The Notorious B.I.G. with the hit song "I'll Be Missing You," which samples The Police's hit, "Every Breath You Take."

 

 

1998

 

SHOW-OFF Actress Rose McGowan walks the red carpet in a see-through, chainmail-like dress with a thong, no bra and apparently no shame.

 

 

1999

 

REACH OUT AND TOUCH Diana Ross gropes Lil Kim's pasty-covered breast.

 

 

2000

 

NAKED AMBITION, V1.0 While performing, Spears rips off her pantsuit to reveal a flesh-colored bodysuit and sequined underwear.

 

 

2001

 

NAKED AMBITION, V2.0 Brit strikes again, this time performing while wearing a python, earning PETA's ire.

 

 

2002

 

MASTER OF PUPPETS Triumph, the Insult Dog Comic stirs up an ongoing beef between Moby and Eminem.

 

 

2003

 

THE KISS, V2.0 Iconic smooch between Madonna and Spears. Most folks forget that Christina Aguilera also got a kiss from Madge, but a camera cutaway mostly misses the moment.

 

 

2004

 

MIAMI VICE The show is held in Miami for the first time. Instead of rolling up to the red carpet by limo, artists cruise up by boat (or, in P. Diddy's case, a super-sized yacht).

 

 

2005

 

HIDE YOUR KIDS R. Kelly does an over-the-top performance of his hip-hop soap opera, "Trapped in the Closet," in which he assumes all the roles.

 

 

2006

 

RUNNING MEN OK Go re-creates the synchronized treadmill dance from their video for the song "Here It Goes Again."

 

 

2007

 

NO MAS Spears' disastrous performance of "Gimme More" almost derails a comeback.

 

 

2008

 

LORD OF THE RINGS Russell Brand mocks the Jonas Brothers for wearing purity rings, declaring the trio's decision not to sleep with fans is "like Superman deciding not to fly and instead just getting a bus everywhere."

 

 

2009

 

IMMA LET YOU FINISH Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift. We all remember how this ends. Also, Janet Jackson appears in a moving tribute to her brother Michael.

 

 

2010

 

'STEAKING' HER CLAIM Not only did Lady Gaga break a record for nominations (13; she won eight), but she accepted the award for Video of the Year wearing a dress made of meat.


 

This year's show

 

 

WHAT MTV Video Music Awards

WHEN 9 p.m. Sunday, live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Preshow, co-hosted by Selena Gomez, is at 8 p.m.

PERFORMERS Lady Gaga, Adele, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Bruno Mars, Young the Giant

TOP NOMINEES Katy Perry -- Nine, including video of the year for "Firework"

Adele -- Seven, including video of the year for "Rolling in the Deep"

Kanye West -- Seven, including best male video

Top Stories