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MTV Awards are a tamer affair

By Adrian Sainz

Associated Press

MIAMI -- There was no Madonna-Britney Spears kiss, no partially-clad Howard Stern coming down from the rafters, and certainly no wardrobe malfunctions.

The MTV Awards show on Sunday featured typical frenetic energy and sexy style, and a few musical surprises, but it was mostly a kinder, gentler version of past shows.

Usher showed as much skin as anybody, preening in front of the camera barechested as simulated raindrops fell on his chiseled body during the opening performance of "Burn." And the sometimes raunchy comedian Dave Chappelle even kept it relatively clean -- despite teasing that he wouldn't.

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"It's the biggest mistake you made since Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl," he jokingly warned, alluding to the MTV-produced Super Bowl halftime flesh show that created a firestorm earlier this year.

There might have been plenty of sex appeal on show in Miami -- cleavage was the main fashion trend for women, cool colors for men -- but little shock appeal on hand.

MTV was ready, though, using a several-second tape delay for the first time. The audio delay, used for years, was in heavy use during the hip-hop medley, which featured Lil Jon, Petey Pablo and Fat Joe.

The change of scenery for the awards, typically held in New York or Los Angeles, helped raise the decadence level at the celebrity-soaked affair, held at the downtown AmericanAirlines Arena.

OutKast's vivid "Hey Ya!" -- perhaps best described as the old Ed Sullivan show on acid -- won four awards, including video of the year. Jay-Z's "99 Problems," the most nominated video with six, also won four. "I felt like I was trying to push the envelope," Jay-Z, dressed in a dapper white suit and hat, said as he accepted an award -- called a moonman after the channel's logo -- for best rap video. "That was my punishment and this is my reward."

Usher won his first moonman as he took best male video for "Yeah!"

"This is my first time coming up here -- let me take my time with this," a beaming Usher said. "I'm so damned happy right now I don't wanna leave."

As usual, the awards were an afterthought to explosive performances and surprise cameos.

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Alicia Keys gave a dramatic, soulful spin of her hit "If I Ain't Got You," and was buoyed by Stevie Wonder on harmonica. Moments later, she joined Wonder and Lenny Kravitz as they sang a classic Wonder hit, "Higher Ground."

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