Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake lead VMA noms -- But the real surprise is the other top contender, country legend Johnny Cash

By Brian Hiatt
Updated July 28, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s not surprising that the two top contenders for the 20th annual MTV Video Music Awards are channel favorites Missy Elliott (eight nominations for her ”Work It” video) and Justin Timberlake (five nods for ”Cry Me a River” and two for ”Rock Your Body”). But the No. 3 contender in the nominations, announced Thursday morning, is hardly an MTV staple: 71-year-old country pioneer Johnny Cash scored six nods — including Video of the Year — for his acclaimed, Mark Romanek-directed video for his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ”Hurt.”

”I am overwhelmed by this great honor,” Cash, whose video combines new performance footage with video clips from his entire career, said in a statement. ”It’s been 48 years since I cut my first record, and it’s nice that people are still digging them up.” Cash is joined in the Video of the Year category by 50 Cent’s ”In Da Club,” Eminem’s ”Lose Yourself,” Timberlake’s ”Cry Me a River,” and Elliott’s ”Work It.” In another closely watched category, Best New Artist in a Video, 50 Cent will compete with Evanescence, Sean Paul, All American Rejects, Kelly Clarkson, and Simple Plan.

Christina Aguilera and Coldplay will be among the performers at the Aug. 28 ceremony, which Chris Rock will host. The show will be broadcast live on MTV from New York’s Radio City Music Hall.