Taylor Swift Grammys
Credit: Jeff Kravitz/

About 20 years ago, everybody made the same joke: "How can MTV have a Video Music Awards when they don't air videos anymore?" (And in our comments section, people still make that same joke every year.)

But think about it, has the show ever been about the actual Moonmen as much as it is about the zeitgeisty memes, outsized personalities, and general pageantry of the broadcast?

Think about last year's show: While everybody remembers the Beyoncé baby-bump reveal, Lady Gaga's drag show, and Adele's tear-jerking triumph, does anybody recall what clip won Video of the Year? (It was Katy Perry's "Firework.") This year's show, which beams live from Los Angeles' massive Staples Center Thursday night at 8 PM Eastern, prides itself on first-run moments, including new tracks from Green Day and Alicia Keys and the first live performances of new singles by Taylor Swift and Pink.

But since there's not a whole lot of investment in the winner of Best Male Video (unless you literally have invested something with your local bookie), here are the seven questions you should keep on your mind if you tune in. (And even if you don't, you're still invited to hang out with the Music Mix tomorrow evening, as we'll have a live blog, photo galleries, and a full breakdown of the show's best performances and biggest moments.)

How will host Kevin Hart do?

The VMAs have had some pretty big names host the show before, though there have really only been a handful of memorable ones (see: Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, and pre-Fox News Dennis Miller). In the last few years, the role of host has been either ignored completely (neither the 2011 or 2007 shows had hosts) or given to people ill-suited for the job (Russell Brand, Chelsea Handler, and Jack Black all sort of punted it).

This year, comedian and Think Like a Man star Kevin Hart takes the microphone, and thankfully he'll be given ample time for an old-school monologue that really skewers the people in the room—just like Rock used to do. MTV tends to try to make things seem "edgy" without actually offending any of the stars they want to show up to their party, so it'll be interesting to see how much leeway Hart takes.

Who will win Video of the Year

This year's nominees are, as usual, a motley crew: Drake's "Take Care," Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know," Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls," and Rihanna's "We Found Love." "Take Care" and "Bad Girls" are the lowest-profile clips on the list, so their odds are undoubtedly slim; "Wide Awake" probably won't win because Perry took home the big prize last year.

That leaves a strange standoff between Rihanna and Gotye. The latter had a killer run and has it has over 100 million more views than "We Found Love," though both suffer from feeling decidedly vintage, chart-wise; "We Found Love" is the oldest, having peaked at the beginning of 2012, but it's Rihanna, and it seems like this could be hers. Then again, oddsmakers have Gotye as the favorite, so keep that in mind in case you want to bet your mortgage.

Speaking of Rihanna, will she and Chris Brown end up doing something together on the show?

MTV has been as helpful as anybody in helping to resurrect Brown's image following his assault on Rihanna during Grammy weekend in 2009. If there was ever an environment to get them back on stage together, it would be the VMAs. Rihanna is scheduled to perform on the show with the help of Calvin Harris and A$AP Rocky, and Brown is nominated in two categories. It wouldn't be shocking to see them either in a pretaped skit or on stage presenting something. If that does go down, expect a complicated reaction.

Which performance will I have to watch on Friday morning because I didn't watch the show? 

Last year's water-cooler moments included Beyoncé's run through "Love On Top" (complete with the reveal of the fetus we now know as Blue Ivy), Adele's awesome rendition of "Someone Like You," and Kanye and Jay-Z's fire-heavy sprint through "Otis." Pink has a history of great VMA performances (remember the trapeze act during "Sober" a few years back?), and Taylor Swift tends to trend heavily whenever she performs on a big stage (and don't forget that she'll be singing the number one song in the country live for the first time).

But the best VMA performances tend to allow for chaos, which is why we'll be paying close attention when Nicki Minaj hits the stage with the help of 2 Chainz and a "secret guest" (Rick Ross? Jay-Z? The Mormon Tabernacle Choir?). Remember Minaj's performance at the Grammys? It was terrible, but hard to forget.

What strange category have the VMAs added this year that will seem ridiculous roughly seven minutes after the show ends?

There seems to be one of these every year. (Remember when the Red Hot Chili Peppers won the Moonman for best website? Of course you don't!) You would think this year's model would be Best Video With a Message, except for the fact that Lady Gaga won that same award when it debuted last year. So the prize goes to Most Share-Worthy Video, which appears to be based on tweeting and some sort of Bing-related thing that nobody uses.

What MTV show will you hope will be canceled because of the glut of promos during the show?

Expect to be bombarded with teases for the final season of Jersey Shore, as well as the upcoming new season of Battle of the Seasons, which honestly looks insane. But MTV is known for hard-selling their scripted series, which is means you'll probably be cursing the kids from Underemployed, MTV's latest series about being young and sort of broke (but still with enough money to party and get laid) — a.k.a. I Just Want My Pants Back: Chicago Style.

Will this year's show crush the ratings record again?

The 2011 show was the most-watched broadcast in MTV's history, pulling in a pretty-astounding 12.4 million viewers. In 2010, the show attracted 11.4 million pairs of eyeballs, the biggest numbers the show had seen since 2002. This year seems set up to be a bit of a letdown: It's on in the middle of the week (those other shows aired on Sunday nights), and the roster of stars seems to be slightly dimmer this year (there's no Beyoncé scheduled for the show, for example). And MTV's overall viewership is down this summer, so it likely won't be breaking Nielsen boxes. Then again, we've been wrong before.

What questions do you hope get resolved on the show? Let us know in the comments.


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