Eminem Rocks MTV Video Music Awards

Although Eminem, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott and P.O.D. led the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards in nominations with six nods each, Eminem walked away the winner when the awards were handed out tonight, taking home the prize for best video, best male video, best rap video and best direction in a video.

The White Stripes followed close behind with three wins, including the coveted breakthrough video award. Michelle Branch took home the viewer’s choice award.

‘N Sync and Spears left Radio City empty handed, however, giving credence to rumors that the reign of bubble gum pop has indeed come to an end.

Of course, good old fashioned rock ‘n’ rollers never die, as industry veterans Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band proved when they kicked off the 19th annual MTV Video Music Awards outside New York City’s Museum of Natural History by performing the title track from Springsteen‘s new album The Rising.

Inside Radio City Music Hall, things started off with a royal bang with pop princess Britney Spears–dressed in a riveted, low-cut leather corset–presenting the self-crowned King of Pop Michael Jackson with a big birthday cake (it was his 44th) and calling him “the artist of the millennium.”

The pop oddity, apparently thinking he had been given an award, accepted it gracefully and thanked a handful of people, specifically illusionist David Blaine, saying, “Your magic is real and I believe in you.”

“When I was a little boy in Indiana,” Jackson said, “if someone had told me that one day I’d be getting the Artist of the Millennium award, I wouldn’t have believed it. I can’t believe it.”

Well, Jacko, when something seems too good to be true, it probably is. MTV doesn’t give out an artist of the millennium award–Britney was just being nice.

Jackson‘s “surprise” appearances at the VMAs have become almost commonplace. Last year, Jackson joined ‘N Sync at the end of their performance, and seven years ago he awkwardly kissed his then-wife Lisa Marie Presley on stage.

More surprising was the appearance of former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who thanked fans for their support following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Presley was also part of this year’s show, but she wasn’t making out with Jackson this time. Presley and Avril Lavigne presented Pink with the award for best female video for “Get the Party Started.”

Other presenters and performers at this year’s VMAs included Ja Rule, Run DMC, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Usher, Busta Rhymes, Jennifer Lopez, Brandy and Kelly Osbourne, who wore a jacket with “I’m not strange, you are” printed on the back and a T-shirt that read, “My boyfriend is out of town.”

Carson Daly gave a short but poignant tribute to TLC’s Lisa Lopes–who died in April from injuries she sustained in a car accident–and announced the MTV Lisa Lopes AIDS scholarship, a $25,000 educational grant.

As expected, the show was not without some tense moments. Trouble started when Triumph the insult comic dog riled Eminem for calling Moby a “bald headed f**” on the Detroit rapper’s single “Without Me.” Moments later, Christina Aguilera presented Eminem with the award for best male video for the same song, but when irate Moby fans booed the rapper during his acceptance speech, he shot back, “I will hit a man with glasses.”

The three-hour show ended with what Kurt Loder called “a historical VMA moment,” Guns ‘N Roses performing their 1980s hit “Welcome to the Jungle,” proving–just in case Bruce didn’t manage to–that ole time rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay.

For a complete list of winners, click here.