Listen Up!: Jackson does “Pop” at MTV Video Music Awards

When we say that MTV’s Video Music Awards is filled with unscripted surprises and guest appearances, we aren’t joking.

The most unexpected moment of the awards ceremony definitely belongs to Michael Jackson, who popped out from behind a giant Etch-A-Sketch screen on the cartoon-inspired set at the end of ‘N Sync’s performance.

“We begged and begged and begged [to get Jackson to come onstage],” ‘N Sync’s Chris Kirkpatrick said during the after-party broadcast. “We couldn’t tell friends, family or anybody,” JC Chasez said.

Jackson was also one of the many artists who comedian Jamie Foxx, this year’s host, refused to let get away without a bad joke at their expense.

Michael is charging $2,500 for his concert, but kids get to go for free,” Foxx said. “He loves children.”

Oh, but believe me, that was nothing compared to what came next.

While commenting on the recent penchant among artists for shortening their names, like Sean “Puffy” Combs to “P. Diddy” and Jennifer Lopez to “J.Lo,” Foxx took the liberty of renaming Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean to “Long Island Ice-T.”

When the Backstreet Boys came on stage to present the Best Rap Video award, McLean thanked MTV and his fans for supporting him through his recent stay in rehab.

“Today is 64 sober, and I’m proud of it,” he said.

But Foxx didn’t feel so proud of it, as he offered McLean champagne as the group left the stage. “It’s apple cider,” he said. “Apple cider! You can drink apple cider, can’t you?”

Without a doubt, that was the most tasteless, evil joke I have ever heard.

About a half-hour through the show, Janet Jackson read a letter that a fan had written about R&B singer Aaliyah, where she said the world had gained an angel.

Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot was accompanied by Aaliyah‘s brother, Rashad Haughton, who thanked friends and fans for supporting the singer in her career.

U2’s lead singer Bono dedicated the band’s MTV Michael Jackson Vanguard Award to the remaining members of the Ramones, who joined U2 onstage to greet the fans.

“If it weren’t for the Ramones,” Bono told the audience, “a lot of bands would have never gotten started.”

Many artists used the evening as free publicity, asking fans to buy their new albums. Such was the case with Macy Gray, who asked fans to “take a minute and concentrate on my dress,” which read “My new album drops Sept. 18, 2001. Buy it.”

While some have complained in the past that MTV didn’t play enough hip-hop, Thursday night’s Video Music Awards certainly over did it.

While Jay-Z, J.Lo, and Nelly performed onstage, the only two rock performances were those of Staind and Linkin Park. Hard rock nominees like SUM 41 and Incubus went virtually unnoticed; they should have gotten the same amount of attention.

“The next guy kisses strippers on the mouth,” Foxx said as a pissed-off Kid Rock came onstage and told him to “shut up” (we’ve omitted the bad words). The Kid was obviously defending his new girlfriend, Pamela Anderson, who openly told MTV’s Kurt Loder about their sex life. Some things never change.

Christina Aguilera was joined by the team “Lady Marmalade,” who won the Best Video of the Year for the Moulin Rouge-inspired video. “Thank you to everyone who thought we’d make great whores,” said Pink. She must have have read my mind.

And those of us who didn’t know what to expect from Spears, who promised to top last year’s strip-tease performance, were terribly disappointed this year. The look of fear on her face as she placed a snake around her neck was painfully obvious–so obvious that she couldn’t concentrate on singing the lyrics to her own song and relied instead, on her lip syncing abilities.

“You need to put your shirt back on,” Foxx told Spears after her performance. You know, that might have been the only clever thing he said the entire night.