The pop star will again open MTV’s Video Music Awards, which will broadcast live from Los Angeles’s Paramount Studios on Sunday night (9 p.m. ET). But unlike last year, where Spears delivered a memorable (and critically derided performance, the pop star is not expected to perform on the show.)
“She gets an opportunity to start over again,” hip-hop producer Jermaine Dupri told PEOPLE at Friday’s TAG Records Official MTV VMA Kickoff party in Hollywood at Avalon. “A lot of people don’t get a chance to do that again. I just hope she kills it.”
And the man who’s helped launch the careers of platinum artists TLC, Kris Kross and Da Brat added, “Last time, I didn’t think her performance was that bad, but people ragged her so bad, then I saw the press.”
So what will she do?
The singer’s role on the show has been a tightly guarded secret. Regardless of how she fares live, Spears may just prove to be the talk of the night. That’s because she’s nominated for the show’s top honor, video of the year, for “Piece of Me.” The pop star has earned two other nominations, including best pop video and best female video – also for the same single. (If Spears wins, it will be her first “Moonman” despite 16 prior nominations.)
Also up for top honors are the ceremony: the Jonas Brothers (for “Burnin Up”), Chris Brown for “Forever,” the Pussycat Dolls for “When I Grow Up” and the Ting Tings for “Shut Up and Let Me Go.”
Nominees the Jonas Brothers will also perform on the show. They will join a starry group of singers, including Rihanna, who will take the stage with rapper T.I., and Pink, who will also grace the stage. “I Kissed A Girl” singer Katy Perry is expected to perform a cover of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and Kid Rock will perform with rapper Lil Wayne.
Kanye West will close out the evening with a performance.
Hosting this year is British comedian Russell Brand, known for his role a lothario musician Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But he will be joined onstage by Pete Wentz, who will act as a co-host of sorts. (Wentz’s wife Ashlee Simpson-Wentz is expected to present on the show.)
Also presenting: previously announced stars including Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan. In days leading up to the ceremony, MTV has added new presenters, including Christina Aguileraand Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford.
Britney Spears is back, said Natalie Kalow in the blog Generation Q Music, and “in a big way.” After “a terrible year for the pop icon, including a failed child custody battle and a stint (or two) in rehab,” she’s now been nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards, “including the coveted Video of the Year prize.” Maybe she just needed to go “a little crazy” before resurrecting her career.
A Britney Spears comeback would have been “unimaginable a year ago,” said Carrie Melago in the New York Daily News. “Her sloppy, lip-synched performance” of “Gimme More” at least year’s VMAs “was universally panned and ushered in a year of lousy luck.” If she gets the chance to perform at the awards show this year, it would offer her a much-needed “chance at redemption.”
“MTV would have to be crazy” not to put Spears on stage, said Alan Fein in AXcess News. Her “popularity is still strong,” and even if she blows a performance again this year, MTV still comes out on top: “To advertisers, a bomb can sometimes be worth more than a win.”
MTV fans have spoken, said Brian Marder in the New York Post, and they “clearly want to see Britney Spears take the Video Music Awards stage again.” But it’s not going to be easy for her to “win the prized Moonman”—she’ll have to “beat out” the Jonas Brothers, Chris Brown, the Pussycat Dolls, and the Ting Tings.