LOS ANGELES (AP) - It took a year, but Britney Spears got the comeback she was seeking from the MTV Video Music Awards - and she didn't even have to sing or dance.
Spears nabbed three VMAs, including video of the year, erasing last year's career-low performance. Her first Moonman trophies came during a 25th anniversary show that otherwise lacked a defining moment, with most of the zaniness coming from host Russell Brand.
"Wow, thank you, I'm in shock right now. I was not expecting this," Spears, looking spectacular in a shimmering silver dress, said as she accepted her third trophy of the evening for "Piece of Me."
Spears kept all three of her acceptance speeches short.
"This is such an honor to have this award right now," she said. "I want to thank my fans, this is dedicated to you."
There was no such honor for Spears last year, when the declining diva - by then known more for her tabloid exploits and erratic behavior - kicked off the Las Vegas telecast. Looking haggard and dazed, Spears bumbled her way through a performance of "Gimme More" that gave new meaning to the phrase "Sin City."
Though Spears didn't perform this time, she still opened the show, giving a blink-and-you-missed-it introduction of Rihanna. Still, just being there was enough for a standing ovation from the star-studded crowd long before she opened her mouth to get things rolling.
Spears did provide a few laughs during a pre-taped comedic segment with "Superbad" actor Jonah Hill that preceded the live telecast. There were a few more laughs during comedian Brand's opening monologue, but the celeb audience seemed more nervous than amused, as the frenetic Brit took aim at Madonna, the virginity of teen sensations the Jonas Brothers and President Bush, whom he called "a retarded cowboy fellow."
He clearly got under the skin of one celebrity, however, with his jokes about promise rings, which the Jonas Brothers wear to signify their virginity. Another famous promise-ring wearer, Jordin Sparks, said before giving out one award:
"I just wanna say, it's not bad to wear a promise ring because not every guy and a girl wants to be a slut, OK?" she quipped.
Afterward, a somewhat contrite Brand apologized to a stone-faced Jonas Brothers, saying, "I didn't mean to take it lightly" before adding, "a little sex once and a while never hurt anybody."
Though the VMAs have been defined by zany, wild moments in the past - the Michael and Lisa Marie kiss, the Britney-Madonna kiss, Prince's butt-out jeans just to name a few - there were more head-scratching moments than outrageous ones at the sprawling Paramount Studios lot.
The prim and proper Leona Lewis gave a graceful opening performance for a song by ... Lil Wayne, who appeared on stage barechested, displaying his tattooed torso as his pants hung below his buttocks (Ralph Lauren's underwear line got a nice plug, however). He performed hits "A Milli" and a song with T-Pain.
The Jonas Brothers performed a version of their song "Lovebug" that was so genteel one might have thought they were doing a tribute to the Osmonds. But the trio then segued to a rocked-out version of the song in the final moments, as a throng of screaming fans surrounded them on one of the movie's many sets.
Pink gave perhaps the show's most rousing performance, a pyrotechnic-fueled performance of her new song, "So What."
T.I.'s performance was also noteworthy, since the last time he was due to perform at an awards show, he was arrested instead. At last year's BET Hip-Hop Awards, he was accused of trying to buy machine guns and silencers (he was sentenced earlier this year to serve about a year in prison after completing at least 1,000 hours of community service).
He performed a new song with Rihanna, who also appeared on last year's show. But the dazzling singer from Barbados is hardly in need of any second chances, coming into the VMAs as one of music's hottest acts thanks to her two No. 1 hits of the summer, "Take a Bow" and "Disturbia."
Closing the night was Kanye West who, like Spears, was hoping for a second chance after a disappointing VMA experience last year. In Las Vegas, he had a Kanye-sized hissy fit backstage and vowed never to appear at the VMAs again after he didn't get a Moonman trophy despite several nominations.
This time, he had a stage all to himself, but he still may have reason to be miffed: he won no trophies during the ceremony, and, appearing after Spears accepted her third and final trophy of the evening, may have been more of an afterthought.