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Spears' MTV Video Music Awards Ceremony Opener Draws Criticism

The 2007 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony took place September 9 in Las Vegas, leaving a trail of gaping jaws and wagging tongues.

Opening the two-hour event at the Palms Hotel and Casino was Britney Spears, who performed a listless rendition of her comeback single, "Gimme More."

Appearing out of shape and disengaged, she at times stopped singing altogether. Her fifth studio album is targeted for a November release. To make matters worse for the 25-year-old Spears, comedienne Sarah Silverman then delivered a scathing monologue in which she called the singer "washed-up" and referred to her two young boys as "mistakes."

Other highlights of the evening included an offscreen fight between actress Pamela Anderson's ex-husbands Tommy Lee and Kid Rock, and Kanye West's promise to boycott subsequent VMA events.

The rapper was irked that the network had chosen Spears to open the show, and was furious at losing in all five of his nominated categories.

Emphasising performances over awards speeches, MTV hoped this year's ceremony would help revive the VMAs' slipping ratings, which peaked in 2001 with nearly 12 million viewers. Last year's show drew only 5.8 million viewers, its smallest audience in 10 years.

Performers on Sunday night included teenager Chris Brown, who channeled "Thriller"-era Michael Jackson; Alicia Keys, who performed her new song "No One," along with George Michael's "Freedom"; and the show-closing trio of Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, and Timbaland.