Winehouse tribute to highlight VMA awards

August 28, 2011 - 7:40 PM
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FILE - In this July 30, 2011 file photo, Tim McIlrath of the band Rise Against performs during their set at the

Amy Winehouse never appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards during her short but celebrated career. Still, Sunday's show will take a break from its planned circus atmosphere to pay tribute to the British singer, who died a month ago after years of substance abuse.

Tony Bennett will lead the tribute to Winehouse; her last known recording was with the 85-year-old crooner on his upcoming "Duets II" album. There is also word swirling that Winehouse's parents might show, but MTV officials could not confirm their appearance.

The tribute to Winehouse will likely be the rare moment of reverence in a show that is calculated to be as irreverent as possible. This year, the queen of sexy daffiness, Katy Perry, is poised to be the belle of MTV's annual ball: She's up for a leading 10 moonman trophies, including video of the year for her inspirational "Firework."

Another female singer is also a top nominee: Adele, the year's best-selling artist so far with her album "21," is nominated for seven awards for "Rolling in the Deep"; Kanye West also has seven nominations.

West — always good for a colorful MTV moment (ask Taylor Swift) — wasn't listed to perform at the awards, which are being held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, broadcast live on MTV. However, E! News reported that he and mentor Jay-Z will be surprise additions.

Confirmed performers include Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Pitbull and Chris Brown, whose star continues to brighten two years after it was tarnished by his attack on Rihanna.

Celebrities including Selena Gomez, newlywed Kim Kardashian and Seth Rogen were also to take part in the show. Stars began arriving early: First down the carpet was rapper Kreayshawn, nominated for best new artist. Wearing a sequined Mickey Mouse minidress and red Nikes, the diminutive rapper said she is most excited to see Lady Gaga perform.

"This is crazy," she said of her first VMA show. "I've never experienced anything like this in my life, so it's a whole new world."

Also in the mix Sunday was Irene, the hurricane-turned-tropical storm that pummeled her way up the Eastern seaboard on Sunday. MTV President Stephen Friedman said some VMA performers from the East Coast arrived in LA early to avoid the storm and resulting airport disruptions. But he was hopeful viewer disruption would be minimal.

"Our hope is our audience is cuddled up with their family and friends and don't want to be outside and want to watch the best night in music," he said.

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Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP's music editor. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi.

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AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen (http://www.twitter.com/apsandy ) in Los Angeles and AP Writer Mesfin Fekadu (http://www.twitter.com/musicmesfin) in New York contributed to this report.