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So you think you can shock? Prizes take backseat at MTV awards

By Piya Sinha-Roy

INGLEWOOD Calif. (Reuters) - Blood, buttocks, snakes and angry rants are just some of the surprises served up by the MTV Video Music Awards over the last three decades, and as Sunday's ceremony looms, there is stiff competition to deliver the show's next most outrageous stunt.

R&B star Beyonce and newcomer rapper Iggy Azalea lead the nominees at the Video Music Awards, or VMAs, with eight nods each, and winners will receive the "Moonman" statuettes at the newly renovated Forum arena in Inglewood, California.

But the night is rarely about the winners - rather, all eyes will be on the performances and the surprises.

Since launching in 1984, Viacom Inc-owned MTV's VMAs is synonymous with irreverence and unscripted moments.

Key moments include Howard Stern baring his derriere as "Fartman" in 1992, Britney Spears' sultry dance with a snake in 2001, and 2009's eventful show where Lady Gaga smeared blood on herself and a ranting Kanye West ripped Taylor Swift's award out of her hand onstage.

Last year, pop star Miley Cyrus became the talk around water coolers after thrusting her latex lingerie-clad "twerking" dance moves both on stage and into the zeitgeist during a raunchy performance of "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke.

With Cyrus in attendance but not scheduled to perform, the achievement of 2014's most talked-about VMA moment is up for grabs to the boldest competitor.

"Every artist looks at the VMAs as one of the most competitive live performance moments, where everybody really brings their A-game and comes to own the night," said Amy Doyle, executive producer of the live telecast ceremony.

"Knowing that a lot of historical music moments are made on this stage, they want to be part of VMA history," she said.

R&B star Beyonce, who last stole the VMA spotlight in 2011 when she revealed her baby bump on stage, is vying to outdo herself this year with "one of the most ambitious" performances the show has hosted, Doyle teased.

"She will be doing something that no other artist has ever tried to do before," Doyle said.

With a line-up of performances from Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, this year's show is also dominated by the ladies of pop music, reflecting a growing prominence of solo female talent in the current music industry.

"Females are definitely making the most interesting music in the pop-sphere right now," said 22-year-old British singer Charli XCX, who is nominated in the Artist to Watch category and will perform her hit song "Boom Clap" at the pre-show.

"Women strive to control their own careers now and change the way people view them in the pop industry, and I think that's amazing because it's hard to be a woman in this industry."

(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Gunna Dickson)

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