By Beth Lipton
Updated August 28, 2003 02:42 PM

Tributes to the past and a couple of eye-opening kisses marked MTV’s 20th annual Video Music Awards, held at New York’s landmark Radio City Music Hall Thursday.

In a nod to Madonna’s now-classic 1984 performance of her song “Like A Virgin,” pop stars Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera covered the tune while showing off their own moves onstage. When Madonna joined them to perform her new song “Hollywood,” she shared seductive kisses with both pop princesses. Notably, when Madonna bussed Spears, MTV’s camera cut to the young singer’s ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake to get his reaction (he didn’t look happy).

Though several artists received multiple nominations, none of the stars swept the awards. Timberlake walked off with best male video and best pop video (for “Cry Me a River”) as well as best dance video (“Rock Your Body”); Beyonce took home best female video and best R&B video for “Crazy in Love” (which also got best choreography); Missy Elliott took the coveted video of the year prize and best hip-hop video for her effort “Work It.” Coldplay took home the awards for breakthrough video, best group video and best direction.

Missing from the glitzy goings-on was the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, who had said that he would try to make it to the ceremony if his health permitted. The 71-year-old music legend, whose effort “Hurt” was up for video of the year and best male video, was hospitalized with a stomach ailment. “Hurt” was awarded best cinematography.

Another look back at the past came from Metallica, which closed the show with a medley of hits from artists as diverse as Nirvana, Michael Jackson and Lenny Kravitz.

This year’s winners in the top categories are as follows:
Video of the Year
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, “Work It”

Best Male Video
Justin Timberlake, “Cry Me A River”

Best Female Video
Beyonce with Jay-Z, “Crazy in Love”

Best New Artist in a Video
50 Cent, “In Da Club”

Breakthrough Video
Coldplay, “The Scientist”

Best Group Video
Coldplay, “The Scientist”

Best Rap Video
50 Cent, “In Da Club”

Best R&B Video
Beyonce with Jay-Z, “Crazy In Love”

Best Hip-Hop Video
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, “Work It”

Best Dance Video
Justin Timberlake, “Rock Your Body”

Best Rock Video
Linkin Park, “Somewhere I Belong”

Best Pop Video
Justin Timberlake, “Cry Me A River”

Best Video from a Film
Eminem, “Lose Yourself” (8 Mile)