Plus: Rihanna will duet with T.I., Pete Wentz will co-host and Katy Perry will cover Madonna at the awards show Sunday

By Brian Orloff and Nicholas White
Updated September 07, 2008 12:00 PM
Credit: Todd Williamson/WireImage

Britney Spears is back. Or at least she will be – in some capacity.

The pop star will again openMTV’s Video Music Awards, which will broadcast live from Los Angeles’s Paramount Studios on Sunday night (9 p.m. ET). But unlike last year, where Spears delivered a memorable (and critically derided performance, the pop star is not expected to perform on the show.)

“She gets an opportunity to start over again,” hip-hop producer Jermaine Dupri told PEOPLE at Friday’s TAG Records Official MTV VMA Kickoff party in Hollywood at Avalon. “A lot of people don’t get a chance to do that again. I just hope she kills it.”

And the man who’s helped launch the careers of platinum artists TLC, Kris Kross and Da Brat added, “Last time, I didn’t think her performance was that bad, but people ragged her so bad, then I saw the press.”

So what will she do?

The singer’s role on the show has been a tightly guarded secret. Regardless of how she fares live, Spears may just prove to be the talk of the night. That’s because she’s nominated for the show’s top honor, video of the year, for “Piece of Me.” The pop star has earned two other nominations, including best pop video and best female video – also for the same single. (If Spears wins, it will be her first “Moonman” despite 16 prior nominations.)

Also up for top honors are the ceremony: the Jonas Brothers (for “Burnin Up”), Chris Brown for “Forever,” the Pussycat Dolls for “When I Grow Up” and the Ting Tings for “Shut Up and Let Me Go.”

Nominees the Jonas Brothers will also perform on the show. They will join a starry group of singers, including Rihanna, who will take the stage with rapper T.I., and Pink, who will also grace the stage. “I Kissed A Girl” singer Katy Perry is expected to perform a cover of Madonna‘s “Like A Virgin” and Kid Rock will perform with rapper Lil Wayne.

Kanye West will close out the evening with a performance.

Hosting this year is British comedian Russell Brand, known for his role a lothario musician Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But he will be joined onstage by Pete Wentz, who will act as a co-host of sorts. (Wentz’s wife Ashlee Simpson-Wentz is expected to present on the show.)

Also presenting: previously announced stars including Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan. In days leading up to the ceremony, MTV has added new presenters, including Christina Aguileraand Gossip Girl‘s Chace Crawford.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: All the fashion, the highlights and a pop quiz on the MTV Video Music Awards!