Though MTV launched 30 years ago in 1981, the music video channel didn’t hold its first Video Music Awards until 1984. Ever since then, the show’s producers have consistently tried to shock and awe the audience. Sometimes it has worked, but more often has not, but regardless, the VMAs have always provided excellent water cooler fodder for the next morning.

The 28th annual VMAs, which air Sunday, Aug. 24, at 9 p.m. EDT from Los Angeles’ Nokia Theater, promise to be no different. In addition to performances by show opener Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Adele, Bruno Mars, Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Young the Giant,  and Chris Brown, the VMAs will include a tribute to Britney Spears, as well as a salute to the late Amy Winehouse, introduced by Tony Bennett. The 85-year-old and Winehouse duetted on Bennett’s forthcoming “Duets II” album.

Katy Perry, who tops all nominees with 10 nods, isn’t slated to perform. Neither is Kanye West, who tied Adele for seven nods. Also, MIA: a host. Either MTV is planning on keeping it a big surprise or last year’s disastrous turn by Chelsea Handler, who was universally panned, has made the producers decide to take a different tack.  Will Farrell, Jack Black and Kevin Hart have also been added to the show so maybe they'll bring the funny.

Plus, in a great big kiss of free advertising, MTV will feature a clip from “The Hunger Games,” introduced by the movie’s star, Jennifer Lawrence,  as part of the show’s programming.

Last year’s VMAs drew 11.4 million total viewers, garnering the VMAs their best rating since 2002..

My colleague Katie Hasty and I went toe-to-toe with our predictions here. Check out the gallery and tell us who you think will win. The awards are a hard call because although the five finalists are chosen by industry experts, the final winners are voted on by the fans via mtv.com. Therefore, they awards become little more than a popularity contest instead of a true arbiter of artistic merit.

The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards will air live on MTV this Sunday at 9 PM EST (tape delayed for West Coasters).