Tattooed pop punks blasting spoiled stars, a female-fronted goth band and some angsty rap rockers exorcising their Freudian nightmares. Metal legends returning to form with a felonious clip and a pair of unlikely indie rock heroes
who are probably just (un)happy to be nominated. The race for this year's Best Rock Video award is weird, wide-ranging and unpredictable, pitting butch Metallica against estrogen-infused Evanescence, mega-platinum screamers Linkin Park against spotlight-wary White Stripes and happy-go-lucky punks Good Charlotte against the lot of 'em. What do they have in common? Nothing really, except their healthy
fascinations with fire, jail, falling, handcuffs, elephants and ... rapping?
VIDEO: Good Charlotte's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"
THE PLOT: The boys get railroaded into jail, reamed in court and are eventually set free.
MORAL: Jail is sort of funny, being a celebrity can suck and even punk rockers wear suits to court.
PAGING DR. FREUD: Persecution complex, paranoia and fantasies of being locked down in a confined space with a bunch of sweaty men. Where do we start?
WHO PUT THEIR RAP IN MY ROCK?: Hip-hop hand gestures and some rhyming on the breakdown.
GRATUITOUS CAMEO: 'NSYNC's Chris Kirkpatrick, former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, Tenacious D's Kyle Gass.
VIDEO: Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life"
THE PLOT: Singer Amy Lee dreams that she has super Spidey powers, climbs up the outside of a building, spies on her creepy neighbors, then plunges into the
MORAL: Even if your boyfriend is a buff rap-rocker guy, he might not be able to save you from falling off a 20-story building to your death. And don't play on ledges in a billowy dress on windy days.
PAGING DR. FREUD: Falling in dreams can signal that the dreamer has tried too hard to be someone that he or she is not and is afraid of failure, according to Joan Hanger, author of "The Little Book of Dreams."
WHO PUT THEIR RAP IN MY ROCK?: Their label told them they'd never make it without a rapper, so they recruited the guy from, um, 12 Stones.
GRATUITOUS CAMEO: The guy from 12 Stones.
VIDEO: Linkin Park's "Somewhere I Belong"
THE PLOT: Singer Chester Bennington floats up from his fiery bed into some weird, second-hand "Star Wars" set and sings among tall, hairy elephants, plumes of fire and waterfalls.
MORAL: Boys who play with Transformers sometimes set their beds on fire ... or something.
PAGING DR. FREUD: Fire suggests the need for sacrifices, symbolizes masculine energy and, when out of control, the need to take charge of unbridled ambition, Hanger tells us.
WHO PUT THEIR RAP IN MY ROCK?: Plenty of rapper hands, shots of the gratuitous DJ and copious rhymes.
GRATUITOUS CAMEO: Some bitchin' Transformers, a choir of hooded monks and those creepy digital elephants.
VIDEO: Metallica's "St. Anger"
THE PLOT: Metallica perform at San Quentin State Prison among scary, tattooed and pumped-up prisoners whose dramatically reenacted violent crimes landed them in
the big house.
MORAL: Jail bad, Metallica good.
PAGING DR. FREUD: According to psychologists, images of prison are related to isolating or restricting yourself (which might explain the lack of guitar solos). Escaping from jail denotes overcoming misfortune (like, um, pissing off
all those Napster fans, or maybe recording a 70-minute heavy metal album with no guitar solos that still manages to sell well.) Again, we won't comment on being locked down with a bunch of buff, sweaty men who like to work out.
WHO PUT THEIR RAP IN MY ROCK?: Et tu, James? Not only does new bassist Robert Trujillo rock the Boo-Yaa braids, he brings the noise with some pseudo rap
GRATUITOUS CAMEO: None, though that guy at the end holding up his prosthetic leg is a star in our book.
VIDEO: White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army"
THE PLOT: Jack and Meg are comin' at ya over and over again in their red-and-white ensembles.
MORAL: You are getting sleepy, very sleepy.
PAGING DR. FREUD: Enough with the red and white already! Can you say "obsessive compulsive disorder"?
WHO PUT THEIR RAP IN MY ROCK?: Finally, someone who can remember that this is the best ROCK video category!
GRATUITOUS CAMEO: An elephant and, inexplicably, a legion of skeleton
Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the big show at 8 p.m.