Pop heavyweights like Rihanna, Drake, and Katy Perry look primed to walk away with a lot of moonmen at Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards. But not everything has been starry for them in 2012. Looking at the lineup of nominees, it's hard to find anyone who hasn't experienced a year of extreme highs and lows, from Perry's duality as new divorcee and new movie star to Lana Del Rey's riches-to-ridicule story.
Here's a look at some of the key MTV nominees—also including Frank Ocean, Chris Brown, and M.I.A.—and their extreme highs and lows this year:
Nominations: 5 (including two Video Of The Year nods, for "We Found Love" and "Take Care")
Good times: Rihanna became the first woman to garner 60 million fans on Facebook. She released a fragrance, Rebelle. She had her first movie role, as a soldier in Battleship. Her performance on the "Saturday Night Live" season finale was generally well-received, even though she got flack for calling in sick for the dress rehearsal. She sang "Princess Of China" with Coldplay at the Grammys as well as joining them for the tune's video.
Meh times: The Nivea makeup company dropped her as a model, supposedly because her image had gotten too racy. A man who'd been convicted of stalking her was released after 277 days in jail. In July, she sued her former accountants, saying they'd lost millions of her money. And then there was that tearful Oprah interview, where she addressed where she stands on the eternal Chris Brown Question: "I still love him…I think he was the love of my life." Signs of their current status were nebulous: The New York Daily News reported that she was seen kissing Brown on a billionaire's yacht. On the other hand, she did finally unfollow Brown on Twitter. Oh, yeah: Althought it didn't reflect particularly poorly on her, Battleship bombed.
Nominations: 5 (including Video Of The Year, for "Take Care")
Good times: His Take Care album, released late last year, is at nearly 1.9 million in sales. He did one of the voices for Ice Age 4. He's collaborating with Aayilah—posthumously, of course.
Meh times: Alleged victims of a bar brawl he and his entourage had with Chris Brown filed suit over the June 14 bar brawl, which supposedly stemmed from the two men's respective relationships with Rihanna. Drake was further dissed by Brown in a new song called "Game Don't Lie." His "HYFR" single bombed, peaking at No. 62.
Nominations: 4 (including Video Of The Year, for "Wide Awake")
Good times: Her Part Of Me 3D movie revived a concert movie genre thought to be moribund, grossing $25 million in the U.S. "Part Of Me" reached No. 1 and "Wide Awake" hit No. 2 on the Billboard chart. She dated John Mayer—which could be either a good or a bad thing. Previously, she'd been linked to Florence + The Machine guitarist Robert Ackroyd, with whom she'd been seen necking at Coachella. Proving that not everyone can bought, she reportedly turned down a $20 million offer to judge "American Idol."
Meh times: Her divorce from Russell Brand became final after 14 months of marriage. She took to Twitter to admonish her family for "speaking for" her in the wake of the separation from Brand. And apparently she didn't consult with pal Taylor Swift before taking up with Mayer as a rebound man.
Nominations: 3 (including Best New Artist)
Good times: Ocean posted an open letter to his fans July 4, acknowledging that his first love had been a man. "I feel like a free man," he wrote. While he never clarified where he sits on the scale of homosexuality or bisexuality, Ocean was widely hailed for being the first major R&B or hip-hop star to come out. His Channel Orange album, his first real release on a major label, was not only a critical smash but debuted at No. 2 and sold 131,000 copies its first week. He's slated as the musical guest on the Saturday Night Live season opener September 15.
Meh times: Ocean unexpectedly cancelled a European tour, including a stint opening for Coldplay, saying in a statement: "I feel like an a**hole right now, but a tough decision had to be made in regard to my schedule over the next months." When Stevie Wonder was asked about Ocean coming out, he seemed disapproving, saying, "I think honestly, some people who think they're gay, they're confused. People can misconstrue closeness for love." But under fire, Wonder soon backtracked, saying, "I'm sorry that my words about anyone feeling confused about their love were misunderstood" and including same-sex relationships in his definition of love.
Good times: His Fortune album debuted at No. 1, like its predecessor. He got two performance slots on the Grammys. He took up with a new girlfriend, Karrueche Tran. For Brandy's upcoming album. Brown wrote one song ("Slower") and sang on another ("Put It Down").
Meh times: After being out for three months, Fortune still hasn't sold in its entire run what his previous album sold in its first week. Brown was criticized for his blatant lip-synching at the Billboard Awards; Pink tweeted: "One day if I lipsync [sic], I hope I do it as well as him." Earlier, when he performed at the Grammys, country star Miranda Lambert also took to Twitter, writing, "Chris Brown twice? I don't get it. He beat on a girl…Not cool that we act like that didn't happen. He needs to listen to 'Gunpowder and Lead' and be put back in his place." Brown responded: "Using my name to get publicity? I love it!...Go buy Miranda Lambert album!" Brown appeared to visibly lose a lot of weight, leading one hip-hop site to label him as "manorexic." And then, of course, there was that brawl with Drake's contingent and the subsequent lawsuit.
Nominations: 3 (including Video Of The Year, for "Bad Girls")
Good times: She got significant mainstream exposure by guesting on Madonna's "Give Me All Your Luvin'." Her fourth studio album is set for release later this year.
Meh times: Some fans considered her a sellout for playing cheerleader to Madonna. Appearing with the superstar on the Super Bowl halftime show, M.I.A. gave the camera the finger, infuriating Madonna herself, among many others. Though "Bad Girls" was a popular video, it never cracked the Billboard Hot 100. She apparently split from her billionaire fiance, Ben Bronfman, and the New York Daily News quoted a source as saying she "sometimes goes six weeks without seeing her [3-year-old] son."
LANA DEL REY
Good times: Her debut album, Born To Die, didn't just attract gawkers, but buyers, too: It debuted at No. 2 with sales of 77,000.
Meh times: Her "Saturday Night Live" appearance was one of the three most derided performances in the history of the show, rivaled only by Sinead O'Connor. As unlikely a critic as newsman Brian Williams even went after her, saying in a leaked email, "Lana Del Rey had one of the worst outings in SNL history last night…the least-experienced musical guest in the show's history, for starters." But "SNL" host Daniel Radcliffe came to her defense, saying, "It was unfortunate that people seemed to turn on her so quickly…I also think people are making it about things other than the performance. If you read what people are saying about her online, it's all about her past and her family and stuff that's nobody else's business…I don't think it warranted anywhere near that reaction." Later in the year, Del Rey told Vogue Australia,"I love to take care of the songs—that's my natural place—then, when I get onstage that's not my element."