Beyonce: Last year’s VMA queen of buzz generation. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

The MTV Video Music Awards ceremony promises, year after year, to shock us. Something unexpected, or shocking, or orchestrated to be both unexpected and shocking, is always strongly implied by the advance promos and press for the show. Really, the VMAs are a pioneer in this regard. Long before every live event guaranteed surprises that would need to be processed immediately on Twitter, the music video ceremony was throwing Michael Jackson kisses and a python-adorned Britney Spears at the zeitgeist wall, certain something would stick.

In keeping with tradition, of course, anything could happen at tonight’s VMAs, which air at 8 on MTV. A-ny-thing. I know this for a fact because MTV said so. Taylor Swift could bring Conor Kennedy if he can cut out of seventh-period study hall in time to make it. Rihanna could cross paths with Chris Brown (if he shows up), or at least say something that everyone will think is a coded message to Chris Brown. Nicki Minaj is supposed to perform with a special guest, and for all we know, that could be Mitt Romney.

Still, it’s important to remember amid all the pre-VMA hype that not every Video Music Awards broadcast generates major buzz. Occasionally, this MTV Moonman parade is non-controversial and unmemorable, completely “Imma let you finish”-less. To put things in proper perspective, I conducted a highly scientific survey of the past 10 years of VMA buzziness to determine how often something major happens. Here are the results.

2002 VMAs: The year that Michael Jackson mistakenly believed he had been given an artist of the millennium award, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog got in a fight with Eminem, Eminem threatened Moby and the whole thing closed down with a surprise performance by the Buckethead version of Guns N’ Roses.

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 8.

2003 VMAs: The year Madonna open-mouth-kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

(Win McNamee/Reuters)

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 11.

2004 VMAs: Uh, let’s see ... the show was moved to Miami, Dave Chappelle gave Jay-Z a hip-hop retirement gift ... um, does Matthew Lillard showing up count as something?

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 0.

2005 VMAs: Shakira performed a song entirely in Spanish, a VMA first, while R. Kelly performed his popular one-man-show version of the “Trapped in the Closet” video.

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 2; any conversation immediately and appropriately shifted the next day, when Hurricane Katrina began to ravage New Orleans.

2006 VMAs: Lil’ Kim presented an award in an orange prison jumpsuit and a dude named Sixx jumped onstage during Panic at the Disco’s Video of the Year acceptance speech. No, it was not Kanye West in disguise.

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 3.

2007 VMAs: Britney Spears opened the show with what was supposed to be her big comeback but ended up being a widely dissected embarrassment. Oh, and then Kid Rock and Tommy Lee got in a fistfight over Pam Anderson.

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 9.

2008 VMAs: Russell Brand hosted and made some disrespectful comments about George W. Bush. That one was held during an election year ... possibly an unbuzzy omen for tonight’s show?

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 4.

2009 VMAs: Four words, including one that wasn’t a commonly used word until the 2009 Video Music Awards: “Imma let you finish.”

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 11

2010 VMAs: Lady Gaga wore a dress made of meat, providing fodder for quality jokes and Halloween costumes for years to come. Also, Taylor Swift sat in a leather chair and sang a song about how Kanye West still has some growing up to do.

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 9.

2011 VMAs: Beyonce revealed she was PREG-NANT! (Note: Please say pregnant like you’re Oprah Winfrey yelling about something. It’s the only way to adequately convey the hysteria that ensued last year when this happened.) Oh, and Lady Gaga dressed up like Ralph Macchio.

Buzz factor, on a scale of 1 to 10: 11

2012 VMAs

Buzz factor: TBD