Reaction by fans and artists alike has been quick and vehement in the wake of Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech Sunday night (Sept. 13) at the VMA Awards. Her princess fairy tale evening — she arrived at Radio City Music Hall in a horse-drawn carriage — came to abrupt halt.
West, in a move that apparently was not staged, took over the show just as Swift stepped up to the microphone to accept her first-ever VMA trophy for best female video.
She did manage to say, “Thank you so much! I always dreamed about what it would be like to maybe win one of these some day, but I never actually thought it would happen. I sing country music, so thank you so much for giving me a chance to win a VMA award.”
Then, appearing seemingly out of nowhere, West grabbed the microphone from her, to say, “Yo, Taylor. I’m happy for you. I’m gonna let you finish. But Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time.” Swift, obviously stunned, could only look down, smile and walk offstage. Beyoncé, in her seat in the audience, appeared equally dumbfounded.
Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” was nominated in the best female video category. In addition to Swift’s nomination for “You Belong With Me,” the others were Katy Perry for “Hot n Cold,” Kelly Clarkson for “My Life Would Suck Without You,” Pink’s “So What” and Lady Gaga for “Poker Face.”
Later in the show, Beyoncé did win the video of the year award for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” saying she recalled her nomination for a VMA at age 17 with the group Destiny’s Child. Beyoncé called Swift back to the stage and said, “I’d like Taylor to come out and have her moment.” (In another bit of irony, West was also nominated in the video of the year category for “Love Lockdown” and, of course, lost to Beyoncé.)
When Swift walked onstage to join Beyoncé, she noted, “Maybe we could try this again,” and the audience responded with hearty applause.
West later made a reference to having too much “sippy sippy.” He was photographed holding a liquor bottle on the red carpet before the show. After the onstage incident with Swift, he either left Radio City Music Hall voluntarily or was removed by security and not allowed to return. He later offered an apology — of sorts. Writing on his blog in his usual all-caps style, he said that he was sorry and wished to apologize to “Taylor Swift and her mom.” Then he added that Beyoncé’s video was the “best of this decade.” Referring to the rain of boos he received from the audience, he wrote, “Everybody wanna boo me.”
The apology was later removed from his official Web site. However, in a separate blog posted Monday afternoon (Sept. 14), West said, “I feel like Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents when he messed everything up and Robert DeNiro asked him to leave. … That was Taylor’s moment and I had no right to take it away from her. I am truly sorry.”
After the show, Swift performed an apparently staged mini-performance of “You Belong With Me” in the 42nd Street subway station, ending by leading a large crowd up the subway steps to emerge triumphant in front of Radio City. She was later interviewed by MTV News and said she had been initially thrilled to see West joining her onstage, only to be greatly disappointed. Observers agreed that Swift carried herself with grace under such pressure and reacted with relative calm.
News organizations were not sympathetic to West. The Associated Press wrote that West “provided the wacky and tacky” to the show. New York Times writer Jon Caramanca observed that the incident reminded him of West’s “first award-show meltdown, when Gretchen Wilson topped him for best new artist at the 2004 American Music Awards: Someone should book him a trip to Nashville.”
After that 2004 meltdown during which he told reporters, “I was the best artist of the year,” West has amassed a history of such public outbursts. At a 2005 Hurricane Katrina benefit concert live on NBC, he went off script to say, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” And, at the 2005 Grammys, he warned that there would be a “real problem” if he didn’t win. (He won three Grammys that night.)
In 2006, he cursed the outcome of the best video award at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Copenhagen. He later said, “People were so surprised at what I did. I’m more surprised people thought I had changed.” That same year when he posed as Jesus for the cover of Rolling Stone, he told the magazine he was “addicted to porn.”
At the 2007 MTV VMAs, he was unhappy he had to perform on a second stage instead of the main stage. When he ended up winless out of five nominations, he was quoted as saying, “That’s two years in a row, man. … I’m trying hard, man. I have the No. 1 record, man.”
In 2009 when South Park depicted him as a gay man, he wrote, “As long as people think I act like a bitch, this type of s*** will happen to me.”
Tweeters and bloggers chimed in immediately after the VMA telecast to excoriate West. Pink, who also appeared on morning TV to criticize West’s act, wrote, “Kanye West is the biggest piece of s*** on earth. You can quote me.” Zac Hanson of the pop group Hanson, wrote, “Kanye needs to learn how to wait his turn. I am sure he will get plenty of mic time to say something stupid later in the show.”
On her Web site, Kelly Clarkson, who also lost the best female award to Swift, wrote a blistering open letter to West, in which she remarked on his “tactless, a****** ways.” She also openly wondered how she — who seemingly likes everyone — can find it “absolutely fascinating how much I don’t like you.”
“He needs to get over it,” Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong told the The New York Times. “It was very uncomfortable.”
Social networks were virtually ablaze overnight with comments, almost universally condemning West’s action and speech as “childish.” Many were also critical of West’s disruption for completely overshadowing the Michael Jackson tribute, as well as for deflating Swift’s first VMA win.
Little Big Town’s Jimi Westbrook wrote on Facebook, “Why anyone still has any respect for Kanye West is a mystery to me. Kanye … You’re a classless, whiner, loser.”
Katy Perry, who was also nominated for VMA best female video, tossed West an F-bomb, adding, “It’s like you stepped on a kitten.”