Billboard did an ‘oral history’ of the infamous 2009 Kanye-Taylor VMA incident

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I tend to not really care about the new movement to do “oral histories” about pop culture moments, because I tend to think that the moments chosen are usually pretty awful or not that noteworthy. But I found myself getting sucked into Billboard’s oral history of the Taylor Swift-Kanye West debacle at the 2009 VMAs. Yes, it’s been a decade. This year’s VMAs will be the ten-year anniversary of Kanye West bum-rushing Taylor on stage at the VMAs, grabbing her mic and drunkenly telling the world that Beyonce should have won that VMA for “Single Ladies.” I think the reason why it’s a good read is because this sh-t is STILL happening and it was an iconic moment in pop culture which has truly reverberated over the past decade. You can read the full Billboard history here. Some things I found interesting (and I’m paraphrasing all of this):

Everyone knew that Kanye was not a great place as early as the red carpet. He walked the carpet with Amber Rose, and he was already drunk. He carried a bottle of Hennessey and he shared it with people in the audience. MTV producers didn’t want to focus on that or make any kind of reference to it.

None of the MTV producers wanted to focus on anything other than the planned and scripted moments. They knew Kanye seemed off-kilter, but they kept his seat front-row, as planned. They did not plan for Kanye to come on stage at all and there was absolute chaos with cameramen and producers about what to show and whether they should cut the mic. No producer wanted to actually go on stage and try to wrestle the mic from Kanye.

Kanye returned to his front-row seat after he took Taylor’s mic and said his piece. The energy in the room was very hostile to him, and apparently Pink got out of her seat and stood in front of Kanye and got in his face about how wrong he was to do that. People in the audience were booing and hissing at him as well.

Immediately following the Incident, producers ran to Taylor backstage – she and her mom were crying, and they told her that they were getting Kanye out of the building, and asked if she was ready to perform her song, because she was seriously supposed to perform like 10 minutes after that happened.

About ten minutes after the Incident, producers got Kanye out of his seat and basically ushered him out of the building.

All of the other musical acts wanted to talk about what happened – Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day went into the press room and said something like, “What the hell was that? Let the girl have her moment!”

Someone finally went to check on Beyonce, who was also backstage at that point, and she was crying too. MTV producers were like “yeah, you’re going to win Video of the Year, would you like to work something out where you can bring Taylor on stage at the end of the night?” And Beyonce agreed.

Producers were super-grateful for Taylor’s professionalism – she agreed to perform as rehearsed, and even though she was crying just seconds before she had to sing live, she still pulled it together for the performance. Then she and her mom wanted to leave, but producers begged her to stay so that Beyonce could bring her on stage at the end.

The moment put Taylor on the map – Scott Borchetta of Big Machine spoke to MTV producers the day after the VMAs and he said “Here’s the thing about it: Yesterday most of the country had no idea who Taylor Swift was. Today, Oprah Winfrey sent her flowers this morning and asked if she could talk to her.” You might even say that Kanye made that bitch famous?? I’ll see myself out. (Note by Celebitchy: “I made that bitch famous” is a line from a Kanye song people. That’s why Kaiser wrote that, it’s a reference to that.)

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58 Responses to “Billboard did an ‘oral history’ of the infamous 2009 Kanye-Taylor VMA incident”

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  1. HELEN says:

    “Beyonce was crying too”

    dang, the tea!! more more more

    • BayTampaBay says:

      I never liked and still do not get Taylor Swift. I especially never got Taylor Swift and John Mayer.

    • Danielle says:

      I always wanted to know more about how Beyonce felt about the whole thing. She looked absolutely mortified and upset by the whole thing. I often wondered what her relationship was like with Kanye after that and how that might have impacted his friendship with Jay. I’m so over the Taylor and Kanye side of this. More Beyonce tea!!!

      • Arizona says:

        She did look so mortified and shocked.

        I distinctly remember when it happened, my mom and I were watching. We said in unison “what an a$$hole!” but I also think he was totally accurate about Beyonce’s video being better. But uh, obviously the way he went about it was cruel and awful.

        I also remember when Beyonce let Taylor speak when she won her award, I was really impressed by what a class act she was.

      • MC2 says:

        So he ended up f-ing up Taylor AND Beyonce’s speeches?! He took something from Bey too & this should mean total annihilation.

  2. Eleonor says:

    Mama Mia!
    Here we go again!
    I can’t.

  3. Louise says:

    …and 10 years later their both still assholes😄

    • Mel says:

      Well, we can for sure debate about the aftermath and the whole « ten years later » but I don’t think there’s a reason to call then-Taylor, who was a teenager, an asshole. What exactly did she do THAT NIGHT, that warrants calling her that?

    • joanne says:

      How was Taylor an asshole at that time?

    • virginfangirls says:

      But she’s done her share of asshole moves too. Some may argue her behavior has ultimately been much more hurtful to others. I mean his move was direct and awful and she was publicly defended rightfully so. But her attacks are hidden, passive aggressive, and ultimately cause public perception negativity on her victims, and they’re is really no effective way to fight against her attacks unless one wants to attack back which many just won’t do.

    • Klemmy says:

      “They’re”, not “Their”

  4. Anilehcim says:

    Love or hate either of them, this was a true asshole moment on Kanye’s part. His god complex is ridiculous, always has been and seemingly always will be. And I gotta say, his “Sunday Service” looks more like a cult every damn weekend. People have to dress a certain way? He built a mountain? Whatever. Take your damn medication, Kanye.

    Unfortunately for a perpetual victim like Taylor Swift, she loves stuff like this. She will be boohooing about this moment for the rest of her life. Homegirl is one hell of a martyr and a liar.

    • Arizona says:

      I’ll never forget that one interview that she did where they wrote that she had a framed photo of that moment in her house. I wonder if she still has it lol.

  5. TeddyPicker says:

    This has put into perspective how important The Receipts was to flipping this entire narrative. All of the celebrities going off on Kanye on the night, flipping him the bird. Kim did Kanye a huge favour by exposing the lies and white girl tears – he was fully entrenched as the villain before she spilled the tea.

    • Div says:

      I don’t get this? Taylor lying doesn’t change the fact that Kanye acted horribly back at the VMAs?

    • Algernon says:

      The Receipts had nothing to do with this moment. Taylor really didn’t do anything wrong that night ten years ago. Two things can be true, Kanye was an a$$hole for bum rushing her on stage and ruining her big moment, and Taylor was an a$$hole later about the Famous video.

    • Arizona says:

      I think Kanye acted awful at the VMAs and I think Taylor was super shady about the Famous song. I think that although the narrative is obviously tied together, he was at fault first and she did nothing wrong in the beginning.

  6. Div says:

    Regardless of what Borchetta said, Taylor was already famous—she had Grammys and a # !. He just amplified her fame and his own by this stunt.

    And yeah, I think people tend to leave out that what he did was not only sh*tty to Taylor but it was incredibly sh*tty towards Bey, too. She won video of the year, which was the big award anyway, and not only had to be humiliated when he did his stunt but later felt obligated to share her time in the limelight with Taylor. And in all the arguments of how white artists are afforded unfairly over black artists (which is very much true), it still doesn’t make Kanye’s behavior acceptable. I also think people leave out that it was a misogynistic move that hurt two women—including Bey, a Black woman, who already had to deal with an arguably unfair loss that was tinged with racism, and later had to deal with his sexist as*.

    • Algernon says:

      I am not into country music at all and I knew who Taylor Swift was back then. Her music was already crossing onto pop stations.

      • Gingerbread says:

        I think Taylor was famous by then, of course. But this moment catapulted her into another stratosphere of fame. I honestly don’t think she would have been the powerhouse she is today without this moment for her to grasp on to.

      • Arizona says:

        I’ve never understood the argument that 1989 was when she became a pop singer – she’s been pop since her second album at least, with country flavor. I even remember hearing Teardrops on My Guitar on pop radio all the time as well.

    • notpretentious says:

      Yes, I agree with you Div. Beyonce looked at the time, like she wanted to melt to the floor; and poor Taylor too. He is permanently cancelled!

  7. Algernon says:

    I think this is the moment that taught Taylor controversy can be beneficial, something that would later come back to haunt her. It’s also extra infuriating in hindsight because Beyonce won the big award and had to share her moment with Taylor, so Beyonce’s moment couldn’t even be about her. Kanye really wrecked two moments that night, Taylor’s and Beyonce’s.

    • otaku fairy.... says:

      Agreed. Plus people could have spun that whole moment as a ‘Beyonce is a Mean Girl!’ moment if she had not handled it like a class act. People totally would have went there and made Kanye’s jerk behavior her responsibility.

    • Mumbles says:

      Yeah, I winced when they asked Beyonce to acknowledge Taylor during her speech. It should have been her big moment (and I say that not as a member of the Give). But had she not, there would have been a lot of whining.

  8. Jamie says:

    The author Luvvie Ajayi writes about the weaponizing of white women tears. This seems like a good example of how Taylor Swift learned how to do that, with Beyonce being made to share her moment as Taylor’s first victim.

    • Holly says:

      Beyoncé as Taylor’s victim?

      there’s a conversation to be had about white girl tears and victim complexes. Beyoncé being a class act due to Kanye’s actions isn’t one of them.

    • Angela says:

      Did Taylor ask Beyonce? No. So wtf is this comment.

    • DS9 says:

      The comment is about the dynamics of being black in a white world.

      I don’t think the comment is meant to imply that Taylor made Bey do anything. On the contrary. It’s about how we are socially conditioned to mend things for pretty little white girls at the expense of black women.

      Beyonce was gracious enough to do it, sure. But I don’t see where she actually had much of a choice but to do what she did. If she didn’t share that moment, if she’d said no, yeah

  9. ava says:

    1989 made Taylor supernova famous. I already considered her famous when Kanye interrupted her on stage. And in my view, Kanye hasn’t made music, or headlines for his music, the way Taylor has for Lover in a very long time (and I own old music of his). Taylor’s music and abilities made her famous, not Kanye West. Kanye made their relationship notorious, and brought her extra attention. And Taylor made that moment more notorious over time, but honestly, as a woman, I don’t like or appreciate the “made that bitch famous” line any more as a quip in this blog than I did on “Famous.” Kanye clearly wishes he could claim her accomplishments, and whatever snaky thing Tayor did behind the scenes, and however facetious Kanye was in delivering the line, I agree with Taylor’s public stance that the statement is sexist and gross and need not be encouraged in any way.

    • Kate says:

      Yeah this blog can’t help but take swipes at her whenever they cover Taylor-related items. Sometimes their criticism of her is valid, but that line is gross and I’m disappointed in them.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I agree, that line is gross and I think repeating it is gross. People shouldn’t lower themselves just to take a dig at their enemies, you know?

      She had the highest selling album of 2009, and that album actually came out in Nov. 2008 (so the biggest selling weeks at the release aren’t factored in to the 2009 accomplishment). She absolutely was one of the biggest musical acts in the country before Kanye interrupted her.

    • nemo says:

      douche-ye made her *internationally* famous.

      • joanne says:

        No he didn’t. She was already selling out international tours. Kanye did nothing for her.

  10. DS9 says:

    And Taylor will ride this victimhood pony aaaallll the way to the finish line.

    How lucky for her that black men are always seen as threatening even when they are merely assholes.

    And I do this think this ties into The Receipts business. Because every since the VMAs, Taylor has capitalized on that moment, carefully crafting that drunken moment of douchery into some horrid, scary moment. She took that narrative and used to claim that of course Kanye was lying about his song her involvement because like why would she work with someone who was so mean and scary to her in such a public manner?

    And then it turns out she had. And Kim proved it. It didn’t even need to be the most accurate play by play. It’s like claiming you never saw a murdered man in your whole life. And then you’re on camera having a full conversation. Doesn’t even matter at that point if you were discussing the chinese takeout menu.

    And all of that is why I cast an eye of doubt on the Scooter Braun deal.

    Taylor lies. Full stop. And she lies to put herself in the best, most innocent light. The situations start off shitty for her, where she’s in the right initially but she uses it to maximum, manipulative advantage.

    • Arizona says:

      I mean, I do agree with this whole comment.

      I often find with Taylor that there’s an element that I agree with, but the way she handles things makes me dislike it (not including the 2009 VMAs, which I thought she handled very well). But like…the follow up song Innocent is pretty condescending, and unnecessary. But the whole Scooter thing? No, the deal WASN’T that she had to earn back one album with each new album. Do I think she should own her masters? Yes! Do I think she screwed up by bringing up bullying and Kanye rather than focusing on her owning her own work? Yes. She DID talk to Kanye about the song and didn’t “caution him not to release such a misogynistic song”. Do I think she didn’t appreciate being referred to as “that bitch”? Yes.

      I’m always partially on her side with the narratives, but then she spins them into something I don’t agree with.

      • DS9 says:

        I do agree wholeheartedly that she handled the VMA situation that night very well. I don’t have a single thing to fault her for that night.

    • Yes Doubtful says:

      All this and she will never let anything go. She is still writing about the infamous receipts.

      • Carol says:

        Kim’s receipts were highly edited. Frankly, I still believe Taylor, and I don’t listen to any of this music so have no dog in this fight.

  11. JaneBee87 says:

    This makes me love Pink even more. That was some exceptionally poor work by the producers in question.

  12. Emilia says:

    I’m not even a Swift fan but people claiming Kanye made her famous infuriates me. I hate country music and even I knew who she was pre-2009 as her songs were all over the radio. Attributing her success to that man is misogynistic as hell.

    • joanne says:

      I agree with you. She was huge and selling out stadiums at the time. Kanye is not in any way responsible for her fame or success. Taylor did it all on her own.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Is it really misoginistic? Because there is no denying that she profited highly from that incident. I don’t think admitting that it helped her career takes anything away from the work Taylor put in or from her talent because while Kanye made her more famous she still had to capitalize on that moment on her own, she had to have developed the skill set to use that opportunity. Maybe Taylor would be where she is today even without Kanye but it would have taken her longer to get there. Why can’t we both acknowledge that she is a talented, hard working woman and that this incident made her famous to a wider audience?

  13. ME says:

    That’s some new info there about Bey crying. I hope the Beehive comes for Kanye now 10 years later!

  14. DS9 says:

    And Kanye didn’t make Taylor famous but he did make her a meme and pop culture icon. She was well on her way there given the nature of her music/lyrics/personal life. But that moment did change her fame type.

    I don’t think it changes or diminishes her talent or hard work, both of which she has plenty.

  15. Yes Doubtful says:

    I mean…he was right that Beyonce deserved the award, but he showed no sense or class in what he did. His actions definitely gave her a much wider audience though.

  16. Suz says:

    What year anniversary is it for Courtney Love crashing Madonna’s interview after the VMA’s? That was supremely more entertaining and iconic for me.

  17. BB says:

    I could care less about either of them but I don’t think ANYTHING on TV is spontaneous… whoever the “theys” (producers, etc.) are knew this was going to happen. Maybe Swift didn’t but the “TV people” did.

  18. Oliviajoy1995 says:

    Didn’t Eminem want to bring her on stage that nite too when he won, but the producers told him there was already something worked out with Beyonce? If Eminem feels bad for you, then you know something effed up happened. Although I think Eminem is secretly a very very good guy he just likes to look mad all the time.

    • Laura says:

      Yes, I remember hearing that as well. Eminem offered to let her speak during his speech but was told Beyonce already had asked to let her speak during hers.

  19. Dear God, make it stop.

  20. Parigo says:

    Let’s not forget he did this to Beck too. What an ass.

  21. Sammi says:

    Let me just say for this incident alone Kanye was a total arrogant douche. He knew what he was doing and yes maybe he did help Taylor get into the spotlight, but after that she’s owes him nothing. Her record that year was one of the best selling and this was only confirming her status into pop status. As for Kim and Kanye, they aren’t as big as they think they are, nowhere near bey and Jay-Z status. Kanye was at his biggest during this incident but since then his records haven’t done as well. Everyone just needs to grow up lol but I’m taking Taylor’s side on this incident and Kanye needs to take his meds and get back to himself because now he’s just crazy rather than “genius” crazy as he claims lol.