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.)
Photos courtesy of Getty.