What’s an awards season without a little controversy? The Grammy Awards are known to entertain viewers, but when it comes to showstopping — and head-turning — musical rifts, it’s had its fair share.
From Bob Dylan’s 1998 performance – that was famously interrupted by New York-based artist Michael Portnoy — to “Blame It On The Rain” duo Milli Vanilli’s award for Best New Artist in 1990, Us Weekly is looking back at the most contentious moments in history.
Will Smith, for his part, expressed his frustration after the Recording Academy announced in 1989 that they were debuting a new category — Best Rap Performance — just to reveal it wasn’t going to be televised. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum opted to skip the awards show that year due to the decision.
More recently, former recording academy president Neil Portnow came under fire for his controversial comments about women needing to “step up” during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in 2018. Many stars were quick to express their disdain — including Kelly Clarkson.
“A confused soul said women need to ‘step up’ their A-game if they wanna start winning and you know what, I’m not even mad at ignorance,” the American Idol alum tweeted at the time. “I’m just gonna kindly point you in the direction of my A-game album I recently dropped.”
In January 2021, The Weeknd shut down the concept of award shows when his critically acclaimed album After Hours did not receive a single Grammy nomination.
“I use a sucker punch as an analogy. Because it just kind of hit me out of nowhere,” the musician told Billboard two months after the snub. “I definitely felt … I felt things. I don’t know if it was sadness or anger. I think it was just confusion. I just wanted answers. Like, ‘What happened?’ We did everything right, I think.”
At the time, the Canada native explained that it wasn’t about him being “cocky” or “arrogant” for expecting a nomination, adding, “People told me I was going to get nominated. The world told me. Like, ‘This is it; this is your year.’ We were all very confused.”
For The Weeknd, his snub was part of a much bigger issue within the entertainment industry.
“Look, I personally don’t care anymore. I have three Grammys, which mean nothing to me now, obviously. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I want the Grammy!’ It’s just that this happened, and I’m down to get in front of the fire, as long as it never happens again,” he noted. “In the last 61 years of the Grammys, only 10 Black artists have won Album of the Year. I don’t want to make this about me. That’s just a fact.”
Recording Academy chair and interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. responded to The Weeknd’s headline making reaction, telling Rolling Stone in a statement, “I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone’s admiration.”
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Scroll down for the most controversial moments from the Grammys over the years: