Posted on September 17, 2009 Posted by John Scalzi 48 Comments
By now the whole Kayne West/Taylor Swift moment at the MTV Video Music Awards has reached its equilibrium, so there’s nothing really much to say about that hasn’t been said by everyone else, up to and including the president. But I would like to point out something that’s been overlooked in this whole silly thing, which is that Beyoncé Knowles, in the gracious act of ceding her spotlight to Swift after winning the Video of the Year award, also brought home a point regarding the value and purpose of awards in general (and certainly, of the VMAs in particular).
Bluntly put, Beyoncé, with seven Grammys, nine VMAs and (currently) seventy other awards of various stripes (not counting the ones she was given as part of Destiny’s Child), is largely beyond most awards at this point; that VMA is just another piece of hardware to stack somewhere. It’s not to say she probably doesn’t enjoy winning, because it’s always nice to win something. But I bet you that had the award gone elsewhere, she’d have spent about a tenth of a second lamenting the fact, if that. Swift, on the other hand, is near the beginning of her career and outside of genre of country music hasn’t gotten many awards; this was her first VMA. It’s important, at this point, in the mainstreaming of her professional career, and in personal terms, it was probably pretty cool to a nineteen-year-old girl.
Beyoncé’s ceding of her award time to Swift wasn’t only a nice thing to do, it was also a recognition that the award means more, and is more important, to someone like Swift than someone like her. So not only did Beyoncé do the right thing — allow Swift the moment she had been deprived by a jackass — she also rather accurately established her place in the food chain (i.e., way up at the top) and did it in the savviest, least diva-like way possible.
Not in a calculated way, to be sure; I think she felt bad for Swift and genuinely wanted to give her the moment that was taken from her. But it’s also true Beyoncé’s actions at the moment were far more memorable than either the award she won or any acceptance speech she could have made. For Beyoncé, being seen as gracious and giving is in fact the actual prize for her. She’s smart to recognize the fact.
It’s sad that little attention has been given to the generosity that came out of the situation–the other side of the coin from the smallness of spirit that Kanye exhibited. Not to sound like a grumpy oldster, but so much rude, idiotic, sleazy behavior gets our attention, rendering kindness, generosity, and compassion all but invisible at times. And that sucks.
How do you think the inevitable telephone call by Jay-Z to Kanye after the show went? “What were you thinking, dragging my wife into this?”
Kanye said “Imm’a let you finish” to Taylor, but Beyonce actually did let her finish, and that is illustrative of the difference in character between Kanye and Beyonce.
Another thing I find depressing about this whole situation is all the conspiracy theory that Kanye’s actions were all self-promotion, perhaps even pre-arranged with Swift. I think it absolutely will play out that way; the Kanye West and Taylor Swift “together” single will be out before long I am sure, and will make the charts, I really hope they didn’t plan it that way. How jaded are we?
I guess I have to fall back on my belief that when it comes to conspiracy theories, THERE IS NO MASTER PLAN. It would have taken someone really intelligent to anticipate the reactions of the unwashed masses and deliberately manipulate them, not to mention controlling the implementing underlings and getting them to keep quite, to get the publicity stunt to succeed. I just don’t think there are very many people who are that smart with that much control.
It probably just comes down to Kayne being an idiot, Taylor Swift being a victim, and Beyonce being benevolent and classy.
Well put sir. Being that I chose not to get a converter box, I’m blissfully unaware of the details although I have a vague idea what happened. It sounds like Beyonce did something very outside the norm in the music business and acted solely out of the goodness of her heart.
And here I thought you were going to comment on her dress, a’la J-Lo.
(I apologize for my misspellings and poor punctuation in my previous comment. I receive an “D-” for this hate mail. Can I use the early in the morning excuse? Cat ate my spell check?)
‘Kanye West is a jackass’ is now a presidentially endorsed statement.
Ha! Man being Canadian, I got to love an American president who recognizes stupidity for what it is and comments on it.
Classy is as classy does.
I never understood the “______ is as ______ does” adage. Does that mean that a personal quality is defined by the behavior that is indicative of that personal quality? It seems to me that is true of most personal qualities…
Can someone enlighten me here?
Kanye has something to say about this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zakur/3928187333/
Side note, I didn’t think it was possible to like Obama more… until he said that. Now I am just in love with the man. (ok- not romantically.) It just shows that he is human like the rest of us… and thinks Kanye is a jackass. Correction, knows he is a jackass.
Greater note, while I didn’t watch the awards, I did hear about Beyonce’s act of kindness. I have always felt that she was a greater singer, and person, than the likes of other women who sing in her R&B style. Even though I am not a huge fan of her songs, I respect her for the woman she is. She got where she is because she is a good-hearted, determined, strong individual. This act of kindness is just one small representation of the greater person she is.
Poll: do you like fish sticks?
Well, I’ll say it. And looked babe-a-licious while doing it.
Man. I really need to go look this up on youtube or something. My coworkers are talking about it, the President is talking about it, and now Scalzi is talking about it, and I don’t even know what happened. It’s bizarre how relevant this seems to be to everyone.
Also, is it just me, or does Beyoncé look like the heroine from an 80s science fiction movie/story in that picture?
You are right on the excitement factor on awards. Some people put as much value on them as Tony Stark did at the beginning of Ironman the movie.
But when it IS exciting for someone, giving them a chance to relish it is a very good thing to do.
I’ve liked Beyoncé’s singing since she was with Destiny’s Child (which so many people find bizarre since I am, apparently, an Old Person[tm]). Now, I can admire the gracious woman she is, in addition to enjoying her singing.
A childhood friend of mine works in New York with Beyonce. He’s always maintained that she is flat out a ‘good person’ who knows where she came from and appreciates where she’s been. I, being an old crotchety shrew, had my doubts.
I’m so happy to have those doubts served right back to me cold. It greatly improves my opinion of such icons when they actually prove to the public that they’re decent human beings, as well as talented artists!
Viacom pulled the footage from Youtube for a while but the power of the internetz could not keep Kanye’s outrageous behaviour from being seen.
The first award that really meant anything to me was when I won a Playstation 3 for a blog article I sent in to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Screen Play Blog, a blog about video games in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper’s website. It was a big moment for me, and it’s probably going to be a long time before I win another award like that which will mean so much to me… and I’d hate it if Kanye West or even some troll told me that somebody else’s article deserved the award/prize of the Playstation 3 more than I did…
Could you imagine it?
“I know you worked hard for this award, Jacob Martin, but X’s article was one of the BEST ARTICLE OF ALL TIME! BEST ARTICLE OF ALL TIME!”
I would be devastated!
The Sasha Fierce nonsense aside, Beyoncé has always been a class act. She works hard and knows how to act in public.
I haven’t actually seen Beyonce’s part in rebuilding the wreckage from this, I will have to look up the videos for it. All I can find now is response videos to Kanye and a lolsubtitled version of a scene from the German movie “Downfall” where Hitler is resubtitled to complain about Kanye West…
I guess this is the scandal that’s rocking the world at the moment, pity nobody’s covering Australia’s upcoming internet censorship…
She is a class act & totally genuine. I don’t even by her music but appreciated her ability to do what was right.
Maybe Kayne should pay to hang out with her for a few months. He needs a mentor.
Jamie @ #8: Yes, that’s how I meant it. It is a bit of a cliché, but frankly I was feeling kind of lazy this morning. :)
1) Good on Beyoncé. Classy indeed.
2) The funniest comment I read about this imbroglio was our own Chang Terhune’s tweet, channeling Swift: “I was excited to be onstage because I just won the award & then I was excited that Kanye West was onstage. Then, I wasn’t excited anymore.”
3) Jesus, there’s a Wikipedia page titled, “List of awards and nominations received by Beyoncé Knowles.”
Beyoncé is one of the two injured parties in this whole thing: that West used her and her reputation to damage another. Bravo for her act of kindness. It said, “Let me help repair the harm done to you in my name.”
Talented and classy. Nice.
Some people shouldn’t drink alcohol. If you find yourself having to apologize repeatedly the next day you are one of the people who shouldn’t drink. Drinking anything alcoholic except beer straight from the bottle is another clue that you shouldn’t drink alcohol.
These observations in no way condone or excuse asshatery. Regardless of what you consumed befor hand.
Luckily I resisted the urge to jump on stage during Scalzi’s Hugo speech and tell everyone that Paul Kincaid’s “What Is It We Do When We Read Science Fiction” was the BEST BOOK EVAR.
Jamie @3: I don’t know if Beyoncé or Taylor knew it was going to happen, but I wouldn’t put it past MTV to talk Kanye into doing it. Especially after they admitted staging the Brüno-Eminem stunt.
If it weren’t for the controversial moments in their awards shows, would anyone even bother to watch them anymore?
I agree that Beyoncé did the right thing. Like Swift, she was also “ambushed” by Kayne, and did what she had to in order to avoid wearing it (she inititially appeared to laugh and go along, no?). But it’s still a little perverse that she’s the beneficiary at both ends of this stunt, and now everyone is lavishing praise for her “classiness” (even tho I totally agree it was classy). So really, Kayne got his way: the “award” goes to Beyoncé anyhow.
If you look at the original video, you can tell that Beyonce is looking slightly uncomfortable when the camera cuts to her after West’s outburst. As in, “Why are you dragging me into this, Kanye?”
My opinion of Beyonce went up several notches when seeing what she did to make it up to Swift. She proved herself to be both a lady and a gentleman, and I salute her.
My opinion of Kanye West, on the other hand, has no notches left. But the Top 10 Moments Ruined by Kanye West is pretty funny.
Well, I still can’t believe Kanye West dropped out of an English Literature program. Yes, Kanye was a college student. I never liked him or his music. It was like 99% hype and 1% imitation. Someone should tell him that he has a Napoleonic Complex. Maybe he could learn to mask it for everyone’s sakes. I HAD a Napoleonic complex until I moved to Asian eleven years ago. It was bounced out of my memories when I became a born again badass in wu-shu and taekwando. He should follow Jay-Z’s lead. Man Jay-Z blew the doors off the joint at the end. Alicia Keys, you swooned me. PS Did you see that lil’ chick on the stage at the end of Jay-Z’s set. There is a momentary pause there, Jay-Z screening her for weapons. Man, he’s super cool. By stark contrast, Kanye is stuper drool. Like Neal Stephenson, Beyonce is beyond awards.
Sometimes, ’tis better to give than receive. Sounds like Beyonce understands that — good on her. (And now I must check out the music of this Taylor Swift person.)
Dennis Brennan@2: Forget the call from Jay-Z. Yes, there was one, but Beyonce’s a big girl and can chew Kanye out herself. And she did, reportedly, take him to task offstage. (Or so said at least two reports that I read.)
I’d never heard of Taylor Swift before the incident, but I looked up her award winning video, and thought it was a cute. (A little reminiscent of Aerosmith’s Hole in My Soul video, very teen movie, but cute.) Just wish they hadn’t given into the cliche of the girl taking off her glasses, and OMG she’s gorgeous. Specially when Geeky Taylor is adorable.
For those who don’t know Taylor Swift, you probably have heard her biggest hit, Love Story. This isn’t the one she got the award for (video wasn’t particuarly special, I guess).
Taylor is a popular crossover artist on both country and pop charts. But her bigger impact is with younger girls, who love her non-trashy image. Young female pop-singers who avoid using their sex appeal to sell albums are rare(think Avril Lavigne as opposed to Britney Spears) but surprisingly popular with the kids.
To his credit, Kanye’s public apology the next day was well phrased. To his detriment, he has had a lot of practice.
Beyonce’s actions were classy. Period.
One of our local news shows that night said it best:
Kanye was crass; Beyoncé showed class.
I am lucky enough to have absolutely no idea what this is about.
How to find the MTV videos:
1. Click through on the link Scalzi helpfully provided at the top, marked “up to and including the president.”
2. Scroll down until you find the part in the page where it says “(Watch the video of Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs here and read about his first apology.)”
3. Click through and voila, three videos in a row.
Personally, I found out about the whole thing in a very old-fashioned way- I read it in a newspaper.
I’m not sure whether it’s more annoying when a nonsensical pop culture story like this dominates the news cycle for almost a week, or when people inevitably attempt to brag about the fact that they have no idea what it’s all about. Why is the refusal to spend three minutes reading one of the eight jillion stories about the non-event in question (or viewing one on TV, or listening to one on the radio, or seeing it on a personal blog or Facebook, etc., etc.) something to be proud of?
As far as all the Serious Thinking and handwringing about this particular kerfuffle goes, I’m a little astonished at the intensity of it all. I’ve seen some really ugly anti-West comment threads out there (see link below, for example), and I have a feeling that something similar explains the fact that he’s disabled and removed all comments from his own blog. I can’t endorse West’s jackass behavior, but I still found Choire Sicha’s “Team Kanye” piece from The Daily Beast to be pretty insightful. Especially with regard to how seriously any of us should be taking this whole thing.
Oh Crunchbird, don’t confuse all the attention we are giving this with “handwringing” or taking it seriously. I love this story because of the entertainment value. It is appealing because of how cut and dried it is. Kanye is a villain, Taylor is a victim, Beyonce is a heroine. And it certaintly doesn’t hurt that both women are incredibly beautiful! It is fun reading about this one, looking at the pictures, watching the videos, etc. A lot more fun than reading about missile shields in eastern Europe or health care. Give us a break and let us enjoy ourselves!
> (I apologize for my misspellings and poor
> punctuation in my previous comment. I receive
> ? an “D-” for this hate mail. Can I use the early
> in the morning excuse? Cat ate my spell check?)
A good program you can use is Spell Check Anywhere (SpellCheckAnywhere.Com). It has good spell check that works in all programs. They also have a grammar check program. It is easy to use, and will help you a lot.
Jamie: Giving you the benefit of the doubt that you’re not trolling – “____ is as ____ does” just means that if you truly are classy/stupid/Scalzi/whatever, it is reflected in your actions.
If this was a publicity stunt it was all Kanye. Taylor Swift was already getting all the coverage she needed by winning. Barring publicity, I have to think the race chip on Kanye’s shoulder is larger than average. Not saying he needs to get over racism in general, but the VMAs aren’t a hot-bed of Jim Crow either. The man doesn’t seem to have any talent for picking his time or his target.
Personally, I’ll take this as a chaser to Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst. Between these two guys and “open mike” Duvall, the silly season this year is sure winding up with a blast after a quiet summer.
Crunchbird, it’s nice to see something besides the fact that people are dying around the world, the economy sucks, and trying to go to your doctor is as likely to bankrupt you as not take over the news every once in a while. If we had a serious journalist market out there doing actual solid reporting on issues instead of the he-said/she-said nonsense that’s out there now, I’d be more inclined to believe you. But as someone who follows political sites no fewer than four times a day to see what the latest developments are in the healthcare reform debate, it’s nice to see something dominate the news for a relatively short time that can distract from how bad things suck right now and doesn’t involve someone dying.
YO JOHN, YOU’RE RIGHT AND CONGRATS, I’MMA LET YOU FINISH BUT BOING BOING HAD THE BEST BLOG POST OF ALL TIME!!!
(I will never get tired of this meme.)
And in the process, Beyonce probably made Kanye look like an even bigger jackass than he already did — if that’s possible.
I could not have said it better – and i will point to this entry from my blog because of that.
The lady showed herself to be a Class Act.
That was a really classy move on her part. I give her props for that.
Anyone wanna take bets on when Kanye makes it to SNL to spoof himself?
I should be writing.
Dirty Wizard Hunter, that “lil chick” is a rapper called Lil’ Mama who is from NYC. I am told by NYC rap fans that what she did was a very NYC hiphop thing to do, but rather thoughtless. Plus Jay totally ignored her.
Nargel, his “apology was well phrased”??? Which apology are you speaking about? Surely not the one he posted on his blog & that this genius Billy Reid has set to music?
I wasn’t aware there were conspiracy theories, but I’m glad I’m not the only one wondering if this was scripted.
When Taylor was upstaged, she was wearing a white dress. When she came back on stage a few minutes later she was wearing a red dress the same color as Beyonce’s.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s common for women to change between appearances. But was Swift expecting an additional appearance? Did she match Beyonce by accident?
I don’t watch award shows because I find them pointless and dull. Did someone succeed in getting me to take interest in the VMA?
On the other hand, Kanye almost broke down when Jay Leno asked what his mother would have said about this. He’s not a good enough actor to fake that.