Kanye, Madonna, Britney—always in the news for some outrageous thing they did. Or said. Or wore. Known just as much for their controversy as for their talent.
So it should come as no surprise that Kanye West stole the spotlight at this year’s MTV’s Video Music Awards, even though Madonna and Janet Jackson’s tribute to the late Michael Jackson was supposed to be the highlight of the annual awards show.
At the top of the televised show, after the presentation of the very first award for Best Female Video, Kanye interrupted winner Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech. Grabbing the microphone from her mid-speech, he declared, “Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and I’m gone let you finish, but Beyonc
had one of the best videos of all time, one of the best videos of all time!”
Taylor looked like a deer caught in headlights while Beyonc
scanned the auditorium, looking for any indication that the incident was a staged joke gone awry. Audience members booed, and some screamed, “We love you Taylor.” When Kanye finished his rant and returned the mic to an obviously humiliated Swift, she stood motionless, unable to respond. Swiftly, the next video was played (no pun intended), as Taylor was escorted off of the stage.
Tweets, facebook messages, and blogs quickly flooded cyberspace. Swift fans, other musicians, and concerned viewers all chimed in, denouncing Kanye’s behavior. Infamous blogger Perez Hilton wrote, “Deserved that award, damnit. It is what THE PEOPLE voted! My heart broke for her, she looked so sad at the end of that moment." Pop sensation Kelly Clarkson wrote, "Taylor Swift you outsell him….that’s why he’s bitter. You know I Love Your Work!” Keep it up girl!”
In a rare showing of solidarity, all of cyberspace agreed: Kanye West had finally crossed the line.
Sure, we had tolerated his tirades throughout the years. We had barely cared when he declared that he was “the voice” for our generation. We hadn’t been too bothered by his repeated declarations that he was purposely being denied the Album of the Year Grammy by the Grammy committee because they didn’t like him. And some of us had still liked him after he declared, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on live television, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
But no one could defend Kanye this time. Sure, he was entitled to his opinion, and yes, a lot of people agreed with him, but his behavior was rude and incomprehensible. What Kanye failed to comprehend was that this moment was not about him, his feelings, or his opinions. It was about Taylor Swift. Besides humiliating her in front of 9 million viewers and the millions more who watched afterwards, he robbed her of her moment. And although hurt can heal, moments can never be relived.
Being the classy lady that she is, Beyonc
gave Taylor the opportunity to give her acceptance speech after Beyonc
received the award for Best Video of the Year. But it wasn’t quite the same. And even in that gracious gesture, Beyonc
was robbed of her moment to shine and give thanks for her video that was truly the Best Video of the Year and arguably one of the best videos of all time.
Kanye spoke with Jay Leno on The Jay Leno Show the very next day saying, “It was rude, period. I’d like to be able to apologize to her in person.”
His appearance on the show wasn’t just a necessary P.R. move. It was the image a man, visibly broken, offering his sincerest apologies. Stripped of all bling and wearing only black, this Kanye was soft-spoken, and yes, even speechless. This image of Kanye was one that we had never seen before—reflective and remorseful. With slowed speech and downcast eyes, he suggested that he needed to take a break, that he hadn’t taken a break since his mother’s death, and that the time had presented itself. Sensing the un-comfortableness of the situation, Jay Leno quickly wrapped up the interview.
A scripture says, “He who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Kanye West has clearly been humbled. I hope that his “break” inspires him to continue to walk in humility. If he does, he may be able to go from being a voice that’s loud and incessantly talking to a voice that people want to listen to, one whose words are infused with wisdom and integrity. If all goes well, he may be exalted to the very position that he claimed to have all along. If not, he may find himself banned from all live events.