If only Kanye West had kept his love locked down. Instead, he stormed the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards Sept. 13 to protest Taylor Swift winning Best Female Video over Beyoncé ”Single Ladies.” ”Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you…,” he told the 19-year-old country star. ”But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!” As the ”Halo” singer sat shocked and the audience jeered, Swift simply stood in stunned silence. It wasn’t until the end of the night — when eventual Video of the Year winner Beyoncé graciously invited Swift back on stage — that she was able to finish her acceptance speech.
West’s evening had no such happy ending. After the outburst, MTV asked him to leave the building — but not before he was confronted by Swift’s angry mother. The crowd backlash was instantaneous and fierce, as boos echoed through Radio City Music Hall each time his name was mentioned during the telecast. Swift pal Katy Perry tweeted from her seat, ”F — – U Kanye. It’s like U stepped on a kitten.” Even later, at Lady Gaga’s VMA after-party, DJ Cobra was asked not to play any West tracks. (The next day, President Barack Obama inadvertently chimed in, calling him a ”jacka — ” during an off-the-record portion of a CNBC interview that was promptly leaked on Twitter by a nearby ABC correspondent.)
By all appearances, West has done his part to make amends. Within 24 hours of the broadcast, the rapper apologized on his — twice. His tour of contrition continued when he fought back tears on the Sept. 14 premiere of NBC’s The Jay Leno Show, and the following day, when he called Swift directly. (Admittedly, that gesture took place only after the singer noted on The View that the hip-hop star had ”not personally reached out.”) ”He was very sincere in his apology,” Swift told ABC News Radio soon afterward, ”and I accepted that.”
Will fans be as kind? The blogosphere has been abuzz with calls for a Kanye boycott — and even threats of physical violence. The timing of this public outcry could not be worse. West is a major producer on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3, which just debuted at No. 1 with 476,000 copies sold, and his protégé Kid Cudi released his much-buzzed-about album Man on the Moon: The End of Day this week as well. And on Tuesday, dates were announced for West’s highly anticipated tour this fall coheadlining with Lady Gaga. ”I don’t know that it will turn his fans off necessarily,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, a concert-tracking trade publication. ”I think his hardcore fans are probably more amused by it than anything else.” After all, West’s history of bad behavior — including hissy fits at the 2004 American Music Awards, the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, and the 2007 VMAs — has never alienated supporters en masse before. (If the week proves anything, it’s that West still has drawing power: His appearance on Leno helped boost ratings to a stunning 17.7 million viewers.)
After four apologies — and counting — the furor must be dying down. Right? So far West, whose rep did not respond to requests for comment, is making the right moves, says crisis PR expert Howard Bragman. ”The hardest thing that I have to convince celebrities to do is to be humble, admit their mistake,” he tells EW. ”And the second hardest thing is to convince clients to shut the f — – up…. That’s what [Kanye] needs to do now.” Sounds like everyone could use a little quiet time.