Picture this (as Sophia from “The Golden Girls” used to say). The VMA Awards. September 2009. Taylor Swift is announced as the winner in the Best Female Video category. Kanye West jumps up on stage and shouts: “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!”
The media reports that Beyoncé is mortified, and shrinks down in her seat.
Fast forward five and a half years later. Now picture this. The Grammy Awards. February 2015. Beck is announced as the winner in the Album Of The Year category. Kanye West jumps up on stage but returns to his seat without saying what’s on his mind (allegedly to spare his baby daughter, North West, any embarrassment).
The media reports that, once again, Beyoncé is mortified, and shrinks down in her seat.
Later on, at an after party, Kanye speaks his mind and among the many memorable things he says, he states that he believes Beck should give his award to Beyoncé, he believes that Beck knows that he doesn’t deserve to win the Album Of The Year category, and that he believes that Beck needs to respect artistry.
At this point, you may be thinking that this is yet another article poised to complain about Kanye’s behavior at the awards ceremony. You’d be mistaken if you thought so, but I can’t blame you for thinking that’s the direction this article is headed.
There’s a saying that’s been attributed to countless celebrities over the decades — Mae West, P.T. Barnum, George M. Cohan, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, to name a few. Which saying? This one:
“I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”
It also has a companion saying and it’s this:
“There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
And, of course, there’s the infamous line by Oscar Wilde who was quoted as saying:
“There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is NOT being talked about.”
Perhaps Kanye knew exactly what he was doing from a marketing and promotion perspective when he jumped up on stage in 2009 at the VMA Awards and again just days ago at the Grammys. Perhaps Kanye read the study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and led by Jonah Berger, Alan T. Sorensen, and Scott J. Rasmussen that addressed the issue of how negative publicity can have a positive effect in that is can sometimes result in increased sales.
Perhaps Kanye noted that after the movie “Borat” was released — a movie that mocked Kazakhstan — the website hotels.com reported a three hundred percent increase in requests for information about Kazakhstan.
Perhaps Kanye thought that in recreating a similar scenario to the one many Americans watched back in 2009 between Taylor Swift and himself, he could spur Americans who bought Beck’s CD to buy Beyoncé’s CD so they can compare the two artists.
Perhaps Kanye is a much smoother operator than outraged fans and media give him credit.
Unfortunately, this might backfire on him and Beyoncé as no one likes a sore loser or a sore loser of a gracious nominee. After all, people have a natural tendency of avoiding negative colleagues because no one really wants to wonder if their success is going to be leveraged against them publicly at some later date.
That may be something Kanye would like to consider moving forward. While there’s a lot to be said about staying in the public eye, there’s even more to be said about being happy for the successes our friends and business associates enjoy.