After weeks of speculation about whether Eminem would perform at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy has finally confirmed his appearance and announced that the rapper will have some unlikely company onstage thanks to Elton John.
“There is no question that the prospect of Eminem performing on the Grammy telecast has been greeted with a great deal of interest, heat and controversy,” said Recording Academy President and CEO Michael Greene. The “heat” and “controversy” began before any talk of Eminem’s performance. Disappointed by the Recording Academy’s recognition of Eminem’s work with four Grammy nominations, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and at least a dozen other groups critical of Eminem announced their intention to protest the awards ceremony several weeks ago, before Eminem’s performance was announced. The rapper’s performance at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards met with serious criticism and protest by GLAAD outside of New York’s Radio City Music Hall where the event was staged.
Hoping to diffuse some of the controversy by matching up John and Eminem, Greene went on to say, “The addition of Elton John — always the musical adventurer himself — joining Eminem onstage will no doubt generate further debate and comment. We view this moment not only as musically significant, but also as an opportunity to help tear down some of the unfortunate walls of division that Eminem’s lyrics have built.” But John’s appearance alongside Eminem has done little so far to ebb the tide of controversy surrounding the Grammys. GLAAD responded immediately to the surprise duo. The group’s Executive Director Joan M. Garry released a statement saying, “We are disappointed that Sir Elton John will be performing with Eminem at the Grammy Awards. John has played an enormous role in educating the world about AIDS and gay issues through his music and charitable work. GLAAD is appalled that John would share a stage with Eminem, whose words and actions promote hate and violence against gays and lesbians.”
Elton John however is no stranger to teaming up with controversial figures. Back in 1992 he supported Guns n’ Roses divisive appearance at the “Tribute to Freddie Mercury Concert.” Guns n’ Roses, and in particular Axl Rose, were heavily criticized for the song “One in a Million” from the EP GNR Lies, which contains slurs against homosexuals, African Americans and other groups. In 1994, Rose introduced John when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
As for the larger issue of recognizing work by artists that is deemed hateful, the Recording Academy and GLAAD will debate the topic the day before the Grammys, February 20th, in a Town Hall Meeting. The panel will include Recording Academy President Greene and GLAAD Executive Director Garry as well as artists and producers yet to be announced. The meeting will be held at the Los Angeles Public Library from 3:30 to 4:30.
The Grammys will air live on CBS on February 21st at 8 p.m. Also scheduled to perform are U2, Madonna, Faith Hill, ‘N Sync, Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Nnenna Freelon and Take 6.