UPDATE: Rolling Stone received a statement on Wednesday from a representative for Lauryn Hill: “In regards to the comments this morning from The Grammys, CBS did announce Ms. Hill’s performance, there were official Grammy television ads that ran for a couple of days naming Ms. Hill as a performer on the show. Her camp was unhappy about this. They had made it clear from the start that although Ms. Hill was going to attempt to make the show, she could not confirm, as there were too many logistical issues that could potentially prevent the performance from happening. The performance was also supposed to be a surprise. This was discussed with Grammy organizers, and the TV spots were pulled. As previously mentioned, Ms. Hill attempted a last minute rush to LA, to see if this could happen, but unfortunately timing that day kept it from being a reality. Ms. Hill truly appreciated the invitation, and the efforts made by all parties to try and make the performance happen.”
The worst-kept secret going into Music’s Biggest Night was an unannounced appearance by Lauryn Hill, who was supposed to join the Weeknd during his Grammy performance of “In the Night”; photos of the two singers rehearsing were widely circulated earlier Monday. However, during the Grammy telecast, the Weeknd delivered the song alone. Hill’s absence not only surprised in-the-know viewers, but the Grammys themselves were caught off guard.
“It’s a disappointment to us and a disappointment to her,” Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said of the missing Hill after the Grammys (via USA Today). “Our intention was, and we were ready, right up to the moment of the performance, for her to step up on stage.”
In a statement issued during the Grammys, Hill’s rep explained, “The Grammys announced a performance by Ms. Lauryn Hill prematurely and without approval. Ms. Hill had concerts all weekend, leaving no time to prepare, and was uncertain she would even be able to make it to LA in time to rehearse for the event, Any performance that could have happened was never confirmed, and should not have been advertised as such. Ms. Hill was invited to do a collaboration with an artist she appreciates. The performance was intended to be a surprise and unfortunately due to its last minute nature, was unable to come to fruition.”
However, Portnow dismissed that claim. “None of that statement is accurate,” he said, adding that Hill attended rehearsals Monday morning. “She was there for it, completed it and left the building. And then she did not get back in time to make the show. I’m sorry, that’s the bottom line. That’s the truth. That’s unfortunate. I guess those things happen.”
A Grammy rep told TV Line that the notoriously tardy Hill “showed up during rehearsals, but arrived too late for the performance.”