Though the 61st Grammy Awards are only one night away, the biggest news cycle surrounding the show this week has focused more on who’s not attending than who is. After Ariana Grande was reported to have pulled out of the slate of Grammy performers because of clashes with the production team, the show’s longtime executive producer Ken Ehrlich said the reason was that the singer “felt it was too late to pull something together” — but Grande fired back on Twitter that Ehrlich was “lying about me” and “my creativity and self-expression was stifled.”
“I saw those tweets and what she said. I guess it was a surprise,” Erhlich tells Rolling Stone at rehearsals for the show this weekend. “I will say this, and they don’t want me to say it but I’m going to say it: The thing that probably bothered me more than whatever else she said about me is when she said I’m not collaborative.
“The fact of the matter is — and I actually wrote a little thing in the middle of the night that I’m not going to do anything about, but, I mean. You can ask Christina Aguilera, who I asked to do ‘It’s a Man’s World’ for James Brown,” Ehrlich added. “You can ask Melissa Etheridge, who finished her cancer treatment and I put her out on stage, bald, doing Janis Joplin. You can ask Ricky Martin who overnight became the creator of the Latin music revolution. Ask Mary J. Blige, who was scared shitless to go out there and do ‘No More Drama.’ I basically worked with her to mold it. Ask H.E.R. who’s in this show.”
Ehrlich says he never spoke to Grande directly, but worked with her management team, and that he usually does “not have this happen.” “I don’t know if I’m good at anything else, but I understand artists and I can hear other artists in an artist,” he says. “I don’t say to people, ‘This is what you should do.’ I approach it casually and say, hey, this might be a good idea, let’s find something in the middle.”
The 61st Grammys airs Sunday night on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Dua Lipa, Cardi B and Post Malone are among those scheduled to perform, with Alicia Keys hosting the three-and-a-half hour live show.