Eight of the most memorable Grammys moments of all time

From Will Smith snubbing the awards in the 1990s to The Weeknd calling it 'corrupt' in the 2020s

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The Grammys, also known as music's biggest night, is upon us and the pre-ceremony festivities have already begun.

This year, Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Adele are among those who may be about to make or break records.

So, as the industry's biggest names prepare for an evening of accolades, we take a look back at some of the Recording Academy's more controversial moments over the years.

Will Smith refuses Best Rap Artist award in 1989

Today, Will Smith is no stranger to awards controversy, following his high-profile Oscars argument with Chris Rock, but back in 1989, this was a first.

He won the debut Best Rap Artist award for his song Parents Just Don't Understand with DJ Jazzy Jeff, only to find out it wasn't being televised.

So he decided to refuse the accolade. "We ultimately ended up boycotting the actual ceremony because NARAS, the Grammy committee, refused to televise the presentation of the rap award,” the actor wrote in his 2021 memoir Will. “We felt like that was a slap in the face. Rap music had outsold the industry that year. We deserved to be there.”

Milli Vanilli stripped of their award in 1990

German-French R&B duo Milli Vanilli won the Best New Artist award in 1990, only to have it taken off them months later.

Why? Because it turned out the two had lip-synched to songs during an MTV performance from their multi-platinum 1989 album All or Nothing.

"I knew right then and there, it was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli,” member Rob Pilatus told the Los Angeles Times in November that year. “When my voice got stuck in the computer and it just kept repeating and repeating, I panicked. I just ran off the stage.″

Bob Dylan interrupted by 'Soy Bomb guy' in 1998

A shirtless man ran on stage during a performance by Bob Dylan at the Grammys in 1998. He had "Soy Bomb" written across his chest and he was removed about 35 seconds later.

It later turned out that man was New York artist Michael Portnoy, who became known as "Soy Bomb guy".

Dylan had been singing Love Sick when Portnoy crashed the performance, dancing robotically with his eyes closed.

The artist said he used those words as soy is densely nutritional and he wants art to represent "dense, transformational, explosive life".

"It was such a perfect format to do something inscrutable," Portnoy told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018. "To inject some confusion into the mainframe. It felt like I couldn’t get on that stage and not do something else. And at that point in my life, I was working as a comedian. It was almost like telling a joke with my body."

Jennifer Lopez's dress invents Google Image Search in 2000

MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 20: Jennifer Lopez walks the runway at the Versace show during the Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020 on September 20, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

Anyone who even remotely follows fashion will remember Jennifer Lopez's green Versace dress a la Grammys 2000.

The sheer, low-cut gown was so widely searched on Google after the event that the company had to create its Image Search function.

"Probably, my biggest fashion moment ever was wearing the green Versace jungle print dress," the singer said in a YouTube series called Moments of Fashion. Remembering arriving at the awards, she added: "It was a frenzy ... The [camera] flashes started going in a way that [they don't] usually. There was an extra kinetic energy there."

In an essay, The Tinkerer's Apprentice, written in January 2015, Google co-founder Sergey Brin wrote: "At the time, it was the most popular search query we had ever seen. But we had no surefire way of getting users exactly what they wanted: J­Lo wearing that dress. Google Image Search was born."

Lady Gaga shows up in an egg in 2011

On February 13, 2011, Lady Gaga opted not to walk the red carpet herself, choosing instead to be carried down it in an egg-shaped carriage by five scantily-clad men and one woman. She described it as a "vessel", not an egg.

"I was in there for about 72 hours, and it was a very creative experience, and it was time for me to prepare and really think about the meaning of Born This Way and get prepared for the performance. I really wanted to be born on stage."

When she took to the stage for her performance of Born This Way, she dazzled the crowd as she emerged from the alien-like vessel wearing flesh-coloured latex, to match her dancers.

Taylor Swift and Kanye West make up in 2015

Kanye West infamously interrupted Taylor Swift in 2009 while she was accepting a VMA for Best Video by a Female Artist, for which she beat Beyonce.

As she made her speech, West took the microphone, saying "Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’mma let you finish. But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!"

It sparked widespread controversy and launched a decade-long celebrity feud, which seemingly ended at the Grammys in 2015, when the pair famously hugged it out.

Neil Portnow makes sexist comment in 2018

Neil Portnow, a music industry executive who served as chairman and chief executive of the Recording Academy until 2019, faced widespread backlash after controversial comments he made at the 2018 Grammys.

He said women needed to "step up" in order to be recognised at the awards.

Musician Kelly Clarkson was among those who took offence. “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’ — women have been stepping [up] since the beginning of time,” she tweeted in 2018. “Stepping up, and also stepping aside women OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this. When we celebrate and honour, that talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women STEP UP every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair.”

Portnow later said his comment was taken out of context and that he "wasn't as articulate" as he "should have been", telling The New York Times: "Our industry must recognise that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced ... We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor and empower them. Our community will be richer for it."

The Weeknd shuns the Recording Academy in 2020

After The Weeknd infamously didn't receive a single Grammys nomination in 2020, the Recording Academy ended up overhauling its entire nominations process.

The Canadian singer had called the process "corrupt" as he had been widely expected to get several nominations for his critically acclaimed album After Hours, which was No 1 on the Billboard 200 charts for four weeks.

Variety called the omission of the RnB singer "the biggest snub in memory".

The Weeknd, in a Twitter post, said: "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency."

In May 2021, The Grammy Awards voted to remove its anonymous nomination review committees — groups that determined the contenders for key awards at the coveted music show.

Nominees would now be based purely on votes made by the academy's 11,000-plus voting members, and the academy said that "more than 90 per cent of its members will have gone through the requalification process by the end of this year, ensuring that the voting body is actively engaged in music creation".

Updated: February 06, 2023, 5:07 AM