The dispute over Lauryn Hill’s absence from the 58th Grammy Awards continues, with the singer’s rep maintaining their stance that her appearance was prematurely announced.
Among the surprising number of onstage snags during Monday’s show, one of the most mysterious was the no-show of Hill, who was set to be a special guest performer that almost no one knew about before the ceremony.
After the Weeknd’s performance — a medley of his song-of-summer smash “Can’t Feel My Face” and his slinky, Michael Jackson-esque ballad “In the Night” — Twitter buzzed over the omission of Hill, who was supposed to join the singer for “In the Night.”
An appearance from such a pivotal hip-hop and R&B performer would have stood as the night’s best-kept secret and a major coup for the show — if it had come together. And her no-show has created a war of words of sorts between the singer’s camp and the Recording Academy.
A representative for the notoriously reclusive Hill released a lengthy, strongly worded statement shortly after the performance that noted that the singer pulled out because of “its last-minute nature” and pointed toward advance word of her appearance by the Grammys.
“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 L.A. in time to rehearse for the event,” the statement read.
“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.”
The Grammys, however, had a different story.
Backstage in the press room Monday, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow spoke about the night's many snags.
When asked about Hill’s absence, Portnow’s comments conflicted with the official word from her camp. "None of that statement is accurate," Portnow said.
"We had rehearsals off-site that she didn't attend, but we had a dress rehearsal onstage that she did attend,” Portnow told reporters. “When it came to showtime, we were told she was late, three minutes to seven minutes out, but she didn't make it.”
"Our intention was, and we were ready, right up to the moment of the performance, for her to step up onstage,” Portnow said. “She didn't get into the building on time. If I have to be someplace on time, I figure out how to do that.”
On Wednesday, Hill’s camp issued another statement, firmly standing in their position and countering Portnow's remarks.
"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,” the statement said. “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.”
In a 30-second commercial from CBS obtained by The Times, Hill was among the talent slated to perform or present during the first hour of the Grammys — along with Nicki Minaj, who also didn’t appear on Monday’s show (she took to social media to confirm she wouldn’t be appearing).
Hill’s camp also said the image of the singer, taken from her 1998 “Ex Factor” music video, was used without approval.
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