That’s the only way to describe the reaction at the Shrine Auditorium after Garth Brooks refused to accept the favorite artist of the year honors at the 23rd annual American Music Awards on Monday.
“I cannot agree with this [award],” Brooks said from the podium, as the cheers in the house during the ABC telecast fell silent. “Without any disrespect for the American Music Awards and without any disrespect for the people who voted, for all the people who should be honored I’m gonna leave it right here.”
And he did just that, leaving the statue on the podium and walking away.
And that was the end of the show.
While it was hardly a repeat of Sacheen Littlefeather’s diatribe delivered on behalf of Marlon Brando when he turned down the best actor Oscar in 1973, it left those on hand grasping to comprehend what had happened.
Only when Brooks got backstage and addressed the media did he elaborate.
“It wasn’t fair for me to walk away with that award,” said the singer, who has demonstrated a similar flair for the dramatic at other events in the past. “Maybe a year or two ago when we had a really good year. But I’ve been around [the country] talking to retailers . . . and every one of them credits Hootie [& the Blowfish] for keeping them alive in 1995 and I couldn’t agree more. So I thought that’s who shoulda won.”
Members of the South Carolina rock band were unavailable for comment after the show, but Boyz II Men--another nominee for favorite artist, along with Hootie, TLC and Green Day--sought Brooks out after the show and greeted him with warm hugs.
“They were blown away by it,” said Boyz II Men’s manager John Dukakis on Tuesday, praising Brooks’ action as courageous--and correct.
“I think he was right in the sense that artist of the year is supposed to be about who is the artist that year, and the argument can be made that there are a few other people in that category who may have been more deserving.”
Even Dick Clark, the creator and executive producer of the AMAs, supported Brooks’ gesture.
“I thought it was a stroke of genius,” Clark said on Tuesday. “I’m not offended by what he did. I understand what he did. So I sent him a note that we’ll put [his award statue] in the archive.”
The fact is that Brooks--whose performance of “The Change,” accompanied by tear-inducing video images of the Oklahoma City bombing disaster provided one of the three-hour show’s highlights--was largely inactive in 1995. Though his “Hits” album, released at the end of 1994, was among the year’s bestsellers, he didn’t tour and didn’t release an album of new material until “No Fences” in December--after the eligibility period for these awards.
Nonetheless, in a voting process that determines nominees by sales and radio play and picks the winners by the vote of a “scientifically” selected cross-section of 20,000 music fans, Brooks was given two other statues on Monday--which he accepted. He was named favorite male country artist, and “Hits” was given the favorite country album nod.
Including the refused award, Brooks tied the Eagles as the night’s biggest winner with three. The Eagles took the favorite pop/rock band, adult contemporary artist and favorite pop/rock album for its live “Hell Freezes Over” reunion release, beating Hootie in each category.
That meant that Hootie, despite having 1995’s runaway biggest-selling album, was left with just one award--for new pop/rock artist. That reflected the American Music Awards’ leaning toward established artists, as did Alabama’s country band award and Reba McEntire’s country female artist trophy--their 14th and 10th consecutive wins, respectively, in those categories.
In fact, besides Hootie and the other new artist winners Shania Twain (country) and Brandy (soul/R&B;), favorite rap artist Coolio was the only first-time honoree of the evening.