Last week, Kylie Minogue read out Nick Cave’s infamous 1996 letter to MTV, in which he requested his VMA nomination for Best Male Artist be withdrawn, saying “I am in competition with no one”. He even went so far as to withdraw his own name from consideration in all future ceremonies, too – but he’s not alone. These 15 acts have also snubbed the snubbers…
Animated band Gorillaz withdrew from Mercury Music Prize in 2001, having been entered for the award by their label, Parlophone. The weird thing was, it was animated, fictional bassist Murdoc – not real-life creator Damon Albarn – who made the statement that winning would be like “carrying a dead albatross ‘round your neck for eternity”.
Damon Albarn was up to his tricks again in 2010 when he turned down the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music on behalf of Blur. The honour instead went to Robbie Williams, which is pretty hilarious, but Blur then accepted when offered the award again in 2012.
Axl Rose wanted nothing to do with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame when Guns N’ Roses were offered a place. “I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorised nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf,” wrote Axl in 2012, feeling understandably awkward at the reunion the event might necessitate.
Sex Pistols likewise refused their place in the Hall of Fame. “Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain,” they said. “Your museum. Urine in wine. We’re not coming. We’re not your monkey and so what?”
Sex Pistols: grace personified.
Jay Z boycotted the Grammy Awards twice – once in 1999, for what he saw as a lack of respect for rap, and again in 2002 for snubbing DMX. It was a sign of Hova’s pragmatic nature that he didn’t withdraw his name from the nominations – and in 1999 he bagged Best Rap Album.
Following Jay Z’s suit, Kanye skipped the Grammy Awards in 2012 – despite having seven nominations, three of which he then won – because he was sore at being left out of the Best Album category. It wasn’t his first Grammy bugbear – at his first Grammys he said, “When I lost Best New Artist to Maroon 5 … you know what I mean?” We do Kanye, we definitely do.
Depeche Mode turned down Most Influential Band at the BRIT Awards in 2013 because ITV wouldn’t televise the segment where they would be presented with the award. “How many other bands have had as many hits as us worldwide and been around for as long?” asked frontman Dave Gahan, indignant. “Fuck them then and bollocks to it”.
It’s tragic hearing that Morrissey turned down Trinity College Dublin’s Gold Medal Award for Contribution to Music because “My initial reaction is to feel undeserving … my contribution to music being such that no record label on the planet has either the nerve or the imagination to sign me.”
Celine Dion refused the Canadian Félix Award for Best Anglophone Artist in 1991, because as a native French speaker she didn’t consider herself an Anglophone artist. She’d made ‘Unison’, though – an album entirely in English – so she was really just splitting hairs.
When Julie Andrews was the only person from the 1996 Broadway production Victor/Victoria nominated for a Tony Award, she opened her next performance with the statement, “I cannot accept this nomination,” saying that she would “stand instead with the egregiously overlooked” team behind the musical. “She will remain on the ballot” retorted a spokesman, “and possibly could win.” She didn’t.
Who set the precedent for Kanye and Jay’s no-shows at the Grammys? Will Smith, Jazzy Jeff & LL Cool J among others, who boycotted the 1989 awards for refusing to air hip-hop acceptance speeches. “What I really wanted to accomplish”, said Smith, “is next year, or two years from now, the rappers would be able to have what I didn’t have.” Jeff and he played the Grammys the following year.
2008 – Iron Maiden withdrew their name from Vodafone’s Live Music Award for Best Live Return – other nominees included Spice Girls, Led Zep and The Verve. “We are not quite sure where we are returning from,” they said via a statement on their official website. “Very flattering though.”
Chris Brown withdrew his name from the Kids’ Choice Awards 2009 after controversy for his nomination exploded. 10,000 people had signed a petition asking Nickelodeon, which runs the awards, to remove his name from various categories after the singer, then 19, appeared in court on assault charges by girlfriend Rihanna.
In 1991, maverick Irish singer Sinead O’Connor became the first person ever to refuse a Grammy. Despite winning Best Alternative Musical Performance, O’Connor boycotted the ceremony and refused to pick up the gong, reportedly because of the ‘extreme commercialism’ of the awards.
Madonna hasn’t turned down a real-life award that you could actually touch, but she’s preemptively stated she would turn down a lifetime achievement award if she was offered one, because she has so much more music to create. ”I’ve got lots of life left to live,” she says. “Offer it to me in 100 years and I might reconsider.” Ok, Madge, 2115 it is.