No one came right out and said it was okay, but a few stars at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards did verbally dance around the fallout from the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime striptease.
After a week of apologies and speculation about whether Jackson and Timberlake would attend Sunday’s ceremony (he did, she didn’t), most pop stars thought it would be best just to move on.
“Sometimes it’s not about celebrity, it’s not about gossip, it’s about the music,” said Queen Latifah as she introduced Christina Aguilera, who won a Grammy for female pop vocal.
Even Aguilera, who is no stranger to controversy, tried to appear modest as she clutched her dress’s plunging neckline to her chest. She was one of the few performers to reference Jackson by name, saying, “I don’t want to have the same thing happen that Janet had done,” as an onscreen graphic was briefly put in place by CBS censors to bar any unsanctioned skin.
For the first time in its history, the Grammy Awards were presented with a five-minute broadcast delay that would allow the network to halt any questionable material. Until now, the Grammys have always been presented live.
As for Jackson and Timberlake, both stars were reportedly told they would have to apologize again at the show in order to attend. Timberlake, who won the award for best male pop vocal performance for his song “Cry Me a River,” agreed, and again expressed remorse during his acceptance. Jackson, who was scheduled to be a presenter, chose not to appear.
Several performers indicated that they had had enough of the controversy. Pharrell Williams, of the Grammy-winning producing duo the Neptunes, blamed it on the media: “The news has gotten too raunchy. All they had to do was play it the one time it happened, but the news has been running it ever since it happened,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “What does that say about the news?”
Country singer Lyle Lovett said, “Art has always pushed social norms,” and added that he thought it was hypocritical for society to embrace such behavior in some instances but criticize it in others, while Dave Matthews thought the controversy should just end: “It doesn’t seem like it deserves so much attention,” he said, according to AP.
Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which organizes the Grammy Awards, echoed that thought. “To focus on these issues really belittles what we’re doing tonight,” he said, reports Reuters.
Ultimately it was Aguilera who got right to the point: “People are bored … to be still talking about a boob,” she said.