Most controversial moments from the Grammy Awards over the years

Milli Vanilli, Elton John and Eminem (Getty Images)
Milli Vanilli, Elton John and Eminem (Getty Images)

This Sunday, music’s biggest stars will come together for the 65th annual Grammy Awards, with performances from Harry Styles, Lizzo, Mary J. Blige, Brandi Carlile and more. Traditionally, the Grammys aren’t widely considered the most exciting awards ceremony of the year but history shows that there have been some wild controversies that shocked the audience.

Before Sunday’s show, Yahoo Canada looks back at some of the most controversial Grammy Awards moments from ceremonies past.

Milli Vanilli return their Grammy

One of the most notable scandals happened in 1990 when the Milli Vanilli duo, Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, won the award for Best New Artist. But there was a problem - they never actually sang on their album “Girl You Know It's True.”

Eight months after they were presented with the honour, Morvan and Pilatus ended up returning their awards in a frantic press conference because the public outrage was so intense.

Morvan maintained that they weren’t forced to give the statues back but they chose to because they thought it was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

The academy never gave the award to another artist in their place.

Will Smith’s boycott

A year before the Milli Vanilli debacle, actor/rapper Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff decided to take a stand against the Recording Academy, refusing to accept their Grammy for Best Rap Performance when they discovered the category wouldn’t be televised, due to time constraints.

The pair won the award for “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and decided to boycott that ceremony. It resulted in Salt-N-Pepa, Russell Simmons and LL Cool J skipping the Grammy Awards in solidarity.

Eminem performs with Elton John

Eminem has faced significant criticism for homophobic lyrics but in 2001, after backlash from the LGBT community for the album “The Marshall Mathers LP,” the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation protested against the decision to have the rapper perform at the Grammy Awards.

In response to the criticism, it was announced that Eminem would still perform at the ceremony - but now with Elton John. The highly anticipated performance ended with the pair hugging, followed by the rapper flipping-off the audience.

The shocking Chris Brown, Rihanna discovery

One of the more upsetting Grammy memories happened in 2009, when ex-celebrity power couple Chris Brown and Rihanna both no-showed to the event.

It was later revealed that Brown assaulted Rihanna in their car after leaving Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party the night before. Rihanna told police she lost consciousness and when she woke up, Brown was gone.

Justin Timberlake was supposed to perform with Rihanna that night, but ended up singing with soul legend Al Green instead in a last-minute performance.

Brown was sentenced to five years of probation, and was ordered to complete 180 days of community labour and a one-year anti-domestic violence program. Rihanna was granted a restraining order but in 2011 requested to have it changed, to allow the pair to contact each other.

Justin Timberlake reacts as he holds the awards he won for best male pop vocal performance and best pop vocal album at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Justin Timberlake reacts as he holds the awards he won for best male pop vocal performance and best pop vocal album at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

‘Nipplegate’ scandal brought to the Grammy Awards

Although the now infamous “Nipplegate” scandal occurred at Superbowl XXXVII (the moment when Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s nipple during the halftime show), the ex- NSYNC group member was forced to apologize for the “wardrobe malfunction” in order to attend the 2004 Grammys.

Timberlake won Best Pop Performance for “Cry Me a River” and in his acceptance speech, he used the opportunity for an awkward apology to the public for the Superbowl scandal.

“I know it's been a rough week on everybody,” the singer said. “What occurred was unintentional, completely regrettable, and I apologize if you guys were offended.”