Even without appearing at the Grammys Sunday night, Janet Jackson’s presence will be inescapable.
The singer was supposed to have presented a special award for Luther Vandross, but pulled out amid the furor following her Super Bowl performance.
Also avoiding the show will be Jackson’s good friend, rapper and music producer Jermaine Dupri, who announced Friday he was resigning as president of the Recording Academy’s Atlanta chapter.
“I didn’t want to be a part of something that’s not treating people in the right light,” Dupri said. “I feel like what’s going on with Janet is unfair.”
Jackson’s halftime partner, Justin Timberlake — who tore off the piece of clothing that exposed her right breast — will be there, however. He’s up for five Grammys, including album of the year, and is scheduled to perform.
But many expect that Jackson’s absence will be felt more than her presence would have been, and that her stunt will overshadow the awards themselves. (Fellow R&B acts Beyonce Knowles and Pharrell Williams, and rap stars Jay-Z and OutKast, lead the nominations with six each.)
“All night it will remind Grammy viewers, who are an antiestablishment lot, that this is not really their party,” said Tom O’Neil, author of “The Grammys” who runs the awards handicapping Web site Goldderby.com.
“When the Grammys are at their hippest and best, they reward artists for daring to be social rebels. Now it’s outrageous for the Grammys to punish Janet Jackson for performing that same role on someone else’s stage. ... This just proves that the Grammys are really still the Grannies.”
Spokesmen for the awards ceremony and for the Recording Academy didn’t return phone calls seeking comment Friday.
Blender magazine Editor Craig Marks pointed out that the Grammy ceremony is a conservative affair under normal circumstances. Now, CBS is instituting a five-minute delay to allow enough time to edit out any potentially offensive moments during the show at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I would imagine that this would be the most staid, surprise-free, least-lewd Grammys of all time,” Marks said by phone Friday from Los Angeles. “The Grammy producers, the network, the labels, the managers and the artists, too, probably realize that some kind of extra crotch grab or cuss word would not be beneficial to their careers.”
And what can we expect from Timberlake?
“I think he would be smart to ignore it,” Marks said. “I don’t think he would be smart to apologize. He already did it, it’s enough.”
JC Chasez, Timberlake’s ’N Sync bandmate, said the uproar over the Super Bowl exhibition will have repercussions long after the Grammys.
“Now it turns into a censorship issue,” said Chasez, who refused to sing the national anthem at Sunday’s Pro Bowl after the National Football League yanked him from the halftime show because of his lyrics. “You’re terrified that if I do this song, are they going to play it on the radio? I think music and entertainment are in a great place right now. One bad apple is spoiling the bunch.”
Meanwhile, other performers continue to steadfastly support Jackson.
“I’m a big fan of Janet’s,” rapper-producer Missy Elliott said at a news conference Thursday in Los Angeles, where she was promoting a joint tour with Knowles and Alicia Keys. “I’m not here to judge her performance or what she’s done. I think she’s an incredible talent. I stand behind her always.”
But Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl said Jackson’s breast-baring stunt was nothing more than self-promotion and “blatant exhibitionism.”
The former Nirvana drummer believes the music industry has been harmed by the recent skin-revealing exploits of Jackson, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
“Get them on the Playboy Channel,” Grohl said Thursday at a pre-Grammy rehearsal party. “Keep them out of my MTV. I want to see bands and music.”