SZA Walks Away From 2023 MTV VMA Awards Ceremony Due to “Disrespectful” Snub

“Obviously, she had one of the best years, if not the best year, of any artist at this point,” SZA’s manager told The Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t see why she wouldn’t be nominated for artist of the year. It just really didn’t make any sense to me. It’s disrespectful.”

R&B artist SZA sings into a microphone
SZA gives a soulful performance for Red Bull Sound Select Presents: Toronto in the early days of her career in 2014. Photo credit: The Come Up Show

SZA was slated to perform at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) last Tuesday, but her management pulled her from the lineup after she was excluded from a critical award category. Despite being one of the ceremony’s most-nominated artists with eight nods total — including video of the year (“Kill Bill”), best R&B (“Shirt”) and album of the year (“SOS”) — SZA’s name was excluded from the list of nominees for artist of the year.

“Obviously, she had one of the best years, if not the best year, of any artist at this point,” SZA’s manager, Terrence “Punch” Henderson, told The Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t see why she wouldn’t be nominated for artist of the year. It just really didn’t make any sense to me. It’s disrespectful.”

Artists nominated for the award include Beyoncé, Doja Cat, Karol G, Nicki Minaj, Shakira and Taylor Swift, who took the award home. 

SZA released “SOS” in Dec. 2022 to critical and commercial acclaim. The record spent 10 weeks in at the top of Billboard’s 200 albums chart, making history as the longest-leading No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart since 1990. “SOS” has maintained momentum throughout 2023 with five top 10 hits, including “Kill Bill,” which broke records for spending 21 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Fann previously praised “SOS” here.

At the VMAs, SZA won Best R&B for her hit “Shirt,” but did not attend the ceremony to accept.

To Henderson, SZA’s success with “SOS” warranted an artist of the year nomination at the VMAs. “Why wouldn’t she be nominated for artist of the year?” he continued in his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter. “Even with the other artists that were nominated for artist of the year, some of them … didn’t [even] have an album out. I mean, no disrespect to them or anybody else; everybody’s great and all of that, but you can’t discredit what ‘SOS’ has done and is currently doing.”

Three nominees for artist of the year — Doja Cat, Minaj and Shakira — have not released albums since the 2022 VMAs ceremony.

When Henderson contacted MTV for an explanation for the snub and the two parties failed to reach a resolution, Henderson decided to pull SZA’s performance. “I figured, why go perform and do this if she’s not going to be respected to the highest level? So it was my call to actually pull out of the performance,” he explained. Henderson added that SZA is “a very sweet person and she’s not for all of the nonsense and the politics … So, our feelings might be a little different … If there’s any issues or backlash and all of that, I’m taking all of that.”

VMAs debacle aside, SZA has enough on her plate to keep her busy. She is currently in the final leg of her “SOS” headlining arena tour, and yesterday, released two singles: an acoustic version of “Snooze” featuring Justin Bieber, and a collaboration with Drake called “Slime You Out.” Last week (Sept. 8), SZA announced an upcoming deluxe edition of “SOS” titled “LANA” at a surprise event for fans at New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard, which will arrive this fall.

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