The boos that accompanied Kanye West’s performance at the Billboard Music Awards were barely audible to those enjoying the show from the comfort of their own homes. Strangely, so was the performance. West’s rendition of his singles “Black Skinhead” and “All Day” (from 2013’s Yeezus and the upcoming SWISH, respectively, were heavily censored, due in part to their combined 44 mentions of the n-word. In fact, the five-minutes-and-eighteen-seconds performance had an entire 62 cut out by producers due to censorship.
It’s perhaps fitting that West could barely be heard, since he could also barely be seen: fog and pyrotechnics stole the show.
Now ‘Ye is alleging that he was “grossly over-censored” and that “his voice and performance were seriously misrepresented.” A statement via his publicist reads, in part, “Non-profane lyrics such as ‘with my black jeans on’ were muted for over 30 second intervals.” A fact-check reveals that that particular lyric, was, in fact, censored, but there were no 30-second intervals of censorship anywhere in the performance.
West’s anger is understandable: a lot goes into a performance, so of course an artist wants the audience to see a performance exactly as it was intended. After all, didn’t ABC have access to the songs’ lyrics ahead of time? If they were going to censor the performance (whether or not they should have is another matter entirely), shouldn’t they have been prepared to do so properly and in a manner in line with the artist’s vision?
ABC has yet to comment, but it’s not hard to predict that they’ll argue “better safe than sorry.” The real story to watch here, though, is whether this kicks off a trend of artists demanding more lenient censorship.