Michael Jackson, whose music dominated MTV at the height of his career, was the star of the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards — months after his death.
However, the show featured more than accolades for Jackson. Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video, stunning the usually unflappable MTV awards show crowd. Madonna opened the MTV show in New York by hailing Jackson as a musical hero who suffered from a childhood lost to fame and who was abandoned by his friends. Janet Jackson danced in a high-energy musical tribute to her brother onstage at Radio Music Hall. Viewers who stayed tuned to the end of the awards show got the first peek at a behind-the-scenes documentary of the pop star’s final three months, a film that uses video of his rehearsals for what were to be his comeback concerts. See guests arrive to awards show “It’s a great adventure,” Michael Jackson said. “We want to take them places that they’ve never been before.” The two-and-a-half minute preview gave quick glimpses of Jackson and what producer Kenny Ortega said “may go down as the greatest concert that no one got a chance to see.” The movie trailer can be seen at www.thisisit-movie.com. Jackson died in at his home in Holmby Hills, California, on June 25 — two weeks before he was to kick off 50 shows at London’s O2 Area.
Gallery: Top moments from previous shows in NYC
The Los Angeles County coroner concluded that his death was a homicide, caused by drug injections. The criminal investigation has targeted Dr. Conrad Murray, who was paid by concert promoter AEG Live to serve as Jackson’s personal physician. No charges have been filed in the case. Jackson’s estate contracted with Sony Pictures to make the film — “Michael Jackson; This Is It” — from about 100 hours of video captured from April to June by AEG Live as Jackson prepared for the shows. The Jackson documentary will run in theaters worldwide for two weeks starting October 28, Sony Pictures said. Tickets will go on sale September 27. Madonna was the only person to speak during the award show’s opening tribute to Jackson. The singer noted that she and Jackson were born the same month and in the same part of the United States, in the Midwest. “When Michael Jackson was 6, he became a superstar and was perhaps the world’s beloved child,” she said. “When I was 6, my mother died. I think he got the shorter end of the stick. I never had a mother, but he never had a childhood.” Madonna said while she searched for years for a mother figure, Jackson tried to recapture his childhood. “But how do you re-create a childhood when you are under the magnifying glass of the world for your entire life” she said. She said she saw Jackson’s “vulnerability and charm” during a dinner date in 1991, but they later fell out of touch. “Then the witch hunt began, and it seemed like one negative story after the other was coming out about Michael,” she said. “I felt his pain. I know what it’s like to walk down the street and feel like the whole world has turned against you. I know what it’s like to feel helpless and unable to defend yourself because the roar of the lynch mob is so loud that you are convinced your voice can never be heard. “But I had a childhood and I was allowed to make mistakes and find my own way in the world without the glare of the spotlight.” Madonna said she was in London when she learned that Jackson had died. “All I could think about at the moment was I had abandoned him, that we had abandoned him, that we had allowed this magnificent creature that once set the world on fire to somehow slip through the cracks,” she said. “While he was trying to build a family and rebuild a career, we were all busy passing judgment. Most of us had turned our backs on him.” The tribute then turned musical, with dancers re-creating the choreography of several of Jackson’s biggest videos, starting with “Thriller.” With father, Joe Jackson, and brother Jermaine Jackson watching from the front row, Janet Jackson appeared onstage for the last song. While Jackson’s “Gravity” video played on a huge screen behind her, she danced and lip-synced the words “Just stop pressuring me.” The other highlight of the show was quite opposite in tone. Even by the standards of the anything-goes MTV awards, Kanye West’s hijacking of pop sweetheart Taylor Swift’s speech at the was particularly brutal. A giddy Swift was in the midst of her acceptance speech for Best Female Video when the often-mercurial West rushed onstage, grabbed her microphone and let loose an outburst on behalf of singer Beyonce Knowles, who had lost out in that category. But audiences who stayed tuned until the end of the broadcast were treated to a touching bookend: Knowles, the night’s top winner, invited Swift onstage and gave the teen country singer her moment in the spotlight. “I remember being 17 years old, up for my first MTV award with Destiny’s Child, and it was one of the most exciting moments of my life,” Knowles said, referring to the girl group with which she had her start. “So I would like for Taylor to come out and have her moment.” Speaking to reporters later, Swift was understated about her take on the disruption. “I was excited to be onstage because I just won the award. And then I was excited that Kanye West was onstage. Then, I wasn’t excited anymore,” she said. MTV told journalists the West-Swift incident was not planned — a point it had to stress after a walkout by singer Eminem at last year’s event turned out to be staged. Hip-hop superstar West, who was pictured before the ceremony swigging a bottle of Cognac, was escorted from the building after the rant, the network said.
Soon after, an apology to Swift appeared on his blog: “I’m sooooo sorry to Taylor Swift and her fans and her mom,” the message said in all caps. “I spoke to her mother right after and she said the same thing my mother would’ve said. She is very talented! … I’m in the wrong for going on stage and taking away from her moment!”