SZA Abruptly Cancelled Her MTV VMA Performance After Artist of the Year Snub, Manager Reveals

SZA canceled MTV VMAs performance over Artist of the Year snub
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SZA canceled MTV VMAs performance over Artist of the Year snub
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Photo Credit: Erin Cazes for The Come Up Show / CC by 2.0

After SZA’s name was strangely absent from the Artist of the Year category at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, the singer abruptly cancelled her scheduled performance over the snub, her manager has revealed.

No one was surprised when Taylor Swift and SZA were the top contenders at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards when the nominations were revealed last month — but SZA’s absence from the Artist of the Year category raised some questions after the singer’s incredibly successful year. Her manager has now revealed that he made the call to pull her scheduled performance at the VMAs once she was snubbed from the category.

SZA’s success this year included ten weeks on the Billboard 200 albums chart with her sophomore release, “SOS,” making history as the longest-leading No. 1 of the century so far on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart. Released in December, the album is already certified triple platinum, launching five Top 10 hits on the Hot 100 chart.

“She had one of the best years, if not the best year, of any artist at this point. 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,” says Terrence “Punch” Henderson, SZA’s longtime manager, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

The co-president of Top Dawg Entertainment — which features acts like ScHoolBoy Q, Jay Rock, Doechii, SiR, and formerly Kendrick Lamar — Punch says he contacted MTV about the snub during a call about SZA’s potential performance at the awards show. But he wasn’t given a “clear answer as to why” she wasn’t nominated for that particular category; instead, they focused on her nomination for several other awards.

“They ended up saying, ‘Okay, well, we could do another call,’ because there were people on (the call) about logistics for the show who didn’t have anything to do with (the nominations),” Punch explained. “When we tried to set up the second call, they didn’t want to discuss Artist of the Year, which, to me, was really a slap in the face.”

Artists nominated for the category included Beyonce, Doja Cat, Karol G, Nicki Minaj, Shakira, and Taylor Swift, who took home the prize on Tuesday night. SZA’s nominations this year included Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best R&B, which she won for her track “Shirt.”

Displeased with MTV’s lack of attention to the issue, Punch says, “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.”

SZA didn’t attend the VMAs, but Punch notes, “Our feelings might be a little different.”

“(SZA) is a very sweet person, and she’s not for all of the nonsense and the politics and the back and forth and all of that,” he says. “But ultimately, I felt it was disrespectful, and I was very stern on that and influencing that.”

Still, SZA is expected to be the leader at the 2024 Grammy Awards. She has 15 Grammy nominations under her belt, having won the Best Pop/Duo award for “Kiss Me More” with Doja Cat. The Grammy nominations will be announced on November 10.