SZA dropped out of a scheduled performance at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards when she wasn’t nominated for Artist of the Year, according to Terrence “Punch” Henderson — Top Dog Entertainment’s president and one of the R&B star’s managers. The cancelation wasn’t directly due to the snub itself, Punch explained. The decision was made after MTV refused to engage Punch when he asked why his artist had been left off the ballot for the night’s most prestigious honor. The revelation is a small part of Makaprr Conteh sprawling profile of SZA for the cover of Rolling Stone’s new issue, published today (October 3).
“It wasn’t not getting nominated,” Punch told Conteh. “The ultimate disrespect is you don’t even want to discuss why she wasn’t nominated or what the criteria was. When I asked about the Artist of the Year nomination, they were basically like, ‘She got nominated for a bunch of other ones.’ And to me, that felt like, ‘Shut up and dribble.’” (SZA was nominated for six other awards at the 2023 VMAs, second only to Taylor Swift, who eventually won Artist of the Year, though the TV broadcast of the ceremony inexplicably cut out before the award was given.)
Per Rolling Stone, SZA had planned her VMAs performance around “Snooze,” the latest song from her hugely successful sophomore LP SOS to go ultra-viral. Conteh’s story starts at a shoot for the “Snooze” video — co-starring Justin Bieber, Benny Blanco, Woody McClain, and Young Mazino — and ends (or nearly does) at the studio where SZA is editing the clip alongside its director, Bradley J. Calder. There, she discusses her plans for SOS’ deluxe edition, which she’s hoping to drop this fall. Called Lana — a title derived from SZA’s full name, Solána Imani Rowe — it will feature 10 new songs, including “DTM,” a track she teased on Instagram back in August but has yet to drop in full. (The RS article infers that its release was pushed back in favor of the Bieber-featuring “Snooze (Acoustic)” she shared last month.)
Elsewhere in the piece, SZA muses on the surreality of award shows, this time touching on her experience at the 2018 Grammys, where she performed her Ctrl cut “Broken Clocks” amid losing all five awards for which she was nominated. “The Grammy room is one of the weirdest rooms ever,” she says. “There is so much wanting in there. Wanting to be noticed, wanting to be, like, acknowledged, to win, wanting to just be amongst n***as in the room, wanting to feel valuable or validated. All of us are in there striving for something. It means something, even though, like, this isn’t everything. But it’s kind of important that I’m here. It kind of matters.”