Taylor Swift’s team reportedly went into immediate “damage control” mode at the 66th Grammy Awards Sunday night, after their boss snatched the Album of the Year trophy from the hands of Céline Dion, without a thank you to the legendary singer or any other acknowledgement of her monumental appearance at the ceremony to hand out the night’s final award.
An industry expert, who attended the Grammys and who watched Swift’s curious disregard for Dion on stage, described the P.R. “damage control” efforts of her team.
“I talked to someone backstage. The Taylor camp knew immediately this is a misstep,” Matthew Belloni, co-founder of the Puck digital media company, said on his “The Town” podcast Monday. “They were scrambling to get a photo of Taylor with Celine Dion, which they promptly put out, and that was damage control for the ‘Celine Moment.’”
Indeed, photos soon began circulating of Swift and Dion backstage, smiling and hugging, as if to let everyone know know that the world’s most famous woman certainly didn’t mean to disrespect the 55-year-old Canadian superstar, and people were wrong to perceive the moment that way. In any case, the photos seem to say, there is nothing but love between these two women.
And, yet, people on Monday continued to debate the “Celine Moment” — or “Le Snub,” as Brendan Kelly, a music columnist for the Montreal Gazette, dubbed the incident. According to Page Six, Dion didn’t let the Swift incident bother her; she was just “gracious and happy to be there,” an insider said.
It was one of two P.R. “missteps” involving Swift receiving awards at the Grammys Sunday night, according to Belloni. He and his podcast guest, Bloomberg News entertainment reporter Lucas Shaw, agreed it was “tacky” for Swift to use her earlier speech, accepting the award for Best Pop Album for “Midnights,” to drop her big, surprise news that she was releasing a new album in April.
“I want to say thank you to the fans by telling you a secret that I’ve been keeping from you for the last two years, which is that my brand new album comes out April 19th,” Swift said, while also revealing that the album is called “The Tortured Poets Department.”
Swift is a “master manipulator and guider of her own image,” Belloni said. “This was a rare misstep, announcing the album during her speech. You could feel it in the room. No one was really clapping, except that section of Swifties who were going nuts.”
“(The camera) panned to the stars, and nobody was really into it,” Belloni continued. “It just felt like, this is the last person who needs that stage for promotion — at least in the room. She’s the biggest music star on the planet right now. Like, give it a rest.”
Shaw also said that Swift’s “aw, shucks” look when she wins awards these days is “total horse (expletive).” Belloni agreed, saying: “Maybe that works in 2010 when you’re the girl from Nashville. It doesn’t work in 2024 when you have (a billion-dollar) tour.”
As for Swift’s “Celine Moment,” it came at the end of the show, with Dion’s surprise appearance and what would be Swift’s historic fourth win for album of the year.
Dion has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since announcing in December 2022 that she was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome, Business Insider reported. Dion said the condition causes spasms, makes walking difficult, and creates issues with her vocal cords. She also canceled the remaining dates of her Courage World Tour.
As Dion walked onto the stage to present the Album of the Year Award, while her song “The Power of Love” played in the Crypto.com arena, she received a standing ovation. Dion had won the award herself in 1997 for “Falling Into You.”
Swift was among those who stood for Dion, and her defenders say that she paid homage to Dion in this moment. The camera indeed cut to Swift, clapping, dancing and singing along to “The Power of Love.”
But the crowd’s celebration of Dion was soon overshadowed by Swift’s actions. After Dion excitedly announced Swift’s name, Time magazine’s Person of the Year offered up one of her surprised looks. She then grabbed and hugged her “Midnights” collaborators, producer Jack Antonoff and singer Lana Del Rey. Swift also pulled them both up on stage with her, though Del Rey looked reluctant to join her. Del Rey, a featured guest artist on “Midnights,” was nominated in the same category for her own album, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.”
Things continued to get even more “strange” after Swift hugged several other people on stage, including her recording engineer Laura Sisk, Montreal Gazette’s Kelly wrote. But she didn’t go near Dion until it was time to grab the trophy.
Even then, as Swift took the award, she didn’t say a word to Dion and didn’t look at her, leaving Dion to look “super ill at ease, clearly wondering why Swift was ignoring her,” Kelly wrote.
People online immediately began to wonder why Swift had “snubbed” Dion. In real time, the internet exploded with outrage over Swift’s perceived slight of Dion.
On “The Town,” Belloni unfavorably compared Swift’s visible disregard of Dion to Adele, who graciously bowed to Dion, made an “I’m not worthy” hand motion and and hugged her when she accepted the same award from her in 2017. The Page Six insider said, “Of course, the right thing would have been for Taylor to acknowledge (Dion), like Adele did years ago.”
Belloni said that Swift, who has been famous and accepting major industry awards for more than a decade — including 14 Grammys as of Sunday night — definitely should have known better.
“Traditionally, the P.R. people will say, when you go on stage, make sure you acknowledge the person who is giving you the award,” he said. “Taylor typically knows better than to just grab the award and to try to summon her pals (on stage) to celebrate their big win.”
Kelly likewise was suspicious of the way that Swift’s backstage photo with Dion suddenly appeared. “Not long after the brouhaha erupted, curiously enough a photo also made its way online showing Swift and Dion hugging backstage. For the Swifties, this was case closed,” Kelly said.
“To more objective observers — OK, to this Team Céline observer — the rapid-fire release of the photo smelled big time of Team Swift going into full-scale damage-control mode,” Kelly said. “I have met her P.R. team, and these folks do media control just about as well as you’d expect.”
Kelly described “Le Snub” as one of the oddest situations he’s seen on a televised awards gala. He also doubted that Swift was simply “caught up in the moment,” given her experience in the business. “If I had to venture a guess … I’d say it was just Swift being a little bit swept up in herself,” Kelly said.
But Belloni said that the “Celine Moment” may be forgotten by Sunday. That’s when the world will probably be in a frenzy about Swift flying into Las Vegas from her Eras world tour performances in Japan to watch her boyfriend Travis Kelce and his Kansas City Chiefs battle the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.