For better or worse, Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs has become a tone-setting snapshot of the last decade of pop culture (not to mention its parallels to modern social media). Enough so, in fact, that Billboard ran an oral history of the critical “I’mma let you finish” moment this week, largely constructed from the recollections of the MTV employees who were both delighted—and a little horrified, but mostly delighted—when West’s enthusiasm for Beyoncé and/or the sound of his own voice caused him to barge onto the stage and interrupt Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video that year. The piece tracks the opening moments of the night (including the steadily lowering volume in the bottle of Hennessy West was uncharacteristically carrying on the red carpet), to the actual incident, to the aftermath, when Swift was forced to perform a highly choreographed performance on the streets of New York, roughly 20 minutes after getting knocked off her equilibrium by West’s rush to the stage.
In the years that followed, the ostensible debacle has actually been a benefit for pretty much everybody involved—MTV got ratings and a new burst of social media credibility, while West, Beyoncé, and Swift all looked good (or entertainingly bad) for the way they handled themselves. One person who apparently did not get enough credit, though, was P!nk, who was apparently one of the unsung heroes of that chaotic night, reading West the riot act for his decision to rob Swift of her moment just so he could ramble at the crowd.
Here’s former MTV News correspondent James Montgomery, describing those key moments:
The crowd in Radio City just turned on [Kanye]—people were booing and hissing. During the commercial break, he went back down to his seat and P!nk walked up to him and got in his face. I wasn’t close enough to hear the conversation, but she was pointing in his face and nodding her head back and forth, and giving him her two cents about how fucked up this was and then stormed off. Then he was sitting there next to Amber Rose with his arm around her, and you could feel everyone in Radio City glaring at his back.
Sadly, we will never know what, exactly, P!nk said to West, a beautiful secret kept between two people who are decidedly not friends. That being said, this tweet from shortly after the event is probably a useful clue:
The whole oral history is worth a read—especially in light of the way it informs MTV and other network’s attempts to find this sort of zeitgeist-grabbing moment once again, as social media has evolved and deformed. But here’s to P!nk, who said what a whole bunch of folks were thinking in the heat of an iconic moment.