Brendan Kelly: I'm feeling for my old friend Céline after Le Snub at the Grammy Awards

If I had to venture a guess, and my boss says I do, I’d say it was just Taylor Swift being a little bit swept up in herself.

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Obviously, I’m Team Céline.

I first interviewed Céline Dion in the spring of 1990 when she was launching her debut English album, Unison, and we’ve been talking regularly ever since as she became one of the world’s most famous pop stars.

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A couple of years ago, she even sort of invited me out on a date, or maybe I invited her out on a date. Well, anyway, something funny happened live on video and the international media got all worked up about me cracking wise with La Dion.

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So when it comes to Le Snub, I’m feeling for my old pal Céline. You’ve heard about this major international scandal, right? It happened Sunday night at the Grammy Awards when Dion made her first major public appearance in years, turning up as a surprise invité to hand out the Grammy for album of the year.

To absolutely no one’s surprise except the most hard-core Boygenius fans (that’s me!), Taylor Swift won the trophy for album of the year for her 2022 collection Midnights. It is generally agreed that it’s not Swift’s greatest album. It’s good, but just not her best. But whatever the case, it was a given that Swift would win because she happens to be right at this exact moment the biggest pop star in the universe.

So Dion announced Swift won and Time magazine’s Person of the Year came up on stage. Then things got strange. She was hugging her various collaborators and at first didn’t even bother to come anywhere near Dion, never mind pick up the trophy. Then when she finally came to grab the Grammy from Dion, she didn’t say a word to her — not a “thank you” — and weirder still, didn’t even look at Quebec’s most celebrated chanteuse.

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Dion looked super ill at ease, clearly wondering why Swift was ignoring her.

Swift finally got to her acceptance speech and gushed about Lana Del Rey (who she dragged up on stage), her producer Jack Antonoff and her recording engineer Laura Sisk. Again, not even an acknowledgment of Dion.

Because it’s 2024, this three-minute sequence caused the internet to more or less explode, with Dion fans losing it over what they perceived as a major diss of their hero.

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One irony is that Dion fans are like the 1990s version of Swifties — they are absolutely obsessed with every detail of their idol’s life and believe their diva can do no wrong. So you could call this the battle of the Swifties versus the Célinies.

Not long after this brouhaha erupted, curiously enough a photo also made its way online showing Swift and Dion hugging backstage. For the Swifties, this was case closed.

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. I have met her PR team, and these folks do media control just about as well as you’d expect. At the time, Swift was doing a roundtable interview with a small group of Montreal journalists at the Ritz-Carlton on the eve of the release of her album 1989, and we all had to sign a lengthy contract before having the privilege of chatting with her.

So my theory is the current version of that PR dream team saw the spreading outrage on X/Twitter and elsewhere, and sprang into action. Et voilà, a nice photo of the new besties, Taylor and Céline.

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This is not the end of the world. But it was a remarkably odd moment of live television. I’ve watched awards shows forever and I don’t ever recall seeing something like this at a major televised gala.

I suppose Swift was just caught up in the moment, but even that seems odd. She has been in the biz for 20 years now and has won one or two awards. In fact, that was the record fourth time she has won the Grammy for album of the year — more times than Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, who have only managed to win three each. So this is old hat to Swift.

If I had to venture a guess — and my boss says I do — I’d say it was just Swift being a little bit swept up in herself.

“Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism, like some kind of congressman?” That’s a brilliant line from Anti-Hero on Midnights, and as the New York Times review of that album correctly noted: “Taylor Swift has always been at her best when writing about Taylor Swift.” When you think about it, she’s kind of the perfect songwriter for our selfie-taking Instagram age. What makes her best songs great is that she is self-aware enough to skewer her own narcissism.

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Oh, and she did not forget to promote her upcoming album, The Tortured Poets Department.

But for me, the real takeaway is how great Dion looked. She hasn’t often been seen in public recently because she is suffering from the rare neurological disorder stiff person syndrome, and it has forced her to cancel all of her touring plans. She looked like she’s in great health, and let’s hope that’s the case.

Dion received a standing ovation when she walked out on the stage to the strains of The Power of Love and said: “When I say that I’m happy to be here, I really mean it from my heart.”

And we were just as happy to see her there, which is why so many of us found Swift’s cool reaction to Dion so perplexing.

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