Accused homophobe Eminem will have a special guest for his Grammy performance of “Stan” — the openly bisexual Elton John.
John, who has been championed by the same gay activists who have frequently attacked Eminem, will sing the song’s chorus, which on record features a sample of pop singer Dido. The song appears on Eminem’s 2000 album, The Marshall Mathers LP, whose nomination for the Album of the Year Grammy has generated a continuing controversy.
The Em and El duet, which will easily be the most anticipated event at the February 21 Grammy ceremony, was confirmed late Friday by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
“We view this moment not only as musically significant, but also as an opportunity to help tear down some of the unfortunate walls of division that Eminem’s lyrics have built,” NARAS president and CEO Michael Greene said in a statement.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, John said that the idea for the Grammy duet was Eminem’s, and that the singer was prepared for the detractors and protestors the joint appearance might cause.
“I’m a big fan of [Eminem's] music,” John told the newspaper, “and I said I would be delighted to [do the song]. I know I’m going to get a lot of flak from various people who are going to picket the show. … I’d rather tear down walls between people than build them up. If I thought for one minute that he was [hateful], I wouldn’t do it.”
Eminem’s four Grammy nominations have drawn the ire of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which has called the rapper’s lyrics hateful and homophobic (see “Gay Activist Group Plans Pre-Grammy Eminem Protest” ).
Shortly after the announcement that John would be joining Eminem onstage, GLAAD expressed disappointment that John had consented to the Grammy duet. In April, GLAAD honored John with its Vito Russo Entertainer Award in recognition of the singer having “furthered the visibility and understanding of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”
“GLAAD is appalled that John would share a stage with Eminem, whose words and actions promote hate and violence against gays and lesbians,” Executive Director Joan M. Garry said in a statement issued Saturday.
“Last year GLAAD bestowed upon John one of our most prestigious honors, named in honor of GLAAD founder Vito Russo, for outstanding contributions to combating homophobia. We believe John’s actions today violate the spirit of this award.”
Prior to the Recording Academy’s confirmation of the duet, GLAAD had blasted NARAS for allowing the rapper to perform at all.
“Eminem should not have another platform for his hateful lyrics,” Garry noted in a statement released on Friday.
“GLAAD is deeply offended that [NARAS] is yielding its Grammy Awards stage to Eminem,” Garry said. “While we recognize that the Academy has restricted Eminem’s performance to the song ‘Stan,’ that song — while less homophobic than much of his material — still contains misogyny and images of violence and murder.”
The song’s verses are a series of letters to Eminem from a deranged Eminem fan who eventually kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend — portrayed in the video by Dido — by driving his car off a bridge. In the final verse, Eminem responds, counseling the fan, “You and your girlfriend need each other/ Or maybe you just need to treat her better.”
In a conciliatory move, NARAS and GLAAD will co-host a public forum the day before the Grammy Awards to “discuss the nominations of controversial artists whose lyrics have been called extreme, homophobic and misogynistic.”
Greene, Garry, and an as-yet-unnamed musician will carry on a dialogue at “Intolerance in Music: A Town Hall Meeting,” slated for the Los Angeles Public Library on February 20.
(This story was updated at 5:27 PM ET on Monday, February 12, 2001.)For a look back at previous big Grammy winners, red carpet photos and much more, visit our Grammy News Archive.