Here’s Why Chris Brown’s Michael Jackson Tribute Performance Got Canceled by the American Music Awards

Chris Brown says his ‘American Music Awards’ Michael Jackson tribute performance got canceled at the last minute without explanation — and now we have some idea as to what actually happened behind the scenes.

As it was planned, Chris Brown was set to tap Ciara and others for a medley paying tribute to the 40th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’

Jesse Collins and Stephen Hill, who executive produced the AMAs for Dick Clark Productions, were working with Chris on the performance.

Stephen, according to a new report, was pushing the network to give Chris the chance. The performance never was presented to the head honchos over at ABC, but once ABC Entertainment president Craig Erwich and Rob Mills, the head of alternative specials, found out — they pulled the plug.

Collins and Hill were furious, and in a call with Mills, they walked through the likely blowback of shutting down an opinionated performer with such a big fan following. Erwich, Mills, the Disney/ABC PR team, and Felicia Joseph, head of ABC talent, then debated the issue (Disney TV chief Dana Walden was even briefed). The upshot: Disney wasn’t opposed to Brown performing, it was just the pairing of this artist with this material that would be potentially radioactive and thus a nonstarter.

How can we do this in a way that is more thoughtful? Disney asked the producers, suggesting they come back with new options. But Brown, who had already rehearsed the Jackson medley, wasn’t interested in that—something the producers figured would be the case. So Brown bailed and posted some rehearsal footage on Instagram with the comment, “WOULDVE been the ama performance but they cancelled me for reasons unknown.”

At ABC and D.C.P., the reasons were definitely known, but the producers likely would have figured out a non-Jackson workaround if Brown was game. (Ciara, for instance, is now presenting on the show.) D.C.P. president Adam Stotsky apologized to the Disney folks for any miscommunications, and the show goes on tonight, without Brown. “Live shows change all the time, it’s the nature of this business,” a D.C.P. rep tells me in a statement. “Unfortunately, this element of the AMAs didn’t come together as we couldn’t align on the performance, to no fault of Chris Brown.” ABC declined to comment.

Basically — the combination of Chris Brown and Michael Jackson was too much of a risk for the network and they didn’t want any blowback.

 

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