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Music

When Nick Cave rejected his MTV nomination with a searing letter

@josephtaysom

Nick Cave has carved himself a wondrous career by operating on the periphery of mainstream culture but, for a moment, this all changed following the wild success of his duet with Kylie Minogue in 1995. Following the release of ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’, suddenly the Australian singer was more well known than he had ever wanted to be.

Forced to put pen to paper, Cave sent a letter to MTV shortly after it was announced that he had been nominated for an award. It’s a moment of rock music correspondence that perfectly summarises Cave’s view on fame and why the aspect of commercial success is something that he has never chased or cared for. While this approach may be the clearest explanation as to why the Bad Seeds frontman has enjoyed such stunning longevity throughout his career, it also says a lot about the musician’s moral compass. While MTV brought popularity, it was also the start of a blossoming friendship, one which was more important to Cave than scoring his most commercially successful single. Since this moment, both he and Kylie have performed the track together on numerous occasions over the last quarter of a century and solidified their creative relationship.

Perhaps the most iconic live performance of the song came in 2019 when Cave made a wonderful cameo during Kylie’s legend’s slot at Glastonbury Festival on the Pyramid Stage in front of 100,000 doughy eyed fans who waved pre-planted red roses. “It was a miracle that she agreed to do that song,” Cave later recalled to The Daily Telegraph in 2014. “I think her management wasn’t that happy about it – I mean we were just a bunch of junkies sitting in the studio, and she walked in full of life and love and goodwill.

“It was so different to have somebody like that around for a few months, and we had this hit, we became defined by Kylie and Kylie’s presence – so that little slice of life is Kylie’s, in a way,” he sincerely added. “We really liked each other.”

The mainstream success that came with the track put the music of Cave into a world that he wasn’t entirely comfortable with, one which eventually led to him successfully receiving a nomination for ‘Best Male Artist’ at the MTV Awards. However, Cave would later insist that his nomination was removed as he didn’t want people to think he was the one-hit-wonder — a moniker which couldn’t be further from the truth.

While Cave has always been proud of the song and the success that came with it, he’s managed to stop the number solidifying itself as the material that defines him, an achievement that is a testament to his artistry rather than him seeking commercial gains. In reality, it could have been easy for Cave to ride the wave that came with ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ and try to stir his career down a mainstream path—but that’s not the mantra of a Bad Seed.

His letter addressed his reasoning for rejecting their nomination, displaying an utterly perfect glimpse at who Nick Cave is both as an artist and a person. Check it out, below.

21 Oct 96
To all those at MTV,

I would like to start by thanking you all for the support you have given me over recent years and I am both grateful and flattered by the nominations that I have received for Best Male Artist. The air play given to both the Kylie Minogue and P. J. Harvey duets from my latest album Murder Ballads has not gone unnoticed and has been greatly appreciated. So again my sincere thanks.

Having said that, I feel that it’s necessary for me to request that my nomination for best male artist be withdrawn and furthermore any awards or nominations for such awards that may arise in later years be presented to those who feel more comfortable with the competitive nature of these award ceremonies. I myself, do not. I have always been of the opinion that my music is unique and individual and exists beyond the realms inhabited by those who would reduce things to mere measuring. I am in competition with no-one.

My relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times and I feel that it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile nature.

She comes to me with the gift of song and in return I treat her with the respect I feel she deserves — in this case this means not subjecting her to the indignities of judgement and competition. My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and if indeed she was, still I would not harness her to this tumbrel — this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May abandon me completely!

So once again, to the people at MTV, I appreciate the zeal and energy that was put behind my last record, I truly do and say thank you and again I say thank you but no…no thank you.

Yours sincerely,
Nick Cave.