Adele walked off with a clean sweep of the big three Grammy categories, including Album of the Year. Meanwhile, Beyoncé took home two wins for Urban Contemporary Album and Music Video of the Year, leaving Lemonade fans collectively asking, “What else could she have done?” The visual album was not only the breakup/get-back-together narrative heard around the world but a collective movement—a searing look at the intimacies of marriage and infidelity by an often underrepresented cohort in pop culture: black women.
During her acceptance speech for Album of the Year, Adele all but acknowledged that she was undeserving of the honor. “I can’t possibly accept this award,” she said. “The artist of my life is Beyoncé, and this album for me, the Lemonade album, was so monumental. Beyoncé, so monumental. It was so well thought out and so beautiful and soul-baring. And we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see.” A tearful Beyoncé shook her head in the crowd.
While in recent years, the Academy Awards have been accused of slighting actors of color, the Grammys had, until now, avoided viral campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite, which took off after not a single African-American actor landed an acting nod two years in a row. Yet this Grammys snub was by no means anomalous—to Beyoncé or other black musicians.
2017 marks the third time Beyoncé has lost Album of the Year. First, in 2010 to Taylor Swift’s Fearless, and then in 2015, Beck’s Morning Phase bested Beyoncé’s record-breaking self-titled visual album. Now Lemonade has been snubbed as Adele’s 25 takes home the top prize. The last time a black female artist won the award was Lauryn Hill in 1999. The last black artist to win Album of the Year was Herbie Hancock in 2008, nearly 10 years ago, for a jazz cover album of Joni Mitchell songs.
Over the weekend, Frank Ocean, who boycotted the awards this year by withdrawing his name from consideration, was already airing his grievances about the awards. On Saturday, he wrote an open letter on Tumblr to Grammy producers Ken Ehrlich and David Wild, in which he chastised them for giving Swift Best Album over Kendrick Lamar. “I’ve actually been tuning into CBS around this time of year for a while to see who gets the top honor,” Ocean wrote. “And you know what’s really not “great TV,” guys? 1989 getting Album of the Year over To Pimp a Butterfly. Hands down one of the most faulty TV moments I’ve seen. Believe the people.” He ended his note with: “And if you’re up for a discussion about the cultural bias and general nerve damage the show you produce suffers from, then I’m all for it.”
When the artist who wins Album of the Year uses her acceptance speech as a moment to acknowledge she doesn’t deserve it, that’s a clear indication that the Grammys have become not only out of touch but explicitly biased. Is it too early to start a #GrammysSoWhite campaign?
Credits: Kevork Djansezian