When I first read that Adele broke her Grammy for Best Album in half, in defence of Beyonce losing out – again – on claiming album of the year, I was skeptical. I love Beyonce – much more than I love Adele – but not everything is racially-driven, I reasoned. Maybe the judges didn’t like the sweeping, epic masterpiece ‘Lemonade’ as much as they liked Adele’s also very nice ‘25’. The heart wants what it wants.
But when I looked into it further it became increasingly clear that Adele had a piercing point when she bellowed “What the fuck does she have to do to win Album of the Year?” backstage, referring to Beyonce’s loss. If you look into the way black artists are represented in Grammys wins over the years – not just Beyonce – something becomes starkly clear. Black artists are allowed to win in their own special ‘black people’ categories – Lemonade picked up the ‘best contemporary urban album’ award - but black artists shouldn’t get too far above their station and expect to win ‘Album of the Year’.
It’s demeaning. And it’s racist.
If the Grammys insists on segregating artists into racial categories then it should just do it openly. Beyonce can win in her ‘black people’ categories - RnB and Urban - and Adele can win in her ‘white people’ categories - just stop elevating it to "Album of the Year" and give it its real name - WHITE album of the year. Drop the pretense that it draws recipients from all races and genres. It would make the Grammys a sad, divisive, racist throwback to the 1940s – but at least it’d be upfront about it.
Black artists have only won the top gong – Album of the Year – 10 times since the awards began in 1959, and three of those went to Stevie Wonder. So that’s only seven artists in total.
As Adele said, 2017 was Beyonce’s time. Lemonade is much more than a Beyonce musical masterpiece – after all, everything Beyonce does is a musical masterpiece. It broke boundaries. It changed the way music is made. It was, as Adele said, monumental, beautiful and soul-baring. It has a cultural resonance and importance that will outlast its time – certainly more than many previous Album of the Year winners (Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature, anyone? Or the forgettable How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb from U2 in 2006?).
Are the Grammys worth boycotting, as Frank Ocean did this year, and as Beyonce’s sister Solange suggested she would from now on? Oh, probably not. It doesn't need anything that dramatic. Because awards shows seem increasingly meaningless in a world where consumers hold all the control, and artists can rise or fall off the back of a YouTube video. Who cares about the biased opinions of a bunch of faceless industry ‘insiders’?
The way to protest is with your purchasing power. Make sure Lemonade is in your collection if it isn’t already. It’s one you’ll want to play for your grandchildren.