Let me start by saying I love Adele. I went to the Adele concert and I had a great time. I laughed, I sang, I shed some tears for past loves. So when Lemonade didn’t win album of the year at the Grammys on Sunday night, I wasn’t mad because I don’t like Adele, but because “imma let you finish, but LEMONADE WAS ONE OF THE BEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME!”,and Adele knew it. As she put so eloquently in her backstage interview: “WTF does Beyonce have to do to win Album of the Year?” Let’s unpack that, shall we?
By the time it got to 1 million o’clock Sunday night (srsly, why were the Grammys soooo long?), minutes after Beyonce lost Album of the Year, I was thrilled to see Solange retweet Frank Oceans’ Tumblr takedown of the Grammys. As Frank put it:
“USE THE OLD GRAMOPHONE TO ACTUALLY LISTEN BRO, I’M ONE OF THE BEST ALIVE. 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. HAVE A GOOD NIGHT,”(and btw “Have a good night, period” is literally the way every girl ends an angry text to her shitty bf so thank you to Frank for capturing that very specific vibe).
The entire Lemonade journey has been poetic. Beyonce appeared at the Super Bowl in 2016, triumphant and ~in formation~, letting us know something big was happening. She dropped Lemonade, and the world (fine, my world) came to a stand still. Then she emerges in a literal radiant gold halo of light at the 2017 Grammys, freaking PREGNANT with twins, with a beautiful, sublime performance that redefined sitting on a chair forever. And then she loses Album of the Year.
Beyonce has never won Album of the Year. She lost in 2010 to Taylor Swift’s Fearless, and in 2015 to Beck’s Morning Phase (which was the year Beyonce released her self-titled visual album and we changed the pronunciation of the word surfbort forever). The last time a black female artist won the Album of the Year award was Lauryn Hill in 1999. Except for Song of the Year for Single Ladies in 2010, Beyonce has never won an award outside the genre categories of RnB and “Urban Contemporary”.
So. It’s clear the Grammys need to do some work--both to stay culturally relevant and to be better at recognizing artists of color, and those genre-benders who step outside the lines of easy categorization.
In her acceptance speech for Best Urban Contemporary Album, Beyonce gave us the first real public insight into what went into making Lemonade:
“We all experience pain and loss and often we become inaudible. My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that will give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history. To confront issues that make us uncomfortable. It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror – first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, The Olympics, The White House, and The Grammys, and see themselves. And have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent, and capable.”
Lemonade redefined Beyonce as an artist, a visionary, a black woman, and an icon. She is so far ahead of the game, the music establishment needs to come a long way to catch up. And they better move quick, because I don’t think there will be many of us waiting around for them to get here.