What Does Beyoncé Need to Do to Win Album of the Year?

(Audrey Jang • The Student Life)

Can anyone really say they did more than Beyoncé last weekend? Pregnant with twins, the singer perfectly executed a ten-minute performance on live television—just after being snubbed for four awards.

Beyoncé was nominated for seven awards but only ended up taking home two: Best Music Video and Best Urban Contemporary Album. Four of the other awards—Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Solo Performance, and Best Pop Solo Performance—went to Adele. Don’t get me wrong, I think Adele is an extremely talented artist who deserves recognition and admiration—but c’mon. Even Adele wanted Beyoncé to win.

While accepting her award for Album of the Year, Adele Kanye West-ed herself and called Beyoncé “the artist of [her] life.” She continued to praise Lemonade, calling it “monumental” and emphasizing how empowering it has been for the black community. Beyoncé teared up during this exchange, and mouthed “thank you” back to Adele.

While 25 gave us some great crying music, Lemonade’s entirety is worth praising. The album not only showed off Beyoncé’s musical range, but also her emotional range, from the terrifyingly bitter “Sorry” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” to the tearful and raw “Sandcastles,” “Formation,” and “Freedom.”  These unabashed anthems of black empowerment shook the world with their surprise releases. So what the f— happened?

Surprisingly, Lemonade sold fewer copies than 25, perhaps because Beyoncé’s album was originally a Tidal exclusive and still isn’t on Spotify. The public’s reception to the two albums was pretty different, however.

25 gets a 75/100 rating on Metacritic, while Lemonade scores a whopping 92/100. Spin gave 25 a 6/10, but gave Lemonade a 9/10. Pollstar’s 20 Global Concert Tours of 2016, which uses box office data to generate a list of the most popular musical acts, charted Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour at number one, whereas Adele’s concert series wasn’t even featured on the list. So what happened?

Vox suspects that “vote-splitting” among the Grammy committees is to blame. Since Adele was the only adult contemporary artist in her nomination categories and Beyoncé was one of three pop/hip hop artists nominated, Adele secured the entire population of Grammy award judges who like melancholy nostalgia music, while the pop and hip hop-leaning judges were somehow torn between Justin Bieber, Drake, and Beyoncé.

But this still doesn’t explain the most unbelievable snub since the 2016 election: The visual album Lemonade losing out to a Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles.

If you’re one of the fourteen people who saw The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, congratulations, a film you saw just won a Grammy! If you’re literally everyone else in the world, I know what you’re thinking and yes, the guy who directed the Jim Carrey Grinch just won a Grammy over Beyoncé effing Knowles.

I have to say that it’s pretty odd for a film that no one has heard of to win a Grammy over a visual album that pretty much broke the entire country. What started with just a four-minute music video released on a private streaming site with no prior publicity, then a Super Bowl performance that Beyoncé didn’t even technically headline, then a feature length film once again only available through subscription, then another album available only through subscription, and then a world tour grossing over $250 million, has become the global phenomenon we understand as Lemonade. But how does this even come close to yet another film about the same four white guys?

What’s troubling to me isn’t just that Beyoncé and her team didn’t win enough awards for their incredible work of art. It’s the fact that Beyoncé has won these awards in the past.

Isn’t it questionable that a long-time Grammy winner and acclaimed performer suddenly lost in four categories she’s bagged in years past? What could have been the difference? Was it because Beyoncé sang about her “negro nose” and said the n-word? The Grammys can’t be racist. Chance the Rapper won Best New Artist! This definitely wasn’t a race thing. Right?

At the end of the night, Beyoncé did end up with an award, winning Best Urban Contemporary Album. Since the award’s institution in 2013, this is the first time its announcement has ever been televised. It was a divine sight; the goddess herself, bathed in gold, gracefully ascended the stairs as her husband and daughter cheered from the front row. It was almost enough to distract from the fact that no one had ever heard of this award before.

At the mic, Beyoncé highlighted the reasons she made Lemonade in the first place:

“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 familie—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.”

Despite it all, just in the smile she gives her daughter at the end of the speech, Beyoncé has done that and more.

Adela Pfaff PZ ’19 is a psychology major from San Diego. Their future aspirations include running a lab, giving a TEDtalk, and hand-feeding sharks.

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