2017 Grammy Awards snub Beyoncé for Adele
The Santa Clara
February 16, 2017
For those seeking some respite from the continual onslaught of polarized debate, the 59th Annual Grammy Awards certainly offered none.
On Feb. 12, Adele won Album of the Year for “25”—leaving the now thrice-thwarted Beyoncé with only the vague award of Best Urban Contemporary Album for “Lemonade,” an album that celebrated Southern black culture.
After the awards ceremony aired, many fans and critics alike were left frustrated with the results. In the days following the awards show, a debate emerged as critics have attempted to piece together what exactly sets the Grammys so far below other award shows such as the Tony’s or even the Oscars.
What makes the Grammys so problematic is two-fold: the preference white artists receive for high profile awards and a shocking disinterest in artistry. These two sources of conflict often collide. Never was this more apparent than in 2014 when Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “The Heist” beat out Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” for Best Rap Album.
After the 2014 Grammys, Macklemore apologized to Kendrick via text. In the caption he posted on Instagram, he wrote, “(Kendrick) deserved best rap album … Just giving ‘GKMC’ it’s proper respect.”
Perhaps because of this incident, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis chose not to submit their sophomore album, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made,” for Grammy consideration.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis weren’t alone in their decision to snub the Grammys. Frank Ocean also chose not to submit his “Blonde” and “Endless” albums to the Academy. Despite his tendency to shy away from the spotlight, Ocean did not hesitate to share his contempt for the Grammys in a recent interview.
“I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated. I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience,” Ocean said
However, it’s not the omitted albums, but the winners that ultimately stir up dialogue—most notably for the aforementioned Best Album of the Year award. In her acceptance speech, Adele acknowledged the power of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” encouraging dispute over the win.
“The ‘Lemonade’ album is just so monumental,” Adele said. “And so well thought out and beautiful and soul-baring.”
When the winning artists challenge the way the Academy makes their decisions, people should begin to question what their criteria for the awards is. In the first week after being released, “25” sold 3.38 million copies and “Lemonade” sold 485,000. Yet, “Lemonade” received higher ratings from critics and was named number one album of the year for 2016 in “Rolling Stone” and number three in “Pitchfork.” Notably, “25” was omitted from the best albums of 2015 lists in both magazines.
Best New Artist went to Chance the Rapper, who is, ironically, not new. His second mixtape “Acid Rap” was released in 2013 and was featured on the many top album lists that year including “Pitchfork” and “Rolling Stone.”
Instead of nominating him for Best New Artist, his 2016 “Coloring Book”—which was just as praised as “Acid Rap”—could have been nominated for Best Album. This is a more worthwhile recognition of an artist who has been on the scene for years.
The Grammys’ only worth lies in the performances, which tend to be more powerful. Bruno Mars gave the best tribute that any contemporary artist could to Prince, just as Adele was the best choice to give a farewell to fellow Brit, George Michael.
But as she always does, Beyoncé stole the show and proved yet again that she’s not just a fame-hungry pop star churning out radio hits—she has an almost unparalleled vocals, theatrics and a willingness to take political stands.
At the 2016 Super Bowl Halftime performance, Beyoncé and her dancers wore Black Panthers-inspired costumes as she sang “Formation.”At the 2017 Grammys, she exposed her pregnant stomach and wore gold and a crown, evoking the image of a goddess. One performance was about black power and one was about black beauty.
And both shows evoked large criticism. After the halftime performance, Beyoncé was accused of promoting an “anti-police” message and after the Grammys, many thought likening herself to a Godly figure was too self-righteous. Yet the message of both performances was about showcasing facets of black culture.
Performances that spark debate give the Grammys value that should not be overlooked. However, whatever mysterious—and racially biased—criteria the Academy is using to select the winners needs to be seriously redefined. The backlash against the awards show indicates change needs to happen—before the viewers decide to follow in the footsteps of Frank Ocean and skip them altogether.
Contact Lindsay Tenes at ltenes@ scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.