Three nights ago, Adele’s “25” was awarded the Grammy for Album of the Year over Beyoncé’s wildly successful album “Lemonade.” Unleashing Beyoncé’s unapologetic fury, her album has been lauded as an impassioned, soul bearing tour-de-force, and genre defying visual piece. While “25” is an impressive artistic accomplishment for Adele, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” was predicted by many to sweep the Grammys.
Adele’s win for Album of the Year provoked a storm of indignation on Twitter, but Beyoncé’s greatest supporter was Adele herself. In a “Mean Girls”-esque moment, Adele broke the award in half and showered praise upon Beyoncé, saying she couldn’t accept the award when “Lemonade” was nominated in the same category.
“Lemonade” is the antithesis to the pleasant orthodoxy of “25.” Purportedly inspired by Beyoncé’s husband’s infidelity and her own personal struggles, “Lemonade” is a testimony to female resilience and has become a de facto anthem for black women. Unprecedented, controversial, and empowering, “Lemonade” has became a rallying cry for “the most disrespected person in America” according to Malcolm X: the black woman. In comparison, “25” was the safer and, more significantly, whiter choice.
As an isolated incident, Beyoncé’s loss is frustrating, but harmless. However, taken in conjunction to the countless other incidents of snubbed black artists, it reveals a troubling trend. From Mumford and Son’s win over Frank Ocean in 2013 to Taylor Swift’ over Kendrick Lamar last year, we have seen the Grammys repeatedly demonstrate their reluctance to reward the triumphs of black artists. As Adele herself highlighted in her speech, Beyoncé’s album not only empowered and praised black people in particular, but was extremely personal and culturally revalent. This is the ninth consecutive year where a black artist was snubbed at one of the night’s most prestigious awards.
Despite the attempts to promote diversity in entertainment, ultimately, the producers and directors at the helm of the field are still predominantly white and male. The disparity between the racial makeup of the artists and the authority in the industry is never clearer than at award shows. The homogenous panel of judges at the Grammys repeatedly fail to acknowledge the achievements of marginalized minorities, thus making it impossible for these artists to reach similar positions of influence and power as their white peers. In an awards program that is dominated by white executives, Beyoncé’s proud, black femin ist album was not, and may never be, accepted and appreciated by Grammy voters.
In an age where black and other marginalized musicians are not recognized for their talents, we must resist the complicity that comes from accepting the fact that a black artist was denied an award of which they were more deserving. This resistance is appreciated from all people, but has the most impact when coming from voices in positions of power. Thus, Adele’s transgressive act of not accepting her Album of the Year Grammy aided in this resistance of a racially-biased system. When Adele refused her Grammy, she did far more than acknowledge a snubbed artist; she was offering her allyship and solidarity to Beyoncé, and indirectly, to black women everywhere.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXL.