Many people have begun to call out the Recording Academy for numerous instances in which it has awarded white artists over black artists, despite having received less critical acclaim for their albums. This year in particular, the issue circulated around Adele’s Grammy award for her album 25. Critics of the decision believe that Beyonce should have won the award for Lemonade, but did not receive it because of systemic issues. The issue, however, requires deeper evaluation.
Adele, who won the coveted Album of the Year award for the second time in her career, expressed in her acceptance speech that Beyonce should have won the award for her “monumental” album. However, Adele’s remarks do not solve the problem of the Academy’s racial bias. They simply add an echo to the conversation.
By comparison, the two albums are very different. Adele stuck to a more traditional release strategy and sound, while Beyonce released her album exclusively on Tidal along with a movie release on HBO. While Adele’s album was much more commercially successful, possibly due to its lack of availability on popular streaming services, many critics noted that it was not her best, nor did it top 21. However, Lemonade was regarded by critics as Beyonce’s best release and is the second highest reviewed album of 2016 on Metacritic.
While the last black artist to win the award was Herbie Hancock, having won the award in 2008, the last black female artist to win the award was Lauryn Hill in 1999.
One must explore why there was a lack of backlash in 2012 when Adele won the award over Rihanna’s Loud, which spawned three number-one hit singles, just as many as Adele’s 21 did. Rihanna, who was also nominated for eight awards this year, won none and was absent from the Album of the Year category despite releasing Anti, which many critics regarded as her best album. Her album also had a quite successful commercial run, gaining a platinum certification two days after its release and spawning five RIAA-certified hits.
This indicates that a new concept has been brought into the conversation about the type of black women who are awarded Grammys. Questions now also arise about the type of black women that the general population will come to defend in cases like these.
Rihanna, a native of Barbados and a single woman, is prototypically less privileged than Beyonce, even though her celebrity status today does not let those circumstances affect her. Rihanna, who represents these less-privileged women, is not receiving nearly as much support as Beyonce is following this year’s Grammys.
The Grammys’ legacy of awarding black women like Alicia Keys, Beyonce and Lauryn Hill as opposed to women like Nicki Minaj and Rihanna should be confronted. The general population does not seem ready to support more than one kind of black woman. If some people do not support Nicki Minaj or Rihanna, then they do support of all black women when they come to Beyonce’s defense.
This should stand as a reminder that when people say black lives matter, the statement should include all black lives, not just those who meet arbitrary standards.