Grammys -- We have a problem, could it be racism, sexism?
By Mona Austin
You want to believe that the work will speak for itself. You walk into the award show as the most nominated artist. You sit there with your family front and center and clap as your name is not called over and over again. It feels like deja vu. Previously you left with a few awards while others that were less deserving left with armfuls. Your pride and ego are crushed yet you retaliate with your art. You come back hoping things will be different this time because there is no denying that your work was seminal and resonated deeply with those who heard it. It was critically acclaimed -- all music enthusiasts could talk about during its surprise release. Your work was considered a "masterpiece" --from the marketing to the content to the videos -- that empowered fans through its emotional connection. We all knew how to "take the bitter with the sweet" and make "Lemonade" when you laid your heart out on those tracks. We all knew this album was a winner. Turns out we were wrong. This has become the story of Beyonce's life at various award shows and Sunday night at the 59th Annual Grammys was no exception.
When the winner of an award says their competitor should have won, as Adele stated in the Grammys press room after defeating 'Yonce, there is a problem with the system. It's time to fix it.
Let's put Beyonce's Grammy loses in context. Imagine Michael Jackson not getting proper recognition for "Thriller." Beyonce only walking away with awards for Lemonade, neither of which truly reflects the impact of the music, is the equivalent of Michael Jackson losing to Bobby Brown -- except when Beyonce loses the artists are always white. (She is not the only black aritst who has suffered throug being shunned in the entertainment industry. MJ and Aretha are also among those who did not always get their props at awards shows.)
The trend of choosing white aritsts over blacks in general categories has been going on for a while and not just with the Grammys. At the risk of embarassing and alienating himself, Kanye tried to warn us at hte AMA's when he announced to the world that Beyonce deserved an award Taylor Swift won. At the Grammys Lauryn Hill won album of the Year in 1999, then there was a loooong r spell for black artist taking the title-- almost 20 years. In more rencet years Taylor Swift's 1989 wonAlbum of the Year over Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly. McLemore and Ryan bested Kendrick too. Beyonce has been overlooked in favor of Adele multiple times. This year, Beyonce was nominated for 9 Grammys, the most of any other artist and took home 2. Adee took home all five for which she was nominated inclduding the coveted Song and Album of the Year categories. This ordeal sparks the music world's equivalent of online protest to the #OscarsSoWhite, #GrammysSoWhite. Perhaps it will make a difference too.
Adding insult to injury, on the night before Beyonce won 5 out of 7 NAACP Image Awards. She was acknowledged by the black community and shunned by the white community. What most people think is that whites rejected the album because it was too black -- as she took a stance on issues that by and large were affecting the back community. Since when can an artist not use their art platform to protest the ills of society?
So what's at the core of this reaction?
This is an example of racism and sexism merging in an attempt to teach artists -- Beyonce specifically -- that personal protest was too militant and not mainstream enough. As many people have pointed out it was perhaps "too black" because the media made it that way. Beyonce was immediately attacked by police and even dis-allowed from performing in Canada after her performance of Formation on the Superbowl that year and the whole thing was a tribute to Michael Jackson's classic Superbowl performance from years earlier. Besides, Formation was only one aspect of the album. The rest of it was about womanhood, the struggle with love and life lessons to the extent that anyone from any sex or race could learn from if they were paying enough attention. Whatever!
In this case, the non-traditional release of the album could have also cost her. The album was dropped exclusively on Tidal and got an impressive 1.07 million digital sales. Adele took the traditional marketing route and sold over 20 million albums worldwide. In reality, the numbers do not compare.
Ouch. That hurts enough to sting the Bey hive.
Yet, the entertainment value and social impact of Lemonade was great enough to garner Adele's support and that speaks volumes. It's bogus enough for the Academy to require immediate action and the rest of the music world to stand up to the treachery. NARAS Head Mr. Neil Portnow, insists race is not the issue, but the make up of the academy (old white men) could be. He said they may not have been as familiar with Beyonce's album. He should sit down with te governeing board of the Academy and take a look at voting criteria. In the Grammys system peers vote. No system is completely objective, but there is something askew here. Beyonce knows, Adele knows it and so does everyone else who's not blinded by white privilege.
If the Academy does not get busy finding a solution to this problem (and giving her a performance slot just ot draw viewers) next time Bey is up for an award, should consider banning the Grammys and taking her Bey Hive wit her.