Grammys 2017: Beyoncé Denied Yet Again
I have devoted my life to the thought that if you prepare, work hard enough, and show up looking the part, the rest will fall into place. After Sunday night’s Grammys I am a bit shook up. Yet as I am learning more and more, I shouldn’t be.
Beyoncé gave us Lemonade last year. It was a perfect album and film. As you know I do not like the word perfection. Mostly because it puts a ceiling or a standard that can never be obtained. It is the utopia (aka: nowhere) of an emotion or thing. A perfect outfit… ugh. A perfect love story… that’s not real. A perfect job… where? The idea of it only sets one up for unnecessary – and in my opinion completely avoidable - disappointment. All that to say if anyone had a “perfect” year professionally and personally, it would be Beyoncé.
She not only delivered a feminist masterpiece that does not sugarcoat the hard truths that many women – and specifically black women – face in a lifetime; she beautifully announced her personal pregnancy joy on the first day of American Black History month: hashtag Beybies. She appears to have triumphed yet again.
Sunday night she was denied, yet again, by the academy for Album of the Year. It is arguably the highest acclaim for a musician. Lemonade was an incredible achievement. You knew this. I knew this. She knew this. Even Adele knew this. Yet the academy chose not to.
What we know is right and what actually happen in reality are different things. While many of viewers were in shock as the night rolled on, Beyoncé didn’t appear to be shocked at all. Rather she, true to her lyrics, “Always stayed gracious” as she smiled and applauded the winners.
The performance she gave was epic. It was by far the longest of the night. She spared no detail or preparation. Those holograms, that dress, the crown, her stage, the dancers, THAT chair. She, like in Lemonade, transported you to another place. Perhaps even another galaxy.
As I was watching with my chin open to nearly the floor, I questioned what I thought about motherhood. I was perplexed on her glowing body and dress that emphasized every blossoming curve. I wondered how she kept the golden roses affixed to the headpiece and hair. I thought more deeply about family. I considered the passing of time differently. I fixated on the seemingly unavoidable pain that long-term relationships conjure. That entire Beydream aside, what I thought most about was how in awe I am of her.
That’s the thing about a spectacular artist. They make you feel something. They share themselves so we have the opportunity to see ourselves. Our end of the bargain is to support what we like with our attention and wallets. We too hope that the top brass will reward our favourites for a job well done.
Beyoncé is peerless when it comes to preparation, hard work, and an immersive performance aesthetic. We all know this. My belief is that the rest – awards and all – should fall into place. I was wrong. That only happens for some.
What does the recording academy know about her that the rest of us don’t? It’s tough to say out loud and it hurts to know that it’s likely true but I think what they know isn’t so much the point. I think it’s what they see. Racism? Here's some background for consideration. Frank Ocean decided to boycott this year's awards as he felt they are lacking in rewarding black musicians. Here's what he said in the New York Times.
In 2013, Mr. Ocean won two Grammys, and he has been nominated since, but come February, he will not win any, because he chose not to submit his music for consideration. “That institution certainly has nostalgic importance,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.” He noted that since he was born, just a few black artists have won album of the year, including Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Ray Charles.
Though Mr. Ocean said the Grammys reached out to his representatives, he never spoke with them directly before making his decision. “I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated,” he said. “I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.”
I suspect – and the lack of recognition from the Academy supports my accusation - that no matter how good she is, how many seats of auditoriums she sells out, or how powerful she is, somehow she will continue to not be enough in their eyes.
She has said it herself in the lyrics of Formation, “Earned all this paper but they never take the country out me.” Maybe this realization is yet another lesson Beyoncé has bestowed upon us.
ps. Rihanna went 0-8.