In terms of Things-Someone-Doesn’t-Want-to-Hear-After-They’ve-Given-an-Award- Away, “I can’t possibly accept this award,” is in the top three, after only “F*ck you, man,” and “I never actually applied, so…” Yet this is what Adele said in her acceptance speech after winning Album of the Year at the 2017 Grammy Award Show on Feb. 12. She goes on to say that the “artist of her life” is Beyoncé, who also competed for Album of the Year.
In fact, Adele spent most of her speech gushing about Beyoncé. The NY Times transcribed her speech. Adele said:
The Lemonade album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it’s so monumental. And so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see. And we appreciate that. And all us artists here adore you. You are our light. And the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering. And you make them stand up for themselves. And I love you. I always have and I always will.
Unfortunately, the Grammy Award Show is now in the spotlight for administering a broken system. It’s clearly a failure when even the winner points out unfair gameplay. But at first glance, Adele’s win over Beyoncé is just a minor fluke and is not representative as a whole. Adele has won 15 Grammy awards while Beyoncé has won 22. And, according to the Grammy website, Beyoncé has the eighth-most Grammy awards of any artist, behind music greats like Stevie Wonder and John Williams. She is also the most nominated female artist ever.
However, most of Beyoncé’s Grammy awards are titled like “Best [Genre] [Action],” from 2013’s “Best Traditional R&B Performance” to 2017’s “Best Urban Contemporary Album.” Adele, meanwhile, has won “Best Album of the Year” and “Best Record of the Year” twice and “Best Song of the Year” three times. Adele is a wonderful artist. But I’m also less impressed with her new songs now than I was in 2013, mostly because they all sound similar to me. Even the titles of her albums are familiar, quaint and lacking any creative power. This doesn’t seem to concern Grammy voters, however.
Yet again, the problem is institutional racism. This isn’t meant to belittle the accomplishments of either Adele or Beyoncé. But the artists honored at the Grammys are overwhelmingly white (and male), as are the voters. Kelsey McKinney of Fusion reports, “Since 2000, 42.5 percent of the nominees in the Album of the Year category have been white men, and they have won 53 percent of the time.” McKinney also states that since 1959, 196 white men, 54 white women, 39 men of color and finally 27 women of color have been nominated for Album of the Year. #Grammyssowhite is now a popular twitter handle and helps quantify the many problems with the awards show. Two “industry heavyweights,” anonymous but important voters told Billboard, “The voting bloc is still too white, too old and too male.” What’s more, there is nothing stopping Grammy voters from voting for everything, even genres they know very little about. In 2014 Rob Kenner, a Grammy voter, told Complex, “I refrained from voting in heavy metal and classical because I know very little about those genres. But I could have if I wanted to, and that strikes me as a problem.”
To Adele’s credit, 25 grossed much more than Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Us Weekly says that though the two albums sold similar numbers in 2016, 25 had an “8.01 million units” head start in 2015. At the end of the day, it is none other than Adele who voices our thoughts on Beyoncé’s loss: Billboard reports her saying, “I felt like it was her time to win. What the f*ck does she have to do to win album of the year?” This should act as a reminder that it’s not Beyoncé who needs to change, but the faulty system that refuses to reward her.