Will Beyonce snub cost Grammys?

Artists and industry observers weigh in on the potential fallout after the singer loses out on the major categories, including Album of the Year

Beyonce with her Grammy trophies, which she won for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video.
Beyonce with her Grammy trophies, which she won for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Before the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, the music industry murmured about what it might mean for Adele to once again sweep the top awards, leaving Beyonce snubbed in the major categories and with her third loss for Album of the Year.

Having long faced accusations that the Grammys overlook young, progressive black artists - the last black woman to win Album of the Year was Lauryn Hill in 1999 - the Recording Academy faced a potential backlash for going all-in on a white, traditional choice like Adele.

It happened again.

Now, building on a conversation that was already bubbling, some artists and industry observers are considering the potential fallout.

"More and more artists are going to boycott and step away," Laura Stylez, a co-host of Ebro In The Morning on the New York hip-hop and R&B station Hot 97, said in an interview, citing the absence of Drake, Frank Ocean, Justin Bieber and Kanye West from this year's show, despite their major eligible releases and nominations.

"You don't want to lose today's generation. They feel like they're not represented."

Charlamagne Tha God, an influential radio personality from The Breakfast Club on Power 105.1, named Grammy voters his "Donkey of the Day" for their Album of the Year selection.

"I tell artists all the time: Go where you're celebrated, not where you're tolerated," he said, adding that Beyonce had been "robbed".

"They absolutely, positively got it wrong," he said.

"The Grammy committee should all feel foolish this morning because even Adele acknowledged that she should not have won Album Of The Year."

Solange Knowles, Beyonce's sister and a Grammy winner this year for Best R&B Performance, tweeted her dismay not long after Sunday's final award was presented, linking to an earlier diatribe by singer Ocean.

Ocean, one of the most critically adored artists of the streaming generation, had declined to submit his music for consideration at this year's Grammys, calling the boycott his "Colin Kaepernick moment".

Last year, American football player Kaepernick gained attention by not standing when the United States nation anthem was being played to protest against how the country treats black people and people of colour.

In a blog post, after insinuations from Grammy producers that his absence was because of a disappointing performance at the 2013 show, he called out the Recording Academy for what he said was a "cultural bias", referring specifically to last year's show, in which Taylor Swift's 1989 won Album of the Year over rapper Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly.

After Beyonce's Lemonade lost to Adele's 25 on Sunday, Terrence Henderson, an executive at Lamar's label, Top Dawg Entertainment, also expressed his frustration. "Maybe Frank had a point," he wrote on Twitter.

This year's show was not entirely homogeneous. In addition to a Prince tribute and exemplary performances by Beyonce and A Tribe Called Quest, Chance The Rapper won three awards, including Best New Artist, for what was essentially an online mixtape.

But the broader pattern was hard to ignore. In the last five years, especially, albums by Ocean, Lamar and Beyonce have been passed over for the top award in favour of releases by white artists: Mumford & Sons, Daft Punk, Beck, Taylor Swift and Adele.

Though Beyonce has 62 nominations and 22 wins overall, most have come in the designated R&B categories, with only one in the big three of Record, Song Or Album Of The Year. Single Ladies (Put A Ring on It) won Best Song in 2010.

Only 10 black artists have ever won Album Of The Year; the last was Herbie Hancock, then 67, for a collection of Joni Mitchell covers in 2008.

In the light of Adele's sweep on Sunday, the presentation of the award for Best Urban Contemporary Album, a minor hodgepodge of a category, to Beyonce for Lemonade could not help but feel like a consolation prize.

She used her one speech on the telecast to highlight the importance of her children seeing themselves reflected at "the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys".

Beyond that, Beyonce, who is stingy with her extemporaneous commentary, has not spoken about her Grammy defeat.

But she did have a surprise planned, win or lose: a new song with DJ Khaled and her husband Jay Z, released exclusively on his streaming platform Tidal, called Shining.

"All of this winning, I've been losing my mind," she sings, seemingly above it all. "Don't try to slow me down."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Will Beyonce snub cost Grammys?'. Print Edition | Subscribe