The Grammys Kind Of Got It Right
Last night at the Grammy Awards, Adele made history, in more ways than one. She dropped the f-bomb twice on live television, restarted her dedication to George Michael due to technical difficulties, became the first artist to ever win Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year – twice, and she spent every moment she spoke on stage celebrating Beyoncé instead of herself.
And while the cussing was hilarious, while the do-over was beautiful and worthwhile, while the awards were deserved and humbly received; the Beyoncé love was best.
Adele recognized that while 25 is good, Lemonade is monumental. And not only is it monumental creatively, lyrically, visually; it is historic. Lemonade unabashedly celebrates the black women. That’s a big deal for any artist – let alone the Queen herself – to vulnerably and powerfully give voice to a group of people who are so often silenced, who are so often disregarded, ignored, and forgotten.
Ironically, Lemonade losing to 25 reinforces the very struggle Beyoncé’s album projected to the world. There’s a tweet going around showing that, since 2013, every black artist that has been nominated for Album of the Year has lost to a white artist. In 2013 Frank Ocean lost to Mumford in Sons, Kendrick Lamar lost to Daft Punk in 2014, Beyoncé to Beck in 2015, Kendrick Lamar to Taylor Swift in 2016, and finally Beyoncé to Adele last night.
I’m not saying that just because an artist is black means he or she should beat a white person. What I am saying is, is that a lot of music – music that boldly and fearlessly celebrates people of color – rarely receives the mainstream recognition given to its white counterparts. And while the work of Taylor Swift and Adele and (even) Beck is deserved of praise, it’s difficult to ignore the blatant pattern. It’s difficult to justify without at least an undertone of suspicion.
I am a white gal in her twenties from Indiana. I do not know what it feels like to be a black woman in America, in the world; I do not know what it feels like to be overlooked, abused, and degraded, for centuries. The work of these artists – the work of Beyoncé – it is not really for me, but I listen to it so that I can learn. So that I can empathize.
I downloaded the one-month free Tidal trial seven times using seven different emails so that I could listen to Lemonade (I am a college student, sorry Jay-Z). I listened to it, not because I totally understood the words or the struggles shown, but because it was just a damn beautiful piece of work. Maybe the most beautiful album I’ve ever heard or watched. For me, that’s what Lemonade was – damn beautiful. But for black women and people of color – it was representation. Long-awaited, completely deserved, representation.
For some reason, The Recording Academy didn’t understand that, but Adele did. And that’s why, when she was on that stage in that killer green dress, she didn’t talk about herself, she talked about Lemonade.
“I can’t possibly accept this award…The Lemonade album, Beyoncé, was so monumental, and so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-bearing. And we got to see another side of you that you don’t always let us see, and we appreciate that. And all us artists 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.”
So not only did Adele acknowledge the power and purpose of Lemonade, but she did so on national television, disregarding award show norms and choosing to celebrate a historic piece of work, an American Queen.
That, in it of itself, is pretty spectacular. One talented woman unabashedly loving on another talented woman. A white woman acknowledging the importance of the black female struggle, the black story. That’s something that we don’t see everyday – that’s something that we rarely see on national television.
Adele isn’t a hero for fangirling over Beyonce, but what she did was important. She used her privilege, she used her minutes on stage – in front of millions – to ensure that people understand how imperative it is that we as a society celebrate and welcome diverse storytelling.
And while Lemonade may not have won, last night was a (small) step in the right direction. Last night did hint at possible mainstream progress and acceptance. Chance the Rapper won three Grammy’s and was nominated for seven. Solange Knowles won her first Grammy. Katy Perry and Paris Jackson and Laverne Cox and Busta Rhymes and more turned their microphones into megaphones. Oh, and Beyonce became God herself.
We’re getting there, world. But if only some of us our celebrated, if only some of us our afforded a voice, we will be stagnant. That’s why Lemonade is such a big deal. That’s why Beyonce is such a big deal. That’s why Adele’s speech is such a big deal. That’s why I will be listening to it on a constant loop for approximately four years – and you should too.