We can’t deny that the next few years are crucial for politics and political efficacy—especially in mainstream media and in public view. It is unsurprising, then, that awards shows like the Golden Globes and the Grammys are criticized and praised for displaying people and artists who use their platforms to vocalize political opinions.
Awards shows are no strangers to politics, as television, film and music nominees usually take risks in their genre and are culturally influential to some extent. The 59th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday Feb. 12 faced controversy over the way politics are—assumingly—disapproved of or unworthy to win top titles in some major categories. Additionally, the continuation of dialogue over race issues in the music industry resurfaced in the battle between popularity and artistic quality.
The biggest upset of the Grammy’s was Adele’s win over Beyoncé in the most-anticipated top category, Album of the Year. Beyoncé’s album Lemonade was an overwhelming favorite, as it celebrated black womanhood and discussed themes of race politics. Lemonade was also a visual album, including over an hour’s worth of artistically impressive and inspirational music videos.
While Lemonade won for Best Urban Contemporary Album, its iconic cultural influence was not enough to win the biggest award of the night. Many believe Beyoncé lost to Adele because her album celebrated blackness—and, in recent years, the Album of the Year category has been overwhelmingly white.
The last black woman to win the category was Lauryn Hill in 1999—and in the past five years, black artists who released popular and critically-acclaimed albums lost to white artists that arguably did not meet the same artistic standards.
The influence and artistry of Lemonade cannot be ignored, and even Adele herself admitted she did not deserve to win over the visual album. While accepting her award, Adele said through tears, “I can’t possibly accept this award, and I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious, but my artist of my life is Beyoncé. This album, to me, the Lemonade album, was so monumental.”
The trend of white artists or actors winning awards over, debatably, more qualified or talented black artists is not new. The Grammys—as much as they are treated with prestige by the media—are not particularly significant or relevant anymore. It adheres to standards of music popularity and album sales, rather than artistic quality and cultural significance.
Perhaps they do not adhere to those later standards because Beyoncé would, in those circumstances, win every single year.