Some of the most prestigious award shows of all time, in any respect, have a history of being whitewashed. An important aspect of it is the reality that, while still an honor, most black artists are routinely donned with awards in the “sideline” categories. They rarely ever get some of the biggest honors of the night like “Album of the Year” at the Grammys. Yep, we’re going there.
Wednesday (Feb. 15), BBC reported on the Grammys’ controversy that was the Beyoncé-Adele matchup for the coveted honor, aside from Cee-Lo Green’s benign Gnarly Davidson red carpet debut. It’s the epitome of the age-old, Papa Pope-reincarnated notion that if you are a person of color, you have to be twice as good to get half of what our less “melanated” counterparts have. Bey’s apparent snub by the National Academy of Recording Arts And Sciences (NARAS) opens the door to the conversation about systemic racism, which the Grammys’ president, Neil Portnow is adamant isn’t the case for the staple music awards show.
Portnow told Pitchfork, “I don’t think there’s a race problem at all,” he continues, “Remember, this is a peer-voted award. So when we say the Grammys, it’s not a corporate entity–it’s the 14,000 members of the Academy.” He continues to persist to support the process 100 percent claiming “it’s a democratic vote by majority.”
Usually when we evaluate these feat-defeat situations, we look at the numbers. If this were the only metric, Adele’s 25 has Lemonade beat with nearly eight million more copies sold nationwide than Bey’s sixth studio album. But if you consider, probably the most recycled quote by the late, Nina Simone which claims “an artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times,” the masses and probably anyone else in the voting body could agree that Lemonade did this best than any of her “Album of the Year” opponents.
But, as journalist Kevin Powell suggests, Beyonce’s Lemonade made voters “uncomfortable” because it is “unapologetically black.” It probably doesn’t help any that the Grammy voting body is made up of predominantly white males in their elder years.
Powell states that our nation isn’t ready to deal so directly with truth and comments on the match-up. “Adele’s album is strong, but it is just songs about love. It is safe and uncontroversial; it breaks no new ground. And neither do Grammy voters, generally speaking, when it comes to picking winners of this particular award.”
Take for instance an album equally politically-charged, and maybe even more widely-accepted and artistically-respected: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. K. Dot’s third studio album was undoubtedly delivered the short-end of the stick by the victory of Taylor Swift’s dance-pop album, 1989. Music scholar, John Vilanova declared last year, that this is what “systemic racism looks like.” And how could you disagree when artist’s trajectory is propelled for the better following Grammy recognition?
I mean, Beyoncé is Beyoncé. She needs no introduction. And Adele’s talent and discography definitely are of equal stature. But Beyoncé’s Lemonade exceeded two times the greatness of Adele’s 25, and the “Hello” singer even declared so herself. So, when will the overly-qualified black and minority artists have their reign on the throne?