Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Hold up, the Grammy’s don’t love you like we love you

Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” was one of the most culturally significant albums of 2016—unparalleled in its social impact.

Beyoncé retains her mega-star status while her work speaks meaningfully to minorities and women. “Lemonade” is critically acclaimed and extremely powerful in its relevancy. So the question must be raised: Why didn’t she win 2016 Album of the Year at the 59th Annual Grammy awards?

There are many people who consider “Lemonade” too political and too polarizing because it depicts life from a black woman’s perspective. Perhaps this is the reason many of the 14,000 Grammy voters chose not to vote for “Lemonade,” and opted for Adele’s adult contemporary (and safe) album “25.”

There is the inevitable question of race versus a Grammy numbers game.

“I don’t think there’s a race problem at all,” Neil Portnow, the Recording Academy president, told Pitchfork. “We don’t, as musicians, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity.”

People, artists and masses of fans alike, are not convinced by Portnow’s statement. Artists such as Sufjan Stevens and St. Vincent have questioned the validity of Portnow’s insistence that all 14,000 voting members of the Recording Academy listen to nominated albums with blindfolds on.

Portnow admits the voting is subjective, but voting members are not to pay attention to sales, marketing, popularity and charts. The voting members are encouraged to listen to the music.

According to, Grammy voters are limited to a specific number of categories they can vote in as an effort to keep them contained to the areas of music they know best. However, four main categories of the Grammys are open to all voters: best new artist, album of the year, song of the year and record of the year.

Among these four categories, there is the widest possible breadth of voters. Grammy voters never age out, so there is something to be said for age demographics. Adele’s adult contemporary album would have attracted a wider age demographic.

In the past few years, the winners are the safer, apolitical albums with the broadest appeal. For instance, 2016 saw Taylor Swift’s “1989” win over Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly”; 2015 saw Beck’s “Morning Phase” win over Beyoncé’s self-titled album.

The 2015 Grammys almost saw a repeat performance of Kanye West’s infamous 2009 VMAs interruption of Taylor Swift. In both instances, West believed Beyoncé should have won.

One year with one overlooked album may not be a problem, but this is not the case. We live in an era in which R&B and hip-hop music are experiencing a period of massive creativity and commercial success. A black artist has not won album of the year since jazz musician Herbie Hancock in 2008. Black artists such as Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, the Weeknd and Pharrell Williams have been shortlisted, but all of these artists have lost out.

All of these acts are relatively mainstream. It would be another issue if these artists were marginal acts being passed over for more mainstream acts. Recent winners of album of the year: Mumford & Sons, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire and Beck all enjoy mainstream success.

So the question of race still remains.

Portnow looks to the example of Chance the Rapper. The streaming artist won Best New Artist of the Year. Portnow explains Chance the Rapper would not have won in this category if the Academy’s members were not diverse and “with the times.” To be fair, the Academy is attempting to create a more diverse and younger voting body, but there is still work to be done and progress to be made.

It is true Adele’s “25” aided the music industry’s traditional business model in selling eight million copies in the first two months of U.S. sales. While Adele was not aiming for a cultural statement to reflect our politically charged climate, “25” remains a safe album.

No one was more shocked than Adele when “25” won over “Lemonade.” In a heartfelt speech of solidarity, Adele praised “Lemonade” as a “soul-baring” and “monumental” album.

If Adele, the winning artist, is questioning the results, perhaps the Recording Academy and its voters are going about the process incorrectly. It has been 18 years since a black woman artist won Album of the Year; in 1999, Lauryn Hill won for “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”

“Lemonade” is a reflection of the times; more specifically, the album is a reflection of 2016.

It is a politically-charged, powerful cultural statement. Critically acclaimed for its breadth, the album’s subject matter was resistant to any one genre. Beyoncé was the most musically diverse artist in the album of the year category with rap, R&B, country, pop and rock influences. “Lemonade” is a reflection of the world we live in. What more does Beyoncé have to do to win Album of the Year?

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