Beyoncé Grammy Awards


photo: Twitter/tonybettonjr

The Grammys snubbed Beyoncé — again. The 35-year-old "Formation" singer nabbed two Grammys for best music video and best urban contemporary R&B album. However, she didn't win in any of her other nominated categories, including album of the year, song of the year, and record of the year.

It is the third time Beyoncé's lost in the album of the year category. She joins a list of musical titans, including Prince, Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson, who've never won the top Grammy.

The Recording Academy's snubbing of "Lemonade" continues an embarrassing lineage of overlooking Black artists — and exposes a glaring race problem.

Beyoncé lost to Adele in both the song of the year and the album of the year categories. The "25" singer used the latter acceptance speech to chide the Recording Academy for overlooking Beyoncé's magnum opus.

"The Lemonade album is so monumental, Beyoncé," she said. "[It's] so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul baring. And we all got another side to you that you don’t always let us see and we appreciate that. All us artists here adore you. You are our light."

She also highlighted the cultural significance of "Lemonade," an album that Beyoncé hoped "would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness, and our history."

"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," Adele continued. "And I love you, I always have, I always will."

In a subsequent press conference, Adele questioned what Beyoncé would have to do to win album of the year. The answer is easy: She would have to transform into a white version of herself.

Beyoncé has won 22 Grammy awards. Of those 22 awards, all of them — except for two — have been in the R&B categories. 

She's scored one song of the year Grammy for "Single Ladies," but has been majorly relegated to the R&B and urban contemporary categories. 

This implies that she's the best Black artist, but isn't considered the best overall artist.

However, it's unsurprising that Beyoncé has been constantly overlooked. It's the plight of Black artists at the Grammys.

Only 10 of the 56 awards given out for album of the year have gone to Black artists. Stevie Wonder has earned three of those 10. Only three album of the year recipients — Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, and Lauryn Hill —  were Black women. 

A Black woman hasn't won album of the year since 1999. A Black artist hasn't won it since 2008.

Taylor Swift's "1989" beat out Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly." Beck's "Morning Phase" won over Beyoncé's surprise self-titled album. Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" beat Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d city." U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" even bested Mariah Carey's "The Emancipation of Mimi" and Kanye West's "Late Registration."

This speaks to the cultural tone-deafness of the Recording Academy, the voting body that determines who wins gold statuettes.

The Recording Academy allows any person in the music industry who has credits on 12 digital tracks or six physical tracks to join. While the Recording Academy has never publicly revealed the demographics of its voting pool, Vox determined that it's full of "aging white baby boomers."

"The power structures of the music industry, like the power structures of every industry in America, are full of aging white baby boomers, who might be outnumbered in aggregate by younger, more diverse people, but who also tend to vote as a bloc and promote the sorts of things that appeal to their ears," Vox concluded.

Music journalist Rob Kenner gave some insight into how the process works for Complex. Voters can cast ballots in any category, regardless of their expertise.

"Bottom line: the vast majority of the nominations are chosen by people who have little real expertise in a given field," Kenner explained. "I refrained from voting in heavy metal and classical because I know very little about those genres. But I could have if I wanted to, and that strikes me as a problem."

This means that as Academy voters delve deeper into each category, they begin voting based on popularity rather than actual merit.

"Famous people tend to get more votes from clueless Academy members, regardless of the quality of their work," Kenner said. "This is especially true in specialized categories like reggae and, to a lesser extent, hip-hop, where many voting members of the Recording Academy (who tend to skew older than the demographic for rap music) may not be well acquainted with the best releases in any given year."

Given the secrecy of the process, it's impossible to detail who is voting in which categories.

There's no public accountability that forces the Grammys to be more intentional about inclusion. If the Oscars can become more inclusive, so can the Grammys. The tide is turning, as it should be.

Hopefully, Beyoncé's snub will be the last.