A lot of people were stunned when Adele’s “25” album won over Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” during the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. It was so surprising that even Adele couldn’t believe she won. During her speech, she expressed her love and adoration for Beyoncé. She even broke her Grammy trophy into 2, although reports suggest it was an accident.
It doesn’t mean though that Adele didn’t deserve the award. It was just surprising since Beyoncé’s was obviously better. It was also not her first attempt at winning the top plum. Despite everything that she has poured into the creation of this album, it was still not enough for her to take the Album of the Year Award home.
Many supporters took their disgust and anger in Twitter for the devastating results. Perhaps, the fact that Beyoncé’s album was so political and in the word of Adele, “monumental”, it was expected to be the ultimate winner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. To her frustration, it was even reported that Adele said, “What the f*ck does Beyoncé have to do to win?”
Let us take a closer look at what could have been the reasons why Adele pulled a stunning upset and why Beyoncé still has not gone home with the top prize after being nominated several times.
7. The Grammys love the fact that Adele’s record sales have been off the charts.
Although it was a huge surprise that Beyoncé lost to Adele, for avid Grammys viewers, it wasn’t. In fact, it was expected considering how Adele’s 25 dwarfed Lemonade in terms of sales. Although in 2016, both albums sold almost the same units (25 with 2.4 million and Lemonade with 2.2 million), 25 has already sold 8.01 million units in 2015, way before Lemonade was released. Adele has also swept 6 trophies during the 2012 Grammy for her “21” album, and it has also recorded massive numbers of record sales. Although the total sales was an unfair basis for determining who should win Album of the Year, it has huge weight for some voters.
6. Black artists have always struggled to take home the top prize
The Grammys has a weak track record when it comes to recognizing black artists. In fact, only a few artists have won the top prize over the years, and only Stevie Wonder winning more than once. The last black artist to have won the award was Herbie Hancock in 2008. The last black woman to have won the title was Lauryn Hill in 1999. In the case of Beyoncé, it was even more frustrating as she could have taken the title home twice, but she still lost. First, she lost to Back in 2015 and now to Adele. In recent years, other black artists have also lost despite being huge favorites. This includes Daft Punk winning over Kendrick Lamar in 2014 and Taylor Swift over Kendrick Lamar in 2016.
5. The Grammys don’t recognize winners from certain categories.
There is also another trend in Grammys where black artists who were critically favored to win in their respective category do not end up winning the Album of the Year. For instance, Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar did great for rap and R & B, but were snubbed for the top plum. This year, Beyoncé was recognized for the Best Urban Contemporary album, but still did not get the Album of the Year. Fans hoped that Beyoncé would have ended the trend this year, as her Lemonade was just visually delightful. It was also meaningful as it talked about the history of racial inequality. People thought Grammys would have made it an avenue to show that they are not part of the biased society, but in the end, they chose Adele’s safe album.
4. Grammy voters are mostly white and male.
Beyoncé’s Lemonade speaks mostly about African-American pride. In fact, it is explicitly mentioned in some of her songs. She was even proud to have performed “Formation” during the Super Bowl last year where she made a strong political statement – something she doesn’t usually do. Generally speaking, the music industry is a more liberal group. Despite that, it is still composed heavily of white and male members. The good thing though is that people of color are better represented in Grammys than in the Academy Awards. If the #OscarsSoWhite campaign succeeded in bringing more quality non-white movies into the fold this year, a similar campaign could push changes at the Grammys next year.
3. Grammy voters are old too.
Aside from the fact that most voters are white and male, they are also old. This means that they could not recognize Beyoncé’s innovativeness and creativity. They might have also failed to see the cultural significance of her album. Adele on the other hand released a safe album with no political inclinations. She sang mostly about heartbreaks, which was already her signature. This could have been more appealing to the traditional voters. Besides, it was not like Adele’s victory was a “gaffe”. She was still deserving of the award as her album was fantastic. If it turned out to be like Jethro Tull defeating Metallica in 1988, it would have been embarrassing.
2. The vote may have been split.
This could have been the biggest reason why Beyoncé lost. She has to share her votes with other artists who were nominated in the same category. The nominees were mostly pop and hip-hop artists. Justin Bieber and Drake, though obviously were not going to win, still had some votes from the body. Obviously, they were votes that could have easily gone to Beyoncé if they were not on the list. This was also the same explanation in 2015 when Beck defeated pop artists like Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Pharrell Williams for the top prize. Adele’s only competition was Sturgill Simpson, but her album did not really make that big of a noise for her to peel away several votes from Adele. The only other possibility would have been Adele and Beyoncé splitting votes between each other as female divas, allowing Justin or Drake to sneak in to the top, but it didn’t happen.
1. Adele was strategic in the release of her record.
Adele’s huge numbers in terms of record sales definitely helped boost her chances of winning. It was also because of her. She refused to stream her record for 25 months up until the album was released in late 2015. This strategy totally worked as she was able to rake nearly 7.5 million in sales. Beyoncé on the other hand, streamed Lemonade via Tidal on its early weeks. It benefitted her but not her label. A lot of artists have been doing what Beyoncé did to the point that Universal Music, the world’s biggest label, decided to ban it right away. They could have influenced the votes as a way to punish Beyoncé and reward Adele. We can only speculate.
Nevertheless, Beyoncé’s defeat was still stunning. She was at her best in this album. She poured her heart and soul into it. She has also made brave political statements. She went out of her way to address the issues that she really didn’t care about her black roots. Now that she did, it ended up this way. This is why it is totally understandable that a lot of fans were upset with the results.
Rest assured, this is not the last that we are going to see Beyoncé on the spotlight. For sure, after giving birth, she will be back in her best form again and surprise us with more Grammy victories.