Grammys Can’t Shake Their Weird Love-Hate Relationship With Beyoncé

Grammys Can’t Shake Their Weird Love-Hate Relationship With Beyoncé

Is it fair to say the Grammys have a Beyoncé problem on the same night that she won her 29th, 30th, 31st and 32nd awards to become the winningest artist in Grammy history?

Yes, it is.

The record-setting diva got to be the biggest Grammy winner ever by taking home awards in the R&B categories, pop categories, dance categories, urban contemporary categories, music video categories – everywhere, essentially, except the general categories that are the Grammys biggest prizes: Song of the Year, Record of the Year and especially Album of the Year.

And the exact same thing happened on Sunday at the Arena in Los Angeles. Beyoncé won two awards in dance and R&B categories before the televised show began, another in R&B early in the show, and then a second dance award to make her the all-time leader in Grammy wins.

And then, when the top three categories arrived, she lost to Bonnie Raitt for Song of the Year, to Lizzo for Record of the Year and to Harry Styles for Album of the Year.

So she may be the all-time Grammy champion, but according to voters, she’s never made the best album or record in any of those years in which she’s been winning all those awards. Does that make any sense?

And it made the impromptu mid-show celebration when Beyoncé set the record feel a bit hollow: “Congratulations, Beyoncé! Now let’s move on to the awards you aren’t going to get!”

That’s not to denigrate Adele or Lizzo or Styles, none of whom are embarrassing winners. But when one of the seminal Black artists of our time keeps losing (to mostly white competitors), the individual races matter less than the trend that shows no signs of stopping.

Can you blame her for arriving late at Sunday’s show, during which she was still en route to the theater when she tied classical conductor Georg Solti’s record of 31 Grammy wins? I mean, wouldn’t you want to take your time to go somewhere where history suggests you’ll get an initially warm greeting followed by a bigger cold shoulder?

The initial greeting may have been particularly warm this year, since it came with the record. But in a way, that made the cold shoulder even more disheartening.  

The statistics are brutal. Beyoncé has been nominated for Record of the Year seven times over 21 years, from “Say My Name” to “Break My Soul,” without ever winning. She’s received five nominations for Song of the Year, and in 2010 actually won for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” her only win in a general category. She was nominated for Album of the Year for “I Am … Sasha Fierce,” losing to Taylor Swift in 2010; for “Beyoncé” in 2015, losing to Beck; for “Lemonade” in 2017, losing to Adele; and for “Renaissance” this year, losing to Styles.  

When she beat Beyoncé in the Record of the Year category toward the end of the show, Lizzo insisted, “Beyoncé, you are artist of our lifetimes!” And in a way, that echoed the moment back in 2017 when Adele told Beyoncé, “I can’t possibly accept” her Album of the Year award over “Lemonade” and later said in the press room, “It was her time to win.”

But when it comes to Album of the Year and Record of the Year, it’s never Beyoncé’s time to win. Like Kendrick Lamar and other trailblazing Black artists, she always picks up awards in the genre categories but remains in her seat during the biggest awards.

By contrast, Taylor Swift has three Album of the Year awards among her 12 Grammys; Adele has seven general awards (two each for Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year and one for Best New Artist) among her 15 total Grammys; and Billie Eilish has seven Grammys, five of which are in the top four categories.

Host Trevor Noah called Beyoncé “the GOAT” during the show, suggesting that the case was closed. But Tom Brady didn’t get to be the GOAT by winning playoff games; he got there by winning a lot of Super Bowls. Grammy voters, for some reason, love Beyoncé right up until the moment of the big game. And then they don’t.

Her achievement is remarkable, but let’s ignore the record for a moment and face the obvious: The Grammys have a big Beyoncé problem.

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