Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Take: Beyonce, Adele, & The Grammys

Sunday night at the Grammys, Adele swept the major categories for the second time in her career, becoming the first artist to do so. The morning after, I awoke to a flood of stories that were angry rants about the robbery that took place. The overwhelming consensus of the commentariat was that Beyonce deserved to win, and it was somehow an affront to the idea of justice that she wasn't given her first Album Of The Year statuette.

These arguments came in three flavors:

1) Beyonce's album was better
2) Beyonce's album was a cultural force
3) Beyonce only lost because of racism

The first argument is one of personal taste, and if you think Beyonce made a better record than Adele, that's fine. I won't try to persuade you differently. But if you were being an objective observer, I don't know how you could have expected any other result.

Yes, "Lemonade" was a cultural force that resonated immensely. But it did so in a narrow band of the population. Beyonce's experiences are not universal, and her pride in making an album that was representative of her culture, while a brave stand for an artist of her stature, limited the appeal it could have across generational lines.

Also, the release of "Lemonade" was not strictly about the music. The accompanying videos, and the visual story the album told, was as much a part of the experience as the songs themselves. While that can be a powerful artistic statement, the reliance on video for delivering the message is self-defeating when then talking about awards that are handed out strictly for the music. "Lemonade" was not presented as an album, but an experience, which I think came back to bite it when the Grammy voters took up their ballots.

Furthermore, let's not forget about who won this award. Adele is not a token winner, some out of the blue name picked simply to (allegedly) uphold the voters' superiority complex. Adele was as much a phenomenon as Beyonce. "25" was not just critically acclaimed, but it crossed gender and age boundaries like no record ever has, selling more copies from its release to its Grammy nomination than any album in the history of recorded music. Think about that.

"25" was not a nice album that voters used as a way to send a message. It was the biggest record on the planet, and single-handedly smashed every conception we had about what record sales could be in the age of streaming. Beyonce's album was important to the people who heard it, while Adele's album had the added layer of being important to the very idea of recorded music. So let's stop talking as though Adele lucked into anything. She made a fantastic record that turned the world of music on its head.

But the worst take of all that I saw was one that declared Beyonce was robbed, and she should have won, because "she's an artist." I can't get over the dripping condescension in that statement towards Adele, who (and I'll get in trouble here) is more of an artist than Beyonce will ever be.

I personally don't care how many people it takes to make a record. A great song is a great song, regardless of how it came to be. But if you're going to use the argument that Beyonce is a great artist, please explain to me how that great artist needs more than two dozen people to write an album with her, including more than a dozen for a single song. That doesn't sound artistic to me.

Really, though, we need to get over the idea that our taste is the only taste that matters. All of these angry rants demanding Beyonce was really the winner are just people expressing outrage that people don't see things the same way they do. It should have been obvious that Adele has a wide and deep base of critical and popular support, and was always the front-runner to win this Grammy.

And if you're going to argue the other way, try arguing actual music merits. I'd love to hear that.

No comments:

Post a Comment