By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
There is no denying that Adele is one of the most amazing singers on the planet. But an album as monumental as Beyonce’s “Lemonade” doesn’t come along that often. So it came as no surprise that Album of the Year winner Adele expressed her love and compassion for the loser, as Beyonce mouthed “I love you” and cried.
Adele opined that Beyonce should have won because such an honor for “Lemonade” would have recognized not just her music, but the vital cultural role Beyonce played in 2016; she acknowledged Beyonce as a megastar whose work spoke to the travails of her race and gender. “I felt like it was her time to win,” declared Adele.
But at the end of the day, the British songstress took home the hardware for best album, best record and best song – leaving the Beehive buzzing from coast to coast. With two megastars like Beyonce and Adele, it’s a judgment call – sort of like whether to call a foul or charge in basketball. And the call is unreviewable.
The lament of fans of a more colorful musical genre is that if it can happen to Beyonce in all her regal mein, the rest of the Black artists don’t stand much of a chance. Especially females. Let’s take a Black History Month look at how the Grammys have treated African Americans nominated for the top honor of the evening:
Only 10 African Americans have ever won the Grammy for Best Album. Ten. With all of the great music produced by Black America, just 10.
Stevie Wonder won Album of the Year three times (1974, 1975 and 1977). The legendary Michael Jackson won Best Album only once, in 1984 for “Thriller.” Lionel Ritchie won Best Album in 1985 for “All Night Long.” Icon Quincy Jones won Best Album in 1991 for “Back on the Block.” The next year, Natalie Cole won for “Unforgettable.” In 1994, the incomparable Whitney Houston won for her “Bodyguard” album.
Lauryn Hill was only the third Black woman to ever win Album of the Year in 1999. She was the last African American female to also win Best R&B Song the same year for Doo Wop. Outkast walked away with Best Album honors at the 2004 Grammy Awards, and Ray Charles won posthumously the following year. Who was the last Black recording artist to win Best Album of the Year? Herbie Hancock, for “River: The Joni Letters.”
So, since the start of the Grammys in 1959 almost 60 years ago, only 10 Black artists’ work has been deemed worthy of selection as Album of the Year. No need to throw a ‘pity party’ for Beyonce. She has won 22 Grammy Awards over her incredible career. But there is just something to be said when even the Black best isn’t worthy of top accolades.
While Beyonce is young and may get a fourth nomination for Best Album before her career is over, there will be no second chance to recognize “Lemonade” for what it is – a contemporary masterpiece that presents a forceful statement of the times.
Award shows are subjective. Whites make the choices and more often than not, choose the music they like most. That’s not likely to change soon, if ever. Just look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the list of unbelievably talented African American recording artists snubbed over the years.
The list of R & B artists ignored for the honor include the Impressions, the Spinners, Sade, New Edition, Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Patti LaBelle, Mariah Carey, the Commodores, Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White, the Manhattans, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston.
Why would anyone Black be interested in touring the Hall of Fame, other than to remind themselves that even in the world of entertainment – which folks have forever insisted is less prejudiced than the real world, racism, bigotry, and discrimination reign. An even better option than boycotting the Hall is recognizing how important it is to honor ourselves without waiting for the validation of white America.
That’s exactly why it is not even worth responding to people who ask why there should be a Miss Black America Pageant. Or Black Entertainment Television? Or Black Girls Rock? Or NAACP Image Awards? Or Soul Train Music Awards? Simple. If we don’t love ourselves, nobody will.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.