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Beyoncé and Beck, Grammys 2015

abby rose's picture

There has been much discussion in the past few days about Beyoncé's loss and Beck's win at the 2015 Grammys, which occurred this past Sunday. The award "Album of the Year" was forecasted by many critics and music fans to be won by Beyoncé, who dropped a surprise digital album (simply titled "Beyoncé") complete with music videos for each track in Winter 2013. Her influence on music this past year because of her album drop has been monumental -- as she states in a recent song with Nicki Minaj, " changed the game with that digital drop, know where you was when that digital popped I stopped the world; male or female it make no difference I stop the world" (Feeling Myself, 2014). This lyric is an accurate testament to the effect her album had when it was released: commentary and excitement on her surprise release dominated the media for weeks after; "Beyoncé" became the fastest selling album in iTunes history; and it debuted at number one on the Billboard top 200 chart (this success earned Beyoncé her fifth album to debut at number one and she is the only female artist in history to achieve this feat)*. Beck on the other hand, while being a talented and successful artist in his own right, did not create nearly as much of a spectacle of an album as Beyoncé. 

Her loss at the Grammys came as such a surprise that artist Kanye West came onstage briefly during Beck's acceptance as a statement of his indignance. Explaining his actions, West stated in an interview with E!: "All I know is if the Grammys want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain't gonna play with them no more. Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé, and at this point, we tired of it. Because what happens is, when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you're disrespectful to inspiration and we as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day and they listen to that Beyoncé album and they feel like it takes them to another place." Grammys have been known for snubbing and underrepresenting artists of color (i.e.: Grammys 2014 when Best New Artist was awarded to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (two white men new in the rap industry) over Kendrick Lamar (a groundbreaking Black artist who is arguably one of the most influencial rappers in recent history)). I wonder what this win/loss between Beck and Beyoncé has to do with race. From what I understand, Beck won this award because he has no genre competition in the race. His album was the only rock album nominated, while Beyoncé's was one of three R&B/Pop albums nominated (votes would/could have been unevenly split between these albums). I'm not necessaily saying that Beyoncé lost Album of the Year entirely because she is a Black woman, but race has and DOES have an affect on who wins what. I would like to open up conversation about how racial biases play into awards ceremonies across the board (Grammys, Oscars, Emmys, etc.) So, let's discuss this idea more as a group? 



jkang's picture

I certainly think that race has some influence over these kinds of decisions, and I also think the Grammy isn't really great at picking actual artistry (they nominated Iggy Azalea for like four awards).  If you just take the Oscars, there are no nominees of color this year.  That's insane.  There are amazing films out there (not just Selma) created and representing artists of color, but they are not seen or promoted.  A lot of it has to do with the fact that TV/movie companies don't really think that anything other than the white, often heteronormative, American (or British sometimes) norm will sell.  So movies and TV shows with exceptional performances in all aspects of production aren't really promoted for these awards shows.

Also important: the only times a woman of color has won a SAG award (although SAGS are generally more representative of what is like actually good) for a lead in a TV series is when Shonda Rhimes has written the script.  Something to think about.