We Need to Talk about Adele and Beyoncé at the 2017 Grammy Awards
OK, folks. We gotta talk about the Grammys.
More specifically, we need to talk about Adele and Beyoncé at the Grammys.
Sure, the 2017 Grammy Awards gave us plenty of other things to talk about (Like how Chance the Rapper is a national treasure we must protect at all costs, for example), but it was the rivalry – or rather, the complete lack thereof – between two respective queens of pop that stole the show.
When Adele opened the awards with a ground-shaking performance of Hello, the song that would win her “Song of the Year” and “Record of the Year” later in the the night, she reminded the world how lucky it is to have a voice like hers in it. I’ve written about my love of Adele before, and I stand by that declaration: She is brash and kind, unrefined and unscripted, with a love of herself and others we should all hope to emulate and a voice I’m convinced can move mountains.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t turn on the Grammys rooting 100 percent for Beyoncé. Because, well, I was rooting 100 percent for Beyoncé.
We were gifted two mega-selling, mind-blowing pop albums in 2016: Adele’s 25 and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. As such, both singers earned nominations in all three major categories: “Song of the Year,” “Record of the Year,” and “Album of the Year.”
Despite my love for both women, I desperately wanted Beyoncé to win.
To me, there was no one more deserving of an “Album of the Year” win in Grammy history than Beyoncé.
I listen to 25 on a regular basis, maybe even a little more than I listen to Lemonade, but only because Adele’s lovely, romantic melodies make for great easy listening while working or cooking dinner. Lemonade, alternatively, demands my full attention. Turning an album into a gorgeously-rendered art film was new, unexpected, and revolutionary, and Beyoncé did it while weaving a narrative about womanhood, motherhood, loss, reconciliation, and yes, race. This was an album that spoke to the power of being female, urging young women everywhere to get in formation, get information, love their bodies, theirselves, and take no shit from a world pretty intent on giving them shit.
"My intention for the Lemonade album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history. To confront issues that make us uncomfortable," Beyoncé said, while accepting a Grammy for “Best Urban Contemporary Album.”
To me, there was no one more deserving of an “Album of the Year” win in Grammy history.
As you can imagine, I was a little disappointed when Adele swept the Grammys, beating Beyoncé in all three major categories and becoming the first artist ever to sweep “Album of the Year,” “Record of the Year,” and “Song of the Year,” at a single Grammys twice.
But so, it seems, was Adele. As she accepted her awards, she seemed genuinely awkward about her wins, which was touching and endearing and only strengthened my love of her.
What could have been a bitter rivalry manifested as a mutual love and respect between two wildly successful but very different women.
"My dream and idol is Queen B, and I adore you, and you move my soul, as you have done for the past 17 years," Adele told Beyoncé while accepting “Record of the Year.”
She was then moved to tears after winning “Album of the Year,” addressing Beyoncé once again in a moving speech. "I cannot possibly accept this award. The Lemonade album was so monumental and so well-thought-out and so beautiful and soul-bearing,” she said as tears ran down her cheeks. “All us artists here adore you. You are our light.”
Beyoncé was seen crying from the audience, mouthing “I love you,” to Adele during the speech.
Watching what could have been a bitter rivalry manifest as a mutual love and respect between two wildly successful but very different women was one of the more moving award show moments I’d ever witnessed.
Adele wasn’t just offering consolation to a losing competitor. She acknowledged, in the most gracious and courteous way possible, the Grammys’ trend of awarding tradition and convention over groundbreaking music.
Black artists, in particular, have in the last half-decade made generation-defining pop music that makes sociopolitical statements, pushes boundaries, and propels music-in-general forward, with more conventional artists following behind. Then, like clockwork, the Grammys come around, and white performers doing wonderful but ultimately less-challenging work best them every time. In 2014, Beyoncé self-titled album lost “Album of the Year” to Beck’s Morning Phase, a collection of folk rock that could have been made in 1970 or 2070, which was the lowest-selling “Album of the Year” win since 2008. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly lost to Taylor Swift’s decidedly-retro 1989 a year later. Now, when Beyoncé is ostensibly at a songwriting and storytelling peak, she loses to Adele, whose album 25 was more restrained and traditional than 21, her last big Grammy darling.
“The reason I felt the need to say something was, my 'Album of the Year' was Lemonade.” Adele said, acknowledging she’s been obsessed with Beyoncé since she was 11 years old. “I feel it was her time to win … what the fuck does she have to do to win ‘Album of the Year?’”
In that brusque question, Adele acknowledged the injustice: If Beyoncé, arguably the world’s biggest star, can’t win “Album of the Year” with a project this ambitious, artful, visually striking, and socially relevant, it’s clear the Recording Academy values art that keeps them comfortable over art that dares to take risks.
But while the media, like Adele herself, acknowledged the implications behind the Hello singer’s win, Adele’s graciousness quelled much of the rage that would have otherwise exploded on the internet following the show. There was no #TeamBeyoncé or #TeamAdele Twitter fight. No name-calling. No boycotts. Instead, there seemed to be a general sense of unity in acknowledging that both singers are astoundingly talented performers (and, in general, beautiful human beings).
I hold out hope that this unifying attitude, in place of finger-pointing, I’m-right-you’re-wrong anger, could help push the entertainment industry at large to a place where it celebrates diversity and gives artists daring to be different the recognition they deserve.
I’m also holding out hope for a Beyoncé-Adele collaboration in the not-too-distant future, but I’m not sure my heart (or the internet) could take it.