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Beyoncé, the greatest Grammy winner of all time, should never attend another Grammy Awards

What does it mean that the most winning artist in Grammy history is not a Grammy artist?

At Sunday night’s 65th Grammy Awards, Beyoncé picked up four awards to break the record previously held by the late classical conductor Georg Solti and bring her career total wins to 32.

“I try not to get too emotional,” she said as she accepted the fourth prize, for the dance/electronic music album, for its cheerful and daring techno-disco-funk fantasy, “Renaissance.” “I’m just trying to receive tonight.”

Trying, But Failing: Eyes closed, voice slightly shaking, the singer seemed genuinely moved by her accomplishment as she thanked some of those who had helped her, including God and her parents, as well as her uncle Jonny, who she is said to have introduced her to the art that inspired “Renaissance” and “the queer community, for your love and for inventing this genre”.

An elegant speech, of course, and one that Beyoncé had reason to be proud of: As the marginalized pioneers she shouts on “Renaissance” understood all too well, shaping culture can be a lonely job, and here she was. celebrated. by his peers for his innovative vision.

At least until she’s gone.

Beyoncé accepts the award for Dance/Electronic Music Album at the 65th Grammy Awards. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

About an hour and a half after that record-breaking win, Beyoncé lost album of the year to Harry Styles’ “Harry’s House.” It was his fourth loss for the equivalent of Best Picture at the Grammys and the 15th time she had lost in one of the best categories of the ceremony for album, record and song of the year. In fact, of the 32 Grammys Beyoncé has won over the past two decades, only one – one! – was a major award: song of the year, which she won in 2010 as the author of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”. All the others came in genre categories like R&B Song and Urban Contemporary Album.

I’m not saying that these gender awards don’t matter. (More on why they do it in a moment.) But the story the Grammys tell about popular music — telling us today and telling future generations as we examine the historical record — unfolds in major categories. ; this is where The Recording Academy’s tastes and value system come into play.

And that taste, unlike Beyoncé’s music, is fundamentally conservative.

Not politically conservative, of course: as an institution, the Grammys are also progressive — and eager to be seen as progressive – as any university or showbiz organization, which is why this year’s telecast kicked off with performances by Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican superstar who sings and raps mostly in Spanish, and the songwriter- folk-rock performer Brandi Carlile, who was introduced by his wife and their two (very cute) children.

Yet Carlile’s rooted, hand-played music — which won him nine Grammys, including three on Sunday — upholds all manner of old-fashioned ideals of tradition, craftsmanship and authenticity; ditto Lizzo, who won record of the year for soul jam “About Damn Time”; Adele, who won the pop solo performance award with “Easy on Me”; and Bonnie Raitt, who at 73 seemed as surprised to win Song of the Year for “Just Like That” as she was to win Album of the Year for “Nick of Time” in 1990.

No one disputes the immense talent of these artists or their positive impact, just as no one disputed the charms last year of Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” (which won Record and Song of the Year) or “We Are” by Jon Batiste (which was named record of the year). But the reason each has established a prominent place in the Grammys ecosystem alongside HER and Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys and John Legend — and Samara Joy, the 23-year-old jazz singer just named Best New artist – that’s because their music is rooted in familiar forms and comforts.

An irony of Beyoncé’s loss for Album of the Year is that “Renaissance” might be the most historic project of all those nominated; as much as it is a club record, it is a scholarly work on the shifting contours of black and queer identity. But with its intricate weaving of samples and interpolations, it’s also structurally audacious in a way that evidently sparked the academy’s suspicions about “real music” – suspicions announced during the pre-television ceremony. of the Grammys when Beyoncé’s longtime collaborator The-Dream lost Songwriter of the Year. award to Tobias Jesso Jr., a more conventional blacksmith known for his work with Adele and Harry Styles.

It is worth reviewing the methodology here. The Academy’s approximately 11,000 voting members are eligible to vote in the four general Grammys categories: Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist. But “to ensure that music creators vote in the categories in which they are most skilled and qualified,” as academy rules state, members can only vote for 10 of the dozens of more specific awards. (such as R&B performance), and all 10 of them must be in no more than three genres.

This explains the cognitive dissonance stemming from the fact that Beyoncé is both the most awarded artist in Grammys history. And a trendsetter who keeps getting robbed. Specialists recognize its ingenuity and reward it where their votes are decisive; the electorate as a whole, however, does not care or understand it and therefore consistently rejects it in the higher categories in favor of safer choices.

Do I sound like I’m explaining an excruciating series of missed calls? Voters should not be allowed to get away with having average opinions. After all, Beyonce’s latest loss comes against a larger historical backdrop, namely that only three black women — Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill — have won album of the year in the Grammys’ 65th anniversary. It’s a clear distortion of the prominence of black women in pop music that undermines the role of the Grammys as a record-keeping business.

A man holds his two Grammy Awards backstage

Album of the Year winner Harry Styles backstage at the 65th Grammy Awards. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

And it’s not just the prestige of Album of the Year that holds Beyoncé; it is also the recognition by the academy of its creative agency. Because she gathers so many collaborators to help her execute her plans, voters seem stubbornly reluctant to accept Beyoncé as the author controlling her music — a vexing if hardly new issue that touches on both race and sex.

Less perniciously, simple politics is also at play. The academy rewards artists it knows, whether through business connections or a willingness to perform at its charity galas and appear in his television shows. Carlile has done just about every one you can think of; Styles’ manager, who sat next to him at Sunday’s ceremony, is Jeffrey Azoff, whose father Irving is one of the most connected people in the music business. Beyoncé, on the other hand, doesn’t play ball much.

Nor have a growing number of fearless black artists — including Drake, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd — who decided the Grammys values ​​didn’t match their own. The apprehensions don’t end there either: as Beyoncé, Adele and Taylor Swift refused to perform on this year’s show, perhaps a sign that the Beyoncé problem is turning off even performers who have performed extremely well. at the Grammys.

Then again, Swift’s “Midnights” LP was released after the ceremony eligibility window closed (and she had already performed the original version of her Grammy-nominated song “All Too Well” in 2014); she’ll likely be back to sing on next year’s show, where the prequel suggests she’ll have a much better chance of winning album of the year than another sure contender: “SOS” by idiosyncratic R&B singer SZA.

And what about Beyoncé herself, who said “Renaissance” was the first book in a planned trilogy? Granted, his career – including a world stadium tour due to kick off in May – is going very well without having earned what it deserves. But if she doesn’t need the Grammys, the Grammys need her: Sunday telecast ratings are up 30% from 2022, a jump attributable at least in part to the suspense surrounding the Beyoncé’s opportunity to break the all-time record.

More importantly, the show needs a superstar whose ambition and adventure make it a beacon for other performers. If you lose the pioneers, you risk losing those who follow them.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.


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