The recent Beyonce snub at the 59th annual Grammy Awards for album of the year has been causing controversy in the music world, causing some naysayers to throw the phrase “systemic racism” into the topic of discussion.
Pitchfork media, the self-proclaimed most trusted voice in music, called the Grammys a “scripted event.” Such a statement would have to be followed up with extensive research, and so it was. Pitchfork was able to get an Interview with Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, about the voting process and the racial controversy.
Portnow explains that the Grammy’s voting committee is peer-based and is carefully selected. These people are not picked off the street. These people have to qualify, meaning they have to be in the highest level of all the professionals in the industry, sort of like experts.
“We don’t, as musicians, in my humble opinion, listen to music based on gender or race or ethnicity,” Portnow said. “When you go to vote on a piece of music—at least the way that I approach it—is you almost put a blindfold on and you listen.”
Beyonce was awarded Best Urban Contemporary Album in which she gave us her motive behind the masterpiece “Lemonade.”
“My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history” Beyonce said. “To confront issues that make us uncomfortable.”
Those issues being racism, feminism, politics and police shootings, all stemming from her background in deep southern culture. Critics claim that the voters of the Academy— “whose sole form of sustenance is industry politics” claims pitchfork— gave the Lemonade album, a halfhearted listen, since that the voters were unable to put themselves in Beyonce’s shoes.
John Vilanova, writer for the LA Times, called the upset a result of systemic racism. Recalling three award winning snubs, last year’s Grammy upset, when Kendrick Lamar lost to Taylor Swift for album of the year, the year before that in 2015, when Beyonce was upset by Beck for album of the year, and one of Beyonce’s most infamous snubs, which was accompanied by the wraith of Kanye, losing to Taylor Swift for best female music video at the MTV awards in 2009.
He says that black artist are put into categories that are “coded black” like best contemporary album or best R&B performance. “This is what systemic racism looks like.” Vilanova said.
Kevin Powell is a renowned leader, writer, poet, and political activist in the hip-hop community . He found a more reasonable justification for the upset. Powell told CNN it is not so much about racism against blacks, the project was just “too black” for its voters.
“We are still a nation that does not want to deal so directly with truth,” Powell told CNN. “Adele’s album is strong, but it is just songs about love. It is safe and uncontroversial; it breaks no new ground. And neither do Grammy voters, generally speaking, when it comes to picking winners of this particular award.”
Adele was surely the most valuable player in the music industry, winning five awards including: record of the year,
album of the year, song of the year, best pop solo performance, and best pop vocal album. Beyonce was nominated in four of the categories Adele won awards for. Not once did she look unbothered when her name was not called each of those four times, yet everyone, even Adele, knew something was not right.
Adele, after accepting the award for album of the year, gave a quick side note in her speech, of what is was like being on this stage five years ago. Discovering she was pregnant shortly after winning her first Grammy, was the biggest blessing she’s ever received. Since then she has had a beautiful child, a healthy relationship and winning this year’s award put her back in that full-circle feel. But although she was the Academy’s winner, she knew herself this is not what the world wanted. She gracefully accepted the honor but stated “I can’t possibly accept this award.”, said Adele. Breaking the award in half. “I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious, But my artist of my life is Beyonce.”