Last night, Adele won Album of the Year (AOTY) at the Grammy’s for 25 over Beyonce’s Lemonade. She also won Song and Record of the Year for ‘Hello.’ Upon learning that Adele won for AOTY, Twitter and other news outlets were up in arms. Adele herself even said backstage something along the lines of, “I thought this was her year. What else does she have to do to win AOTY?”
Here’s the thing. I get it. Trust me, I do. Lemonade was earth-shattering. It articulated the lives, experiences, and emotions of Black women in a way that I don’t think any other musical project has. Beyoncé is and will forever be our queen.
But, I’m not mad at Adele for winning. I’m not mad at Adele for her acceptance speech. I’m not mad at Adele for her remarks back stage. I’m not mad at Adele for referencing her “black friends” when speaking about how Lemonade made she and her friends feel. I am not mad at Adele. No, instead I’m caught somewhere between being mad at institutions like the Grammy’s that profit off of Black talent and artistry but rarely reward it, and being mad at us for seeking the validation of these institutions. But, I’m also aware that hegemony is hegemony, and so I’m not sure what an alternative existence looks like.
I read an interesting article by Vox last night that explained that situations like Adele vs. Beyoncé for AOTY where Adele ends up winning happen because of the makeup of the Recording Academy’s voters and a whole host of other metrics that are taken into account. This of course harkens back to the point that these institutions were not set up by us, for us, or with us in mind. So why do we care? Well, winning a Grammy, Oscar, or any other award represents not only the highest award an artist can achieve for their work, but it also comes with material benefits, like the ability to increase ones pay rate. Valuable.
But, while the awards and accolades are important, I don’t believe that they are why any true artist that loves their work and craft creates. So for me, and Black women everywhere, Lemonade as a film, album, project, and experience will forever remain a cool drink on a hot day that reminded us to slow down, see ourselves, appreciate our beauty, pain, love, life, and ever present possibility to forgive – regardless of whether or not the Grammys or white America gets it. We never needed them to.
So, you know why I’m not mad at Adele? Because from her vantage point as a white, now wealthy, British woman, she not only stans for Beyoncé, but she saluted the work and experience that Lemonade is. She gets it – as much as she can within her social position and social conditioning. That’s why her “Black friends” remark didn’t bother me. Because, one, race is a very different social construct in the UK that cannot be conflated or confused with race in the USA. Two, people would’ve been upset had she NOT mentioned Bey or Lemonade in her speech. So, why are we upset when she did? When she acknowledged the power of the project? The light that is Beyonce’s catalogue of work? The mistake of the Grammy’s for not recognizing the Queen’s power?
I’m top 5, white feminism is a problem, but this to me just was not an example of that at play. Structural prejudice or racism, though? Hell yea.
Context is key and the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, for me, the context of knowing that Adele stans for Bey and is from England where race relations are just different, lends itself to not being upset with her personally. I’m also not interested in heralding her as some symbol of the misogynoir or white privilege in this moment. (We’re not going to pretend like 25 wasn’t a good project. Okay?!)
I actually think she did exactly what marginalized groups are always asking people in positions of power, or allies, to do, which is to point out injustice where it exists and then put their money/energy where their mouth is.
So while the Grammy’s made a grave mistake by awarding AOTY to Adele, it’s not her fault. She too voted for Lemonade to win…
Leaving us to be upset with institutions we knew never valued our work in the first place. So, I’ll just keep turning lemons into Lemonade. And I imagine Beyoncé and Black artists all over the world will too. Because even if they can’t see it, our best is always enough.
Plus, Beyoncé, will always reign supreme.
P.S. We’re gonna see y’all in court over RiRi’s shut out.
Images: GIPHY unless otherwise credited