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Let’s Talk About Album of the Year

A look at the 2023 Best Album category.

By Andrea Morales

Photo by Pexels

No, Beyoncé didn’t win Album of the Year. And, as sad as it is - for me, at least -Bad Bunny didn’t make the cut either. Yes, we are still trying to process it. Just ask the entirety of Twitter on the eve of February 6th. But are we actually surprised that people of color are consistently shut out from this category? Not really.

As you probably know by now, Harry Styles won the most coveted prize at this year’s 2023 Grammy Award Ceremony with his album, Harry’s House. It would be fair to say it came as quite a surprise to most viewers at home, but it wasn’t even the greatest shock of the night—that honor belongs to Bonnie Raitt’s “Just Like That.” Many media outlets, such as Variety and Billboard, had predicted Beyoncé as finally winning album of the year.

While Beyoncé did not ultimately take home this award, she still made history as the artist with the most Grammy wins ever, coming in at 32 (and hopefully counting) Grammy wins to her name. Despite this, she has never been able to win in the two biggest categories: Record of the Year and Album of the Year. The majority of her wins have been in the urban and R&B categories. This can be interpreted as the Recording Academy viewing Beyoncé as an artist who can thrive in categories traditionally inhabited by Black artists. However, when competing in a general category, she fails to measure up. With an astounding number of awards to her name, an unmatched work ethic, and 20+ years in the industry, her inability to claim a victory in these categories is extremely notable.

How is it that the biggest artist in the history of the Grammys is consistently being shut out of its biggest categories? This has happened not just once, but several times. In the album category, Beyoncé has been nominated four times for albums such as I Am...Sasha Fierce (2008), Beyoncé (2013), Lemonade (2016) and Renaissance (2022). These albums each served to drastically impact the culture of the music industry, directly influencing artists to release new music on Fridays instead of the previously standard of Tuesday releases, following her surprise drop of Beyoncé (2013). To quote “Alien Superstar,” Beyoncé is literally the “bar” of the music industry.

Despite her profound cultural impact with each of these records, each time she has lost, it has been to white artists. This raises the notion of the role of race in the music industry and in the Grammys historically. This year was no different as Styles looked equally shocked at his win claiming, “this doesn’t happen to people like me very often.” While Styles has said similar statements in the past, this comment rubbed many the wrong way as he is a cis, white, British man who beat out a Black woman and a Puerto Rican man who were considered frontrunners for the category.

This is not to insult Harry’s House. On the contrary, it’s been a well received pop album with stand out songs such as “Satellite” and “Little Freak.” However, its victory over Beyoncé’s Renaissance and even Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti calls the Recording Academy’s decision into question. Both albums served as culturally groundbreaking pieces of work representing the Black and Latino communities. Their lack of recognition dismisses the social impact of these songs and feels like a slap in the face to communities of color.

The outcome of this award ceremony left me with one quote. As the great (but fictional) Scandal’s Olivia Pope once said, “You have to be twice as good as them.” But in Beyoncé’s case, even that fails.

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