One phrase that has had even more immense importance while we’ve ridden a wave of catastrophic loss of so many people is “giving someone their flower while they can still smell them.” A particular instance of this that I refer to is the Verzuz DMX had with Snoop Dogg before his tragic passing in April of 2021. Even through the socially distanced chat message format, X could feel the years of love and appreciation everybody carried for him. But that’s the thing about giving flowers – there is no limit to how many bouquets a person should receive or how many you should provide. This is why some of the Grammy voters rationales for not choosing Beyonce’s Renaissance for Album of the year is a little confuddling mixed with an air of pretentiousness.
If you believe that Harry Styles, Lizzo, Adele, or any artist in that category is a better album, everybody has their own preference. One of the most beautiful things about music as an art form is that every listener has a different experience with the medium. Cool if voters feel a particular body of work connected with them over another. This is why we have playlists we tailor with our favorite artists or songs that take us back to a specific place and time. However, when we start saying things like “they’ve already won enough Grammys” or an album rollout is a little “too portentous” (what does that even mean?), then much of the so-called “prestigious” institution loses merit. Being upset at someone because they exhibit too much excellence is a gross microaggression of people projecting their own insecurities.
Before Sunday night, we’d been here twice prior. Beyoncé lost Album of the Year in 2015 to Beck’s Morning Phase and again in 2017 to Adele’s 25 (where she famously split the award in half to give to Beyonce). Even though Beyonce has poured considerable precision and attention to detail into another body of work in Renaissance, from the transitions to the celebrations of Black queer dance music, I almost expected the Academy to fail her again. Year after year, artists express immense gratitude for Beyonce’s dedication to her craft – yet the Academy can’t bring itself to provide its highest honor to one of the most decorated artists of our time.
And why? Because her albums are “big events?” In a music industry concerned with Tik Tok snippets and overloading albums with bonus tracks so that they can stay streaming apps longer, we should celebrate an artist with this staying power. Every video, lyric, and musical arrangement is fine-tuned to an experience meant to stand the test of time. In a time when many people disagree on many things, there’s a consensus around Beyonce’s greatness – and the Grammys is the odd man out.
Beyoncé’s continued excellence is something that should be celebrated every time she chooses to share it with us because of that degree of difficulty only a few people can consistently overcome. Yes, she now holds the overall record for Grammys won with 33, but the last Black woman to win Album of the Year was in 1999 in Lauryn Hill’s classic, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Does Beyoncé need the Grammy? No. We can agree that, in many eyes, she’s transcended requiring that award. However, that’s not an out for you to do so and thus add to the adage of Black artists having to work twice as hard for constellation prizes. Instead of apologizing, it wouldn’t hurt to join in on the flower-giving, too, you know? Especially if the said artist is late and everybody is asking where she is.