Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Monday, 13 February 2017

On Why Trying To Compare Beyonce\'s Achievements To Adele\'s Is Fundamentally Flawed

On Why Trying To Compare Beyonce's Achievements To Adele's Is Fundamentally Flawed

The Debrief: Even Adele thinks Beyonce should have won Album of the Year, proving that awards ceremonies are unrepresentative and out of touch

‘I can’t possibly accept this award’ said Adele as the accepted Album of the Year for her most recent record, 25, at the Grammy Awards last night.

Reluctance isn’t usually the emotion artists display when receiving an acclaimed award but when has Adele ever done things on anyone else’s terms? And, can you blame her?

Of course, this isn’t the first time Beyoncé has lost out on Album of the Year. She famously lost to Taylor Swift in 2010 and in 2015 she saw Beck take the award. Kanye West wasn’t in attendance this year, so Adele did the honours and rejected the award herself. ‘I’m very humbled and very grateful and gracious’ she said, but the ‘artist of my life is Beyoncé and this album for me, the Lemonade album, was just so monumental’.

Off stage Adele continued to tell people Beyoncé woz robbed. Speaking to journalists she said Beyoncé has shaped her life from the very first time she heard Destiny’s Child up until the present day.

‘The way that I felt when I first heard No No No was exactly the same as I felt when I first heard Lemonade last year…For her to be making such great music for that long a period affects all of us. It’s not just me. There are friendships that I have that are completely defined by Beyoncé’s sound’, Adele said.

The Grammy’s are notoriously out of touch, it’s something that thousands of words have been spilled over. Only three black artists have ever won Album of the Year – Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill. Indeed, there’s still a category for ‘urban contemporary’ music, which seems archaic given that this now accounts for so much mainstream music, made by artists who shift millions of records and sell out stadiums like Beyoncé, Drake and Rihanna (to name only a very few).

Let’s face it: Lemonade was a phenomenal conceptual album. It was musically ambitious, unashamedly political, feminist in every way and cinematic. It is impossible to find a flaw with it. Perhaps this is why Adele went on to ask a question which is on many people’s minds: ‘what the fuck will [Beyoncé] have to do to win Album of the Year?!?’

Adele is a great artist, but even she would admit that her music appeals to a safe kind of traditionalism. She makes music which spans generations, offends nobody and challenges nothing. That’s not necessarily a criticism of Adele, but whether 25 was sufficiently different to 19 or 21 to warrant such acclaim is up for question. Lemonade, on the other hand, plays it very unsafe and experiments with genre in every single song.

We can’t fault Adele’s acceptance, or rather non –acceptance, of Album of the Year. The issue lies with the awards themselves. Perhaps we should be asking whether outdated awards ceremonies with old fashioned selection processes still have a place? Why pit Beyoncé and Adele against one another in the first place? Why does one need to be the winner and the other the loser, especially when their achievements aren’t entirely comparable? What Beyoncé has done, in terms of race, politics and musical innovation, is not, in any way, culturally comparable to what Adele has done in either a historical or a contemporary context. Adele herself knows this, and rightly recognised it by addressing Beyoncé directly: ‘I fucking adore you…you are our light and the way that you make me and my friends feel…the way you make my black friends feel is empowering. You make them stand up for themselves.’

More than this, awards ceremonies themselves are all pretty homogenous. I don’t know about you but I struggle to tell what I’m actually watching; the BAFTAs look like the Grammys, which look like the Oscars which could, more or less, be the TV Choice awards with slightly more expensive frocks. You can’t condense the achievements of either Beyoncé or Adele to a single award, and nor should one of them be reduced to the ‘winner’ while the other is the ‘loser’. Here’s to Adele for acknowledging that.  

Adele isn't just a Beyonce fan, she's not only being feminist and she's not simply displaying exemplary sisterhood, she is acknowledging what Beyonce does for women of colour that she could never do.

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On The Importance Of Being Woke

Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

Tags: Grammys, Beyonce, Adele