Last night, the 60th Annual Grammy Awards proved once again that unlike a large number of music fans, they are not committed to the Carter family. Jay-Z was nominated for eight Grammys last night — including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and the coveted Album of the Year — but unfortunately he didn’t take home a single award. He lost to Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar in just about every category, creating another wave of outrage from fans of both the rapper and the genre. I, too, found it disappointing the Recording Academy didn’t find any of Jay’s efforts on his album 4:44 to be worth a gramophone. But as for Album of the Year, the highest honour of the night, I am very pleased that Jay had to stay seated when the winner was announced.
As you may recall, Beyoncé was nominated for nine Grammys last year following her critically acclaimed album and film, Lemonade. She took home two awards, Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video for “Formation,” but also failed to snag Album of the Year. However, everyone knows she deserved it, including Adele, the person who actually won the award. Bey’s shocking loss in 2017 was about more than an out-of-touch group of voters within the Recording Academy. It was about the fact that Beyoncé is a Black woman and viewed as inherently less talented and capable as her white peers; not to mention the fact that Lemonade is also a musical protest against white supremacy and misogynoir. Many are suggesting that her loss was not a snub, but punishment for daring to create music that does not centre the interests and tastes of white people. Whatever the reason, I’m still not over it.
It’s also important to remember that in addition to the themes of Black liberation and female empowerment, Lemonade was a journey into the private life of Beyoncé and her family. Track by track, Bey narrated a saga of betrayal, anger, reconciliation, and redemption between her and Jay-Z after he cheated on her. Jay-Z’s album 4:44 had its own broad themes of Black excellence, but it was also a response to Lemonade in which he admitted to his own infidelity and emotional ineptitude throughout most of their relationship. It, too, was a great album that was “for the culture”... but it was no Lemonade.
Unlike some members of the Beyhive, I haven’t committed myself to Jay-Z’s success just because he’s Beyoncé’s husband. While I’m able to recognise the masterpiece that 4:44 is, it was still painful to hear him cosign all of the ways Beyoncé had to hurt, bend, and perform emotional labor because it took Jay reaching middle age to deal with his own baggage. That the Grammys snubbed Beyoncé last year is bad enough. Giving out an award that she was more deserving of, for an album that describes an even more impactful Beyoncé snub would have been unforgivable. I simply wouldn’t have been able to handle that.
In the nearly two years since Beyoncé vulnerably opened up about the rocky parts of her marriage to Jay, there has been an interesting amount of weight put on his version of events, even before we knew a rebuttal album was in the works. I had so many conversations with friends (mainly men, go figure) on social media and in real life who thought that Bey was simply spinning sensational narratives to drum up publicity for the album. They made fun of women who could relate to the pain Bey expressed and doubted that Jay would ever actually cheat on Beyoncé. They didn’t believe her until Jay himself admitted his wrongdoings himself, nearly a year later. Lemonade may have been the first time Beyoncé got so personal on an album, but it wasn’t the first time people refused to believe a woman over the word of a man. This could be a reach, but I feel like 4:44 taking home Album of the Year would have been another validation of his courage for admitting guilt over Bey’s admission of pain.
For what it’s worth, none of my logic lets the Grammys off the hook for their own history of devaluing Black artists, especially those in hip-hop. Only two hip-hop/rap albums have ever won Album of the Year in the Grammys 60-year history, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Hip-hop is the dominant genre of music in the United States, and it would be great to see this reflected in who takes home Album of the Year. But this year, I’m okay that Jay-Z wasn’t the one chosen for it.