Do the Grammys have a Beyoncé problem?

Though it is never helpful (or fair) to compare female artists too closely, it is inescapable that Jay-Z’s comments came on the same night that Taylor Swift won album of the year for the fourth time. Her relatively low-key 10th studio album, Midnights, overrode strong competition from SZA, Olivia Rodrigo and Lana Del Rey, among others. Since 2000, several other female artists have won album of the year – Norah Jones, Dixie Chicks (now called The Chicks), Alison Krauss (jointly with Robert Plant), Kacey Musgraves, Billie Eilish and Adele (twice). But, as @MJFINESSELOVER noted in her viral tweet, the last time a black woman triumphed in this category came in 1999, when Lauryn Hill won with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Is some kind of racial bias to blame for Beyoncé being shut out? It definitely feels uncomfortable that just one of her 32 Grammy wins has come in a so-called “big four” category (to use the colloquial term that groups the highly coveted trophies for album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist). Beyoncé’s sole big four triumph came in 2010 when Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) was named song of the year.

Her other wins have been in genre categories, including a record five for best R&B song. Any Grammy triumph is a sign of widespread industry recognition, but as Jay-Z pointed out, something about Beyoncé never winning album of the year just doesn’t add up. Over the last decade especially, she has made music that defined the respective genres she has worked in – from R&B and rap to dance/electronica. But she has also made albums that transcended those genres to become pop cultural touchstones. For that reason, she is well overdue for an album of the year win. Thankfully, her creativity remains so undimmed that the Grammys should get many more attempts in the future to right this oversight.

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