After Her Tear-Drenched Super-Stan 2017 Best Album Grammy Speech, Adele Keeps A Lemon In Her Trophy

What are we to make of Beyoncé not having won the Grammy for Best Album? Beyoncé-fan Adele spoke out when she won the Grammy for Best Album in 2017. In the run-up to the 2023 Grammys, the entertainment press made an issue of the possibility that Adele and Beyoncé might again go head-to-head for the top prize. Then, in accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award at the 2024 Grammys, Jay-Z used the podium to address Beyoncé’s track record of four best-album nominations and no win.

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Jay-Z said, “I don’t want to embarrass this young lady, but she has more Grammys than everyone and never won Album of the Year. So even by your own metrics, that doesn’t work. Think about that. The most Grammys, never won Album of the Year.” Mark Twain quipped that you get “lies, damn lies, and statistics,” and it is easy to counter that, of Beyonce’s record 32 Grammys, only one was in the major categories. I’ll return to this. Back in 2017, Adele took a different approach. She spoke from the heart:

The comments are illuminating. One viewer writes, “The most beautiful part is that Beyoncé looked genuinely happy for Adele when they announced.” Lommy 9999 noted, “This speech was in a way a bigger compliment than the award. It made EVERYONE aware of how great Lemonade is.” Access Anthony writes, “Adele KNEW Beyoncé deserved that award. Lemonade was miles above everyone else’s project in that category. What a colossal shame.”

You can understand why Jay-Z spoke about “metrics” when calling out the Recording Academy. He is married to Beyoncé and is also aware that many significant artists have not won any Grammys. From Bob Marley to Snoop Dog to Miley Cyrus, the list of non-winners includes acclaimed, chart-topping musicians. Jay-Z was saying that objectively, taking into account that the awards reflect subjective choices by Recording Academy members, Beyoncé should have won best album by now. Let’s listen:

Jay-Z touched on two distinct points: the underrepresentation of Black artists and the frequency with which the Academy gets both the nominations and the winners wrong. In relation to Black artists, there have only been 11 Black winners of the album of the year, and Black artists have tended to be rewarded in the “ghetto of untelevised genre categories” – there are 83 competitive categories. Beyoncé has only ever won one Grammy in the big four – album, record, song, and best new artist of the year. Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) was the 2010 song of the year. 24 of Beyoncé’s record 32 awards are for R&B and rap. This issue should diminish as the Academy continues to broaden the demographic of voting members.

The problem of the most deserving work not being recognized is more complex. How do you affirm good taste? This came to a head at the Grammys in 1985 when Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down beat Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and Prince’s Purple Rain to the best album. In response, the Academy established a vote-vetting committee. While the committee has saved the Grammys from many embarrassments, it hasn’t solved the taste problem. In 2017, speaking to reporters after the Grammy ceremony, an exasperated Adele doubled down on her Best Album speech. Referring to her idol Beyoncé, she said, “The other artists who mean that much to me are all dead. I thought it was her year. What the f— does she have to do to win the album of the year?”

There is another story that needs to be told. While on stage, after receiving her album of the year award, Adele broke her Grammy in two. It wasn’t televised, but it was photographed. This led to speculation that Adele had literally split the trophy to share it with Beyoncé. Vanity Fair revealed, “In backstage video from the Grammys, you can see Adele sheepishly slink backstage and hand over her broken statue in order to grab a fresh one. Any breakage, it appears, was accidental.”

There’s more. Noting that the onstage awards are props (only the auditors know the winners before the envelopes are opened), W Magazine updated the story: “Adele did end up accepting the award, contrary to what she said in her 2017 speech. She could have easily stored it away, and definitely could have returned it; the gramophone arrived broken, just like the mock version of the award she toted onstage. Instead, Adele has had it on display—with a slight alteration: “There’s a lemon in it.” The Music Man trusts that the lemon is either regularly replaced or that it is a prop :). Good on you for keeping it real, Adele.

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