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Brown Girls Talk Grammys

On February 12, the 59th Annual Grammy Awards took place. With Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement earlier this month, and her nominations for both Song and Album of the Year, we were very excited to see her and watch her perform at the show. However, in typical award show fashion, awards that arguably should’ve gone to a Black woman instead went to a white one. Adele received both Song and Album of the Year over Beyoncé. But that wasn’t the only drama of the night. As Adele was on stage giving her speech after winning Album of the Year, she gave a shoutout to Beyoncé—saying that Queen Bey should’ve won and that she was not going to accept the award. After that moment, everyone has been sharing their opinions on Adele’s actions and there have been a myriad of articles discussing the whole situation: what happened, what should’ve happened, and the implications. But who better to analyze it than two brown girls? So here’s our take on the issue.

Taylor Carlington: Obviously I was crushed. When they first announced that Adele won Album of the Year, I was already shocked that she got Song of the Year too. I guess I can sort of get why Adele won Song of the Year, but I think we all know that most people cannot name more than two or three songs off that album. Maybe I am biased because of how much I loved Beyoncé’s “Formation” costume, but...

Anahita Padmanabhan: No, I mean the only reason why I know songs from 25 is that I actually like the album—”Hello” is not even the best song on that album, but that’s the one they play all the damn time.

TC: Considering the past year and everything that has happened also, and how at every march and protest, there were some Beyoncé lyrics somewhere! There’s no way anyone could ever argue Lemonade’s importance. I think the real problem is that this album was not for everybody.

AP: Still, I totally respect Adele, and I really like her, and I am her fan.

TC: Yeah! It was a totally respectable moment, and we were all like “That’s how you be an ally.” And then in the aftermath we all kind of sat there and just...

AP: ....Thought about it. I like Adele’s music, and I like the album, but I think you’re so spot-on when you say “It’s not made for everyone,” and that was the reason why Lemonade didn’t win. But when you think about, her album—from start to finish, from the smallest details, to the entire production of it—was so intentional. Everything! And you know that if that was a white artist who put in that much effort, they would’ve won. Hands down. Easily.

TC: I think white feminism came through during the Grammys and that’s what it boils down to. I would never want to pit Adele and Beyoncé against each other, because that’s not what it’s about, but the Grammys made a clear point with that decision.

AP: And I think that the fact that they have an “Urban Contemporary Album” category is like...


AP: It’s so specific, like when you say “urban”—

TC: A very clear image comes to your head. Every time.

AP: Yeah, and it’s the same thing when you say “inner city.” Like those words have specific connotations, and it’s not like they don’t know that when they come up with these award categories. They are not that dumb.

TC: Yeah! You just have a clear image of people of color. Specifically African Americans.

AP: Yeah, one hundred percent. That’s just so pointed to me. What does that even mean? Why is that a separate category?

TC: Let’s break it down. Like “urban”? You obviously think about Black people, or some type of brown. And “contemporary” is what? New age, right?

AP: Yeah and let’s just see who was nominated in that category. The artists whose albums were nominated were Beyoncé, Gallant, KING, Anderson .Paak, and Rihanna. What do they all have in common?

TC: You can’t even combine them. None of those go into one single genre. Has that always been a category, by the way? I feel like I haven’t heard about it before. Okay here it is, it started in 1958. As a subgenre for the R&B field. Who dominates the R&B field historically?

AP: But that doesn’t make sense to me because you just said Urban Contemporary is R&B? Best R&B Album is already a category.

TC: It is. So what I am thinking is that they meant for Urban Contemporary to be pop with little touches of R&B—which is still weird. It’s like we are getting a consolation prize.

AP: But that isn’t even applicable to all of those artists. To me it was just like, “Here’s your category for people of color. And we keep the Best Album for us.” What did you think after? Post-Grammys?

TC: I think later that night, I still felt like Adele’s speech was weird, but I guess it was a nice thing to do? Seeing her break the statue, Mean Girls-style...that was interesting to behold, but you couldn’t have just given Beyoncé the entire thing? I mean it’s not like people haven’t done that before. Marlon Brando at the Oscars literally had a Native American woman come up and receive the award because he didn’t like what was happening to Native Americans. And that was a historic moment.

AP: It’s hard to say in that instance, because we aren’t Adele. We don’t know what she was thinking. But I do get that if I was on stage, and I felt that I didn’t deserve the award, I wouldn’t want to hand an award with my name on it to someone else. Because I feel like that would be disrespectful. I also saw that after the awards, when she was doing the press conference, she was telling them like, “I don’t know what the fuck Beyoncé has to do to get an award. Like what else does she have to do to win this award?” So afterwards she did say something about it, but was it her place to say it on stage, should she have done it while accepting the award? Does she have enough presence of mind to say it at that moment?

TC: I think that’s a good point because in the moment you don’t always know what you’re going to say, it doesn’t always register. You have a lot pressure, it’s the end of the night, you’re on TV. I like to believe that she had good intentions, but there were some other better things she maybe could’ve said. I appreciate her saying those things afterwards. And when she mentioned her Black friends, that was a good thing to say. Lemonade was such an empowering album, it gave everybody a boost of confidence, and even my mom and I were able to talk about it, and that is a cool thing.

AP: Yeah and Adele specifically said that Lemonade empowered people and gave them confidence.

TC: Yeah exactly! You haven’t had a ton of mainstream, super in-your-face, pro-Black albums. You have To Pimp a Butterfly, and you have Lemonade, and those are albums that are not for everybody. Like I have heard white people say the n-word in the lyrics to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” and I’m like, I don’t think you’re getting the full point of this and everything that’s behind it.

AP: But the songs that win don’t even have to be for everyone, they just have to be for white people.

TC: Yeah, you’re right. True. I think that we should talk about the fact that, no matter what has happened, or what is happening, Beyoncé had no choice but to put on a brave face. During Adele’s speech, she couldn’t be pissed off about it, she wouldn’t be allowed to. Like people roasted Nicki Minaj for saying things like, “It’s not really about me not being nominated for this, it’s the fact that it’s the same people being nominated, portraying the same things, and no one can do anything different.”

AP: Yeah, Adele could’ve brought Beyoncé on stage but think about it, if Beyoncé went on stage, how much worse would the reaction be? If she went up there and gave an acceptance speech.

TC: That’s like the same thing with Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj.

AP: Yeah! Taylor Swift was like “I’ll bring you on stage, you’re welcome!” and it’s like that—Adele is saving the day, first of all, and she gets that white savior image, and think of all the people who would’ve been like, “Oh, well Beyonce is not a graceful loser, she has to go on stage”—she would’ve gotten so much shit.

TC: Black women have no choice but to be grateful.

AP: Exactly! And the way that that Nicki thing played out, you would’ve thought we would’ve learned something.

TC: It does make me wonder how Adele is going to come out of this. Like in the media, it wasn’t necessarily “Beyonce should have won”—it was all about what Adele did. I don’t know enough about her life to say she’s a strong, solid ally, but how is she going to act after this, is she really going to take this platform and run forward?

AP: Like, I just don’t know what else Beyoncé can do.

TC: Nothing! There’s nothing else! She is probably the most recognizable artist in the world. I think she’s already the most loved, the most iconic, and years from now Beyoncé is still gonna be Beyoncé killing it. There’s nothing else you can do. What it comes down to is, you can do everything right, you can be better, and you can have people saying you’re better, you can know yourself that you’re better, and you can put your blood, sweat, and tears in it, and at the end of the day it won’t be enough because you’re a brown woman. Because you’re a Black woman specifically!

AP: What she does is not for every brown person.

TC: Black women are the most disrespected people. Like people came after her for her pregnancy announcement. She had a miscarriage! Let her be happy! People can’t. She’s too happy! She has this bomb album, a happy marriage, she has a beautiful family, she’s doing everything she wants to do in her career, she’s at the top of her game, and she’s literally having it all, and they are not happy about it.

AP: Yeah. Yes. They cannot be happy about her success. And like, no for sure, as an Indian woman, Beyoncé is not for my people.

TC: Yeah, yeah I get that. She also did culturally appropriate your people, which was not cool.

AP: Yeah I mean, that happened, and I have every right to be annoyed at that, but that doesn’t take away from what she is doing for her own community, which is unreal. When we talk about Lemonade, it is not Beyoncé complaining about Jay-Z, it is about Black women. Also if we are talking strictly about songs, all of us had different favorite songs from Lemonade. Can you say that about 25?

TC: I literally can’t name more than two songs on that album.

AP: That’s what I’m saying, I’m one of the only people I know who could name more than two songs off of Adele’s album. And that says something. Every single song from Lemonade was powerful, and was good! Like, I don’t get it. Beyoncé, I am so sorry.

TC: I think it was such a wasted opportunity. For them to take away that moment, and to have them say that your people don’t matter, what afflicts you doesn’t matter. To have that recognition taken away and given to a romantic album.

AP: Yeah, for sure.

TC: Do we have any closing remarks?

AP: Beyoncé is an actual goddess, I believe it. I will go to my grave believing it.

TC: I hope she outlives us.

AP: I genuinely can’t imagine my life without her. I think she’s always going to be a part of me. I love her. She’s incredible.

TC: Name your first child Sandcastle.

AP: If you don’t think that something is going to get named after her in my life you’re wrong.

TC: My closing remark is that in Black History Month, I’m trying to end on a positive note, but I’m sick of being positive. We should be allowed to be sad. Black girls can be sad. We’re gonna be okay, we’ll be fine eventually. Beyoncé had a slew of emotions in that album, on that night, and you all didn’t let her have it.

AP: I think she deserved this award, and she deserves the world.

TC: She deserves everything.

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