Adele and Beyoncé – one author’s perspective

I’m sure that everyone saw or at least heard about the Grammy’s and the fact that Adele beat out Beyoncé for album of the year. Adele’s 25 came out on top of Bey’s Lemonade, much to the horror of many, many people…dare I say, including Adele.

Full disclosure here, I’m not a fan of Beyoncé’s music. It’s just not my cup of tea. I used to be an Adele fan, but I’ve gotten a bit tired of her music, as it all seems to sound the same.

Having said this, I was astounded that Adele’s album won over Bey’s, and I echo Adele’s words of “What the fuck does she [Beyoncé] have to do to win a Album of the Year?” (http://www.spin.com/2017/02/grammys-2017-adele-breaks-trophy-beyonce/). I may not be a fan, but I understand the impact that artists like Beyoncé have on the industry–and let’s face it, she’s amazing. Bey puts it out there. She tells it like it is. She shows the struggle, the racism, the discrimination, and she might make people uncomfortable with it, but it’s about who SHE IS.

After this Grammy’s fiasco, I came across an article online from The Guardian. The title of the article is what caught my eye: “Adele’s tribute to Beyoncé was a frank admission of privilege. I salute it.” This article was written by Michaela Coel, who is black, although I didn’t know it at the time. She opens the article by asking: “[w]as there really a white celebrity on stage at the Grammys saying to a black artist: ‘The way that you make me and my friends fell, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering’?” (p. 1). She goes on to say “Adele had won, but had basically said she didn’t deserve it” (p. 1). Ms. Coel then provides some perspective–the Album of the Year award was created in 1959 and in the years since, only 10 black artists have won that particular award…yes, only 10. Can you believe that? Actually, I can believe it. And it’s sad that I can believe it.

Ms. Coel acknowledged that there was a shitstorm on Twitter afterward calling Adele out for daring to acknowledge black and white, and that perhaps a modicum of white guilt is what forced Adele to acknowledge and praise Bey for Lemonade. But our author saw things differently. As she said, what Adele “did in that moment was rare: she thought the award should’ve gone to somebody else, and she told us the truth. She is rare in the creative arts industry; a further rarity is that she’s working class” (p. 2). Coel reminds us of the disadvantages that all women face throughout their lives–she’s speaking to intersectionality (Crenshaw 1989)–in the patriarchal society in which we live. Coel argues that Adele’s upbringing in a working class family “gave her the ability to see that some black people felt things listening to Beyoncé’s music that white people could not” (p. 2). She truly feels that Adele used her privilege in an appropriate way.

After reading the article, in which Coel provides many examples of intersectionality focusing on women, I began thinking about Bell’s (1980) ideas of interest-convergence. While I think that what Adele did was spectacular, I seem to be a bit pessimistic because I started thinking about how much publicity Adele would get for both her speech and the fact that she broke her Grammy in half and offered half to Bey, and I questioned whether this was an example of interest-convergence. On some subconscious level, did Adele say what she said and do what she did because the publicity was good for both of them? If people were talking about Bey’s lack of Album of the Year award, would they also praise Adele for her actions? There are many people, including Ms. Coel, who truly believe that Adele did what she did out of the goodness of her heart. She closes with “Adele did the best thing anyone of privilege can do: she admitted, she spoke” (p. 4). I admire Ms. Coel’s voice in her article. But honestly, is that because I feel that since she’s sticking up for a white girl, it’s okay that Bey lost?

A different article about the same topic, written by Maura Johnson of Time magazine, boldly stated with Ms. Coel’s article did not–that Beyoncé not winning was about her being black. Her album “spoke about black womanhood in a way that reframed the mainstream” (p. 1). Further, Ms. Johnson also stated that the Grammy’s “undervalue artists operating in R&B and, more recently, hip-hop–particularly if those artists are black” (p. 2). Ms. Johnson is speaking to the institutional racism that exists within our society. R&B and hip-hop music “belong” to black people, which puts these types of music in direction opposition to white people, which supremacy, and white power.

Something has to change. The Recording Academy was wrong. They need to assess themselves and fix what’s broken.

Works Cited:

Bell, D.A. (1980). Brown v. Board and the interest-convergence dilemma. Harvard Law Review, 93(3), 518-533.

Coel, M. (2017). Adele’s tribute to Beyoncé was a frank admission of privilege. I salute it. The Guardian, 1-4, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/17/adele-beyonce-grammys-entertainment-race-class, accessed 3/2/17.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of anti-discrimination doctrine, feminist theory and anti-racist policy. University of Chicago Legal Forum, pp. 139-168.

Johnston, M. (2017). Beyoncé’s Grammy snub isn’t just an oversight–It’s a real problem. Time.com, 1-3, http://www.time.com/4669085/grammys-2017-beyonce-album-of-the-year-adele/, accessed 3/2/17.

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