Is Racism Why Adele Beat Beyoncé at the Grammys?

CNN/ Newswire | 2/13/2017, 3:37 p.m.
Even Adele thinks Beyoncé should have won the album of the year Grammy over her.
Adele confirms she's married by thanking 'husband' at the Grammys on February 12, 2017.

By Lisa Respers France


(CNN) -- Even Adele thinks Beyoncé should have won the album of the year Grammy over her.

When the British pop star tearfully accepted the ceremony's top award Sunday night, she shined a spotlight on the woman she said she has loved since she was 11 years old.

"The artist of my life is Beyoncé, and this album to me, the 'Lemonade' album, was just so monumental," Adele said.

Certainly for her diehard fan base known as the Beyhive -- and for many music critics -- Beyoncé's "Lemonade" was a creative masterpiece.

But with its racial themes and imagery, some are questioning if the project was "just too black" for Grammy voters.

Kevin Powell, author of the memoir "The Education of Kevin Powell" and a forthcoming biography on rapper Tupac Shakur, thinks so.

He told CNN "Beyonce's 'Lemonade' made a lot of people uncomfortable, because it is so political, so spiritual, so unapologetically black, and so brutally honest about love, self-love, trust, betrayal."

"We are still a nation that does not want to deal so directly with truth," said Powell, who has written about music and race for various publications, including Vibe magazine. "Adele's album is strong, but it is just songs about love. It is safe and uncontroversial; it breaks no new ground. And neither do Grammy voters, generally speaking, when it comes to picking winners of this particular award."

Adele and Beyoncé were both nominated for song of the year, record of the year and album of the year.

Adele swept all three.

Beyoncé's "Lemonade" won for best urban contemporary album. Her hit "Formation" won for best music video.

GrammysSoWhite became a thing on Twitter Sunday night. One user noted -- incorrectly -- that a person of color "hasn't won [album of the year] in almost 20 years!"

There have actually been a few artists of color who have won album of the year during that time period: Lauryn Hill won for "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" in 1999; Carlo Santana's "Supernatural won the following year; "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" by Outkast took home the Grammy in 2004 and Ray Charles won posthumously in 2005 for "Genius Love Company."

In 2008 African American jazz artist Herbie Hancock stirred controversy and disbelief when his album of Joni Mitchell interpretations, "River: The Joni Letters" took album of the year over Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black."

It was just one of the moments that has convinced some viewers that the Grammy Awards are out of step with what resonates with music lovers.

And "Lemonade" certainly resonated.

Since its release in April 2016, the album has been hailed by women of color for reflecting their experience.

"The video album writes black women back into national, regional and diasporic histories by making them the progenitors and rightful inheritors of the Southern gothic tradition," Zandria F. Robinson wrote for Rolling Stone. "Beyond 'strong' and 'magic,' 'Lemonade' asserts that black women are alchemists and metaphysicians who are at once of the past, present and future, changing and healing the physical, chemical and spiritual world around them."