We’ve heard this song before, and so has Beyonce.
Seven years after she lost the Album of the Year Grammy to Taylor Swift, and two years after she lost it to Beck, Queen Bey lost once again to a white artist, with her album “Lemonade” beaten for the top prize by Adele’s “25.”
And Adele herself, a generous and passionate artist, used a chunk of her acceptance speech to praise Beyonce and talk about how “Lemonade” was “so monumental, so beautiful and soul-baring.”
It’s the same old tune for Grammy voters, who once again have bypassed a hip-hop-inflected album in favor of something poppier and, well, whiter.
In addition to serving up memories of Beyonce’s two previous shots at the Album of the Year award, the result brought to mind last year’s Grammys, when Taylor Swift’s “1989” beat Kendrick Lamar’s landmark “To Pimp a Butterfly” and preserved the Grammys’ dubious record of ignoring hip-hop in its marquee category except for OutKast in 2004 and Lauryn Hill in 1999.
At a time when even the Oscars are being celebrated for the diversity of their choices, the message sent by the Grammy voters is a troubling one, the undeniable quality of Adele’s marvelous album notwithstanding.
The British singer shouldn’t have to apologize for winning the three biggest Grammys — album, record and song of the year — but she did, and that reflects a nagging problem that the Grammys can’t shake.
In a way, analyzing what the Grammy Award winners mean is almost beside the point. Is anybody going to remember that Twenty One Pilots won the award for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance, or that they beat the Chainsmokers, Rihanna featuring Drake and Sia (featuring Sean Paul) in that category? Or are they going to remember that they took off their pants before coming onto the Staples Center stage?
The pants. That’s what we’ll remember, if we even remember that Twenty One Pilots were at the Grammys.
And we’ll remember Beyonce’s baby bump, Katy Perry’s acid-trip intro to the U.S. Constitution and Lady Gaga’s headbusting (if technically troublesome) collaboration with Metallica. And, of course, A Tribe Called Quest and anderson.paak’s politically charged performance, with its angry shout-outs to “President Agent Orange.”
This show is about Grammy Moments (TM), not awards, which the Recording Academy admits by handing out 75 percent of the 84 categories off the air and cramming the show with performances instead of envelope-openings.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a few things to say about what was inside those envelopes. Yes, it’s nice that voters gave five deserved Grammys to the late David Bowie’s swan song, “Blackstar,” a year after the pop star’s death. And it’s ridiculous that they gave a grand total of one Grammy to Bowie’s first 24 albums. (And that was for a video.)
It’s good that the net cast by the Grammys is inclusive enough to encompass Willie Nelson singing George Gershwin, Pentatonix doing Dolly Parton, jazz guitarist John Scofield’s new spin on Hank Williams, Sarah Janosz’s nuanced modern folk, William Bell’s fresh take on ’60s soul, Yo-Yo Ma’s genre-hopping experiments with the Silk Road Ensemble, composer Michael Daugherty’s concerto inspired by Ernest Hemingway and a new recording of Shostakovich symphonies written under an earlier regime of Russian totalitarianism, “Shostakovich Under Stalin’s Shadow.”
And it’s also encouraging that a couple of those folks managed to make their way onto the Grammys show, along with all the big names trying their best to give us those Grammy Moments.
But in the end, this particular show does come down to the winners — specifically, to one beautiful and gifted woman standing on the stage apologizing to another beautiful and gifted woman sitting in the audience.
And it comes down to an old song that doesn’t sound any better as it’s repeated year after year.