Lemonade Didn’t Win Album Of The Year Because White People Don’t Know How To Not Be White People » VSB

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Lemonade Didn’t Win Album Of The Year Because White People Don’t Know How To Not Be White People

Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS


I chose not to watch the Grammys last night. Not because of any type of protest or performative apathy, but because my wife had a work-ish commitment that left me with my daughter all weekend, and it’s impossible to get any writing done when the Feminist Octopus is around. Sunday evening from 8pm to 2am was the only time I had to finish a chapter I wanted to complete by the end of the week.

I did, however, take a brief break to watch Beyonce’s performance live. It was a spectacle. Depending on your perspective, it was either sublime or self-consciously overindulgent. (Or both.) Either way, there could be no doubt in anyone’s mind that, whether you personally believe Beyonce merits this type of reverence and attention, we were watching the person considered by the people in the room to be The Most Important Person In The Room.

This is a status Beyonce has possessed since the surprise December 2013 release of Beyonce and cemented last year with Lemonade. Of course, there are those who’ve attempted to qualify her position as one that only exists within some sort of Black American (and specifically Black female American) bubble; citing other artists who perhaps match or surpass her in album sales, touring revenue, and critical hardware — a tired and transparently racist effort to somehow minimize the fact that the music industry’s HNIC is 1) a Black woman and 2) a Black woman whose art, while racially transcendent, is speaking directly to and created specifically for Black women.

There can also be no rational doubt that Lemonade — the biggest and most ambitious album from the world’s biggest artist — dominated 2016. And its sovereignty didn’t just extend to the airwaves. Its extended and mysterious rollout, the paralyzation of time that occurred when it debuted, the visual art accompanying it, the conversations and conspiracy theories spawned from it, the critical assessments of it (and the conversations about who was “allowed” to even assess it), the myriad interpretations of its lyrics, themes, and imagery — its cultural supremacy was total. Shit, there are fucking syllabi devoted to both understanding Lemonade’s context and using it as a springboard for an education on womanism.

And it losing out to Adele’s 25 — a nice and decent and popular album from a nice and decent and popular woman — last night was a message:

“Your best doesn’t matter here”

Perhaps this message was unintentional. Maybe they just believed that 25 was just better. A better representative of the year in music. A bigger success. A more important album. But even a lack of malicious intent does nothing but reinforce the concept of pervasive invisibility. That we could be on their stage, defying gravity and time and age and common sense while waving our pregnant-as-fuck bellies in their faces — with our cute-ass-fuck babies serving as our impromptu hype men — and they still don’t see us.

To her credit, Adele did what she could to acknowledge this invisibility in her acceptance speech. (And, for the record, I get why people may have been turned off by that. But isn’t this exactly what we ask White people who claim to be friends and allies to do? To acknowledge their privilege and use their status and position to call out other White people? Perhaps she didn’t communicate it as best she could, but those types of heartfelt appreciations — particularly ones existing in a cultural and racial minefield — are rarely perfect. I’m not sure what else she could have done or said.) But it’s little consolation for the inescapable reality of the moment.

Naturally, there are going to be people who’ll use this as more proof of why we (Black people) need to stop depending on the Grammys and the Oscars and the Emmys and other similar types of awarding for validation — a predictable ask for self-empowerment that seems logical but is inherently faulty. Because its recognition, not validation, that is sought. Validation exists to fill an internal deficit. Recognition is ultimately just desiring a level playing field and concretized rules that apply to everyone and make sense. In this context, it’s demanding that White people somehow remove their goggles of Whiteness and allow themselves to see what’s right in front of their fucking faces. Not just for our sake, or even their’s specifically, but just so they’ll maybe possibly finally get things right.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Hugh Akston

    Bleh it’s 2017 is that new?

    Don’t care either way don’t watch those things anymore

    We should be doing our own thing…there is no reason why Beyoncé and her friends* can’t put something like that together for themselves and for black people

    You can’t be going into someone’s house and they give you a bed to sleep and now you’re asking for a pillow…uhhh “hello!!!!!???”

    • Negro Libre

      Welp, there’s a difference between fighting for diversity at Morgan Chase and fighting for diversity in Kung Pao All-You-Can-Eat Buffet lol.

      • Hugh Akston

        So which one was the Grammys? lol

        • Negro Libre

          Man now that I think of it, I haven’t been to a buffet in a minute lmao.

          • Hugh Akston

            lol it’s been a minute

          • Val

            I hate buffets. They gross me out.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      She literally won awards from US on Saturday. NAACP gave her an arm full of em

      • Hugh Akston

        True so what’s the point of crying?

        They have their shtick let them be

        Let’s enjoy our own…and don’t worry about others

        But I feel like the image award is some prelude to the real show though

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    Really enjoyed Denzel’s speech at the NAACP awards.

    • Val

      They need to promote the NAACP awards more, I had no idea they were even coming on.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        Le sigh. Our black institutions

      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        News to me.

      • It used to come on live on Fox every year but I don’t why they moved to TVONE who has the worst HD .

      • Janelle Doe

        they are coming on in a few weeks on TV One

    • miss t-lee

      His speech was great. Wish I could’ve caught it live–I had no idea where to even find the awards.

    • BatmansExWife

      I enjoyed the NAACP awards. Watched the rerun yesterday before the grammys. Love how the entire cast of “This is Us” was there and yesssssss to “Queen Sugar” winning best cast.

  • Val

    So I guess Frank Ocean, Kanye and Drake were a bit ahead of the curve on this. They didn’t attend last night because they felt the Grammys didn’t acknowledge Black artists properly.

    But this is just a redux of other criticisms and protests. Like hip hop artists in 1989 boycotting. And just like with the Academy Awards not recognizing Black folks in the film industry, this is a structural problem.

    Who is voting? A bunch of old White guys just like with the Academy Awards? If so then Black artists need to push for change. Especially those with lots of clout in the industry. There should be strict guidelines on who can vote and for how long. If someone hasn’t worked in the industry in 20 or 30 years, why are they still voting?

    Hopefully Black artists will organize and push for changes to the voting population.

    • Sweet Ga Brown

      I immediately thought of Nicki Minaj and her tweets that time but given the source of the argument and it being about her song Anaconda…black artist as a whole have to be stragetic if they do choose to speak out.
      Now that I think of it, I’m not even sure if it was the Grammys. Could have been the AMAs.

      • HouseOfBonnets

        Unfortunately you have to be careful with nicki because although she had a very valid point….. I have noticed she only speaks out when it directly affects her.

        • BatmansExWife

          Right. She’s quiet unless it applies to her.

          • HouseOfBonnets

            That’s why I didn’t take her seriously last week tbh.

      • miles b

        It was the VMAs and she was mad because she didn’t get nominated for video of the year. But it was bs on her part because she won like 4 awards that night and Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Kendrick were nominated for Video of the year. Heck, Kendrick was nominated twice because he featured on T-Swift’s song that eventually won.

    • Jazz G

      Drake sid he was boycotting but he’s touring in Europe so…

      • Val

        “Justin Bieber, Drake and More Celebs BOYCOTTING the 2017 Grammys” https://uk.news.yahoo.com/omg-justin-bieber-drake-more-220756013.html

        • Jazz G

          I heard that he said that and read about it. But I think it’s very easy to say your not attending something you can’t really attend anyway.

          But the sentiment was probably there.

        • Jazz G

          Yes. I’m just saying that there is a chance he wouldn’t have been yet lately.

        • Jazz G

          Yes – I was just skeptical because it is easy to boycott what you have good reason not to do/support anyway. But everything he has said since supports a sincere boycott and that’s good.

      • HoneyRose

        I’m sure he knew when the Grammys were ahead of time – he could’ve arranged his tour schedule so he could be there if he wanted to. He chose not to.

        • Junegirl627

          The grammys are always the weekend after the superbowl and the superbowl is always the last weekend of january or first weekend in febuary

        • Jazz G

          I just read that the Grammy committee asked him to change 2 of his London dates so he could make it and he told them no. Good on him. I was skeptical because it is easy for people to boycott things they had no intention on doing anyway. He also said he’s thinking about not even accepting the his grammy’s because Hotline Bling was not a rap song and he feels like he was pigeonholed because he is Black.

    • Cheech

      I’ve always thought of the Grammys as having all of the Oscars’ flaws, but with less relevance and credibility.

      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        The equivalent of less filling more calories?

      • Duncan Frame

        I thought the Grammies was next years bargain basement predictions.

    • Not even old dudes. Just people who don’t even listen to the music. There are classical conductors who vote for everything despite only listening to classical music.

      • Val

        Good point, Man. But, a large percentage of the voters are old and haven;t worked in a long time.

    • Jennifer

      Wish I could have shared this yesterday.

      12,000 voters — you only have had to contribute to 6 commercially released recordings (so, that includes artists, composers…down to the guys who write liner notes).

      To make matters worse, there is a small Grammy committee that has the final say and can make changes to the nominees (not sure about the winners tho) independent of the voting bloc. Frankly, it’s how a Beck could be nominated and win AOTY when SOOOO many recordings are released. They can change nominations for political reasons, to drive TV viewership, to get celebrities to sbow up, or if they feel a deserving recording wasn’t include.

      It’s not a democratic system at all.

    • Another Man’s Rhubarb

      Every word of that. YES!

    • Junegirl627

      what I want to know if how many black recording artist pay the 100 dollar membership and renewal so they can vote

      • Val

        Good question. I would guess most of them.

  • Albert Ross

    It’s an awards show for a nearly obsolete industry.

    • PriceIsRightHorns


    • miss t-lee

      This is some truth.

    • cakes_and_pies

      I would agree, but Chance the Rapper won. His win is definitely outside of the Grammy norm.

  • Mika

    I did enjoy Busta’s shade of #45 though.

  • SimplePseudonym

    Side note: did Skrillex win any awards for that amazing Justin Bieber album he created?
    That album should really be renamed, “Purpose: Skrillex (featuring Justin Bieber).”

  • NonyaB?

    I like it when you tell no lies, DayMoan. Didn’t watch the show but caught her performance.

  • I still don’t get The Weeknd’s appeal. #MeNoDoCoke
    I wish I would have listened to the studio version of Ed Sheeran’s song first.
    We will never run out of Marley’s.
    So that’s what Jarobi sounds like again.
    Was it me or the sound just bad? Like the music was overpowering the vocals.
    Has the “Right” started complaining about the artists’ protests yet?

    • HouseOfBonnets

      I don’t get the weeknd either tbh and I liked some of his earlier stuff…. Which is why I don’t understand the MJ comparisons.

      • miss t-lee

        MJ should come back back and beat folks with a stick for that comparison.

        • HouseOfBonnets

          Bonus points if it’s one of those old school broom handles

          • miss t-lee


        • Sigma_Since 93

          And should yell shamon and woo when he’s delivrering that two piece beat-down

          • miss t-lee


          • Brother Mouzone

            And a back handed face slap with the jeweled glove.

        • Nope. German suplex spree.

          • miss t-lee


    • miss t-lee

      Bob made sure to spread that seed far…and wide.
      Someone on my TL was like “he’s wayyyy down the Marley scale” I hollered.

    • Rewind4ThatBehind

      As I read on Twitter last night

      Bruno Mars is the high, fun part of cocaine.
      The Weeknd is the low, dull part of cocaine.

      • If that’st the case the dull part of coke sucks.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Bruno still getting sniffy?? Didn’t he get busted a few years ago snorting in a bathroom or something??

        • miss t-lee

          Nah. I think that part of his life is done. At least that what he alluded to on his 60 Minutes interview…lol

      • Brother Mouzone

        Speaking of Bruno.. why when he does 80’s uptempo lightweight funk (The Time, RFTW, etc..) they act like he’s *the originator, the emancipator, and the music maker~ Little Richard voice*. Getting WAAAAYY more credit than the artists he’s copying.

        • cdj

          That’s what I’m saying. I was telling my son the other day, Bruno better had cut Morris Day a nice check.

        • Rewind4ThatBehind


          Young people & White people don’t dig in the crates. They simply take what’s given to them here & now, and don’t question the past.

          Bruno is very deserving of the praise he gets. But he knows where his style comes from. Those who praise him? They only listen when they feel like it.

    • The Weeknd’s appeal is easy. He’s a heartthrob for girls too alternative or extreme to heartthrobs, if that makes sense. Like I could take him to certain events, and he’d have the most moisturized peen in America, and probably the cleanest from all the sucking.

      Also, a few artists complained about the sound, so there’s that…

  • Sebastian Ossa

    she stole Kanye’s concept, then took credit for it. thats part of the reason Kayne was flipping out.

  • Sigma_Since 93


    Why you got me thirsty for milk this afternoon?????

    That’s all I got

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