Beyoncé’s Grammy, Or the Ghettoization of Black Art by the Music Industry
Black culture, particularly hip-hop, is bar-none the greatest cultural influence, barometer, and representation of American youth. This includes most
— music: 14 of the top 20 streaming songs are hip-hop
— fashion: almost entirely influenced by the hip-hop community
— contemporary language: black twitter & popular music define the terms
Beyoncé’s album, Lemonade, accompanied an audacious film streamed on HBO and Tidal. Read: an hour long music video was played on HBO for the first time. This pop-cultural event contributed to its extreme popularity IRL and on social media. the album/video shifted the cultural conversation, and the album portion, even excluding the video, was the best cross-genre pop of any nominated albums by far. Unfortunately for her, Lemonade is also unapologetic in its representation of black womanhood and features a sound fusing country, hip-hop, traditional pop, ballad, and electronic music. Or, to put it simply, it didn’t sound like Adelian white pop music.
Most people would rather not think about race despite the fact that identity enters all art. Presumably this is why the Grammy voters chose Adele’s safe ballads over a groundbreaking album. This misses the point, though: there is no Nabokovian ‘pure aesthetic’ realm that’s removed from the experience of the artist creating said art.
The producers of The Grammy’s literally created an award in 2013 “Best Adult Urban Contemporary Album” because black pop music is qualitatively different in their eyes from traditional white pop music. The fact that black musicians sometimes have the audacity to voice ‘black issues’ over ‘black music’ rather than some idealized (white) reality is why Lemonade lost to 25.
As for the arguments that the music isn’t appealing to all listeners like Adele, or that the Grammy’s are a reflection of institutional racism:
“In the particular is contained the universal.” — James Joyce