Before the BeyHive jump on me let me preface the next few paragraphs with a clear statement that I like Beyonce Gisele Knowles Carter. I was a fan during the early Destiny’s Child years. The years when LaToya and LaTavia were a part of the lineup. “Crazy in Love” was everyone’s bop back in 2003 including mine, and “Lemonade”? I blasted the entire CD for months after its initial release. I have nothing technically against Beyonce. I respect her as a hardworking artist and as a Black woman slaying in a Whitemale dominated ﬁeld. She deserves all the respect because she’s earned it.
With that glowing preface, I’m just going to say it: I did not like Beyonce’s “Renaissance,” and I disagree with Jay Z and the BeyHive. “Renaissance” did not deserve the Grammy Award for “Album of the Year.” Period.
I know that I stand in the minority with today’s young people on this fact, but I have to speak truth, and coming from a generation that created the Hip Hop, Synth Pop, New Wave, Grunge, House and Electronic music genres, I believe that I have a right to my sentiments and should not be shamed or stung for them. In fact, I feel downright justiﬁed. For months many have said that Beyonce’s “Renaissance” was a celebrated smash up of several eras of music rolled into one. Chic’s Nile Rodgers, producer extraordinaire, even makes an appearance on “Cuff It” (Grammy winner), Twinky Clark from the legendary The Clark Sisters’ voice and music are prominent on “Church Girl,” and Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” on “Summer’s Renaissance” are all Beyonce nods to the celebration of good music, a celebration of moments in music that were creative, inspirational, and full of life. When you listen to “Renaissance” you are transported, at least I was, to the days of Disco in the late 1970s, which I was close to touching, but could not get a full baptism because I was not of legal age to feel the energy of the dance floors that held the powerful speakers blasting and vibrating the sexy strings of Tavares, Sylvester, or the Bee Gees. The entire album is infused with shades of Disco and the pulsating knock-you-out sounds of Electronic, Techno and House. Those last two I have lots of experience with. The clubs in Detroit, the birthplace of Electronic and adopted home of House music, like Club UBQ, Floods, The Warehouse were spots where I danced so hard that I used to sweat out my relaxer to Jomanda, Inner City, Colonel Abrams, Steve “Silk” Hurley, and Frankie Knuckles to name a few.
It was a great time and no wonder Beyonce wanted to escape into this pool of music and Disco during the height of the covid pandemic in 2020. That is essentially what makes “Renaissance” a great re-imagining work of artistry and a huge salute to the original artists that put those genres on the musical map. But in the grand scheme of things, after receiving four Grammys in the categories of Dance/Electronic and R&B song, performance and album, I am not outraged that Beyonce did not pick up the “Album of the Year” award because while “Renaissance” was a strong qualiﬁer, there were other contenders in that category that were just as solid. Former One Direction member and UK superstar Harry Styles won to the BeyHive’s and Jay Z’s chagrin. Now we get to the meat and potatoes of this column. Jay Z told Tidal in an interview before the Grammy Awards that he believed his wife should win “Album of the Year” based on the fact of “what it’s done to the culture. Look how the energy of the world moved. They play her whole album in the club. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. The whole entire joint like, everything?! Every remix is amazing. Everyone’s inspired. It has inspired the world.” Is that what the Grammys has been boiled down to? A popularity contest? Isn’t that what the American Music Awards and the Billboard Awards are for? Personally I felt that the entire “Encanto” soundtrack should have been nominated for “Album of the Year” because everywhere I turned, even inside my own household, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (which won Best Score Soundtrack, Best Compilation Soundtrack, and Best Song Written for Visual Media) was played incessantly. More than Beyonce. But you don’t see me crying foul on the play!
I just think that there is a deeper problem that no one wants to talk about. Music has changed tremendously in the last 30 to 40 years. The Grammys meant something different to my generation. It was the recognition of music excellence that meant everything. Then with the births of Disco, Hip Hop, Techno, Electronic, and House, inclusiveness and diversity within musical excellence became very necessary. When Stevie Wonder walked away with an armful of Grammys and “Album of the Year” for “Songs In The Key Of Life,” we celebrated that because he is the consummate musical artist. That same year though, jazz legend George Benson was nominated in that same category for his album “Breezin” but won “Record of the Year” for “This Masquerade.” Both are musical greats. Was there some type of conspiratorial element behind the scenes working against George Benson? When Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones carried armfuls of Grammys for “Thriller” everyone agreed that the wins were well-deserved and it wasn’t simply because “Thriller” was popular and a head-banger either. The Police’s “Synchronicity” was nominated for “Album of the Year” when Michael Jackson won in that category for “Thriller,” But would go on to win “Song of the Year” and a couple more Grammys. Was there a conspiracy in that instance? I loved The Police and Michael Jackson.
Awards of Grammy caliber are supposed to be given on the points of merit, talent, artistry and originality. In my opinion, “Renaissance” falls short of originality. Beyonce is the Queen of the Grammys (which is problematic on many levels we haven’t begun to dissect) so why not be excited about that instead of being greedy and bitter?