Opinion: Why “RENAISSANCE” by Beyoncé deserved to win Album of the Year

Photo Courtesy of Google Commons

Photo Courtesy of Google Commons

The 2023 Grammy awards resulted in a record-breaking win for Beyoncé. During the ceremony, her win for Best Dance/Electronic Album made her the most awarded artist in the history of the Grammys with 32 wins. However, when it came time for the most coveted award of the night, Album of the Year, she lost to Harry Styles.

An event that would seem all too familiar to Beyoncé, her highly acclaimed album had been beaten out by a first-time album of the year winner. Despite being the most Grammy-awarded artist of all time, she has only ever won one award in any of the Big Four categories- which include Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist. She won Song of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” in 2009. Although she was nominated for Album of the Year three other times, including in 2010 for “I Am…Sasha Fierce, which lost to “Fearless” by Taylor Swift, 2015 for her self-titled record, which lost to “Morning Phase” by Beck, and once again in 2017 for “Lemonade,” which lost to “25” by Adele. 

During Adele’s speech in 2017, she expressed that she believed “Lemonade” deserved the award, as Beyoncé is “the artist of her life.” 

So why does the Recording Academy seem to have a grudge against Beyoncé when it comes to the mainstream awards? Many music fans and critics believe that racism is partially to blame. 

The majority of Beyoncé’s Grammy wins are in categories specialized for R&B, urban, and rap music, categories contributed to by mostly black artists. However, when it comes to the mainstream categories, Beyoncé’s lack of wins contributes to the notion that her music isn’t palatable for the general public because of its themes of black power and excellence.

The Grammys have been criticized throughout their entire 65 years for being inherently racist. They tend to relegate black performers to the R&B, gospel, and hip-hop categories even if their music spans beyond those rigid genres. Only three black women have ever won album of the year; Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, and Lauryn Hill, and only two hip-hop artists, though hip-hop is one of the most popular genres in recent history, have ever won as well; Outkast and Lauryn Hill. 

After taking home the award for best rap album for “IGOR,” acclaimed hip-hop artist Tyler, the Creator felt that his win was a “backhanded compliment.” 

“Guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending or anything, they always put it in a rap or urban category,” he said. “And I don’t like that ‘urban’ word…I’m just like, why can’t we just be in pop?” 

Additionally, many Grammy viewers feel that Beyoncé gets used by the network to gain publicity and views because she’s such a beloved figure, so they nominate her in all of the big categories just to watch her lose to her white counterparts time and time again.

However, Beyoncé’s past Album of the Year losses are not the only reason that “RENAISSANCE” should have won in 2023. The album alone has inspired a whole generation and brought the dance music genre back to light. Its songs incorporate and pay homage to many different genres created by black and LGBTQ artists that came before Beyoncé. Its themes of black empowerment and pride can be celebrated (and danced to) by any and all fans of music.

Beyoncé fan Larson Toil, a senior from Bay High School, expressed his disappointment with the loss, saying “Beyoncé has always been a staple to me throughout my life. ‘RENAISSANCE’ feels like the perfect culmination of all the music I love. No mainstream artist as big as her has ever touched the genre of music that ‘RENAISSANCE’ did.”

Another Beyoncé enthusiast from Panama, Kennedi Munson, agrees that Beyoncé is the rightful winner. “I love that ‘RENAISSANCE’ is an album about empowerment and femininity,” she said. “Song after song the transitions are a masterpiece and tell a different story with each track. No other album nominated delivered the way hers did.”