Lessons from Adele’s Grammy Speech


>>GTY-adele-beyonce-grammy-win-jef-170213_12x5_1600Still talking about Beyoncé, Adele and the Grammy Awards?

Adele bested Beyoncé in the three major categories — Song, Record, and Album of the Year — and for Best Pop Solo Performance. Adele won five Grammys total this year, but only four in head-to-head competition with Beyonce at the 2017 Grammy Awards before hitting pause on her acceptance speech to dedicate her Album of the Year award to praise Beyoncé. I knew social media would swell with commentary, but I am over women tearing others down. I went to bed with a warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing that Beyoncé was moved to tears. I wanted to soak up every last drop of womanhood these two women were serving the Grammys.

Few praised Adele, 28, for hitting pause, saying she deserved the award or it wasn’t her fault that people had  trouble understanding Beyonce’s beautifully complicated body of work. Whether you agree or disagree about Beyonce’s loss as being yet another snub to hip-hop, the shade being thrown around about Adele’s speech let’s not get distracted from these beautiful positives.

Amen for sisterly love—especially in Hollywood?

Growing up, we were always told that women can’t get along, but I ignored that myth. As someone who dabbles in conspiracy theories, I always thought the sentiment was a weak attempt to keep women from our communal ability to get the job done. To see two of current-day pop music’s most powerful forces not only come together but publicly declare their utmost respect for each other makes me teary-eyed. Beyoncé led the nominations for her monumental “Lemonade” album, which was recognized in the Album, Record, and Song of the Year categories. Her friend Adele was the only other artist to land nominations in all three of the top categories.

In an earnest acceptance speech for her Album of the Year win,  Adele praised Beyoncé’s vision for “Lemonade,” the album that Adele’s “25” bested in the category. She all but said Beyoncé deserved the Grammy and, as huge fan of both artists, I tend to agree with Adele’s assessment. “Lemonade” is more than a good album; it’s a beautifully complex piece of American culture that is being studied in college classrooms. The visual album provided a painfully uncomfortable dive into aspects of betrayal, love, sisterhood, family and social justice without offering tidy resolution. The visual album draws inspiration from Yoruba Orisha-based and Creole culture, Country music, modern civil rights activists and the mothers with a narrative of poems. It’s no wonder writers like Candice Benbow have offered a syllabus for the visual album that includes over 200 works from some of my favorites like Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Helen Qyeyemi and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


The Grammys Highlighted Motherhood

Was it me, or didn’t the Grammy’s feel like a baby shower for Beyonce? “Beyoncé’s ethereal, multimedia celebration of pregnancy in her Grammy Awards performance of ‘Love Drought’ and ‘Sandcastles’ was nothing less than stunning: With airy yellow goddess robes floating about her crowned head and her baby, Blue Ivy, joyfully prancing and giggling around her bare, pregnant belly, she created a powerful, dramatic piece of art, an exultant narrative for black motherhood,” wrote Denene Miller of NPR’s Code Switch. Also referring to the performance as a tribute to exemplary mothers like former first lady Michelle Obama, who slayed legacy in the White House around her role as a working mother also dedicated to the concerns of America’s children.

And while I tend to agree with Millner’s point that Adele could have left the awkward “I want you to be my mommy” sentiment out of her final acceptance speech (too close to Hollywood’s “mammy” obsession). I can’t help but contrast it with how the singer turned inward and expressed how difficult it was to re-enter the music business after the birth of her son to record her album. I don’t know working mothers at home nodding in appreciation of her vulnerability and openness. One even wrote…Leave Adele alone.


Before reading all the controversy the next day, I woke up with a few feels about Adele’s raw speech. First, what would I do without all of the strong women in my life? Secondly, how often do I tell them how irreplaceable they are? I followed those thoughts by posting a host of social media praises to the women who, to borrow Adele’s  words, “Stir my soul.” Like Adele’s, I can assure you that they were not perfect but they were earnest. I’ve had breakups reflected perfectly by both albums.

And what gives us the right to feel sorry for Beyoncés stellar Grammy count of 22 awards and 62 nominations. Let’s pause to recognize that she is the most nominated woman and the second most-awarded Grammy woman in history. That’s one of the reasons her peers physically bow to her. “Lemonade” was nominated for nine awards and won for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video. Its leading single “Formation” received nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Music Video, while “Hold Up,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “Freedom” were nominated in pop, rock and rap categories. I don’t know what Beyoncé has to do to win a Grammy for Best Album. But beyond what the establishment thinks, she is powerful considering that six of Beyoncé’s solo studio albums have surpassed a million in sales and all of them debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart—including “Lemonade.” So, I’m guessing Queen Bey isn’t losing sleep over sharing a few Grammy’s with Adele. It happens women women reach the top of their careers. One of my best friends often reminds me of Beyoncés Lemonade advice, “Always stay gracious; best revenge is your paper.”

The original version appeared in a column published by The >>Lexington Dispatch/GateHouse Media. Republished with permission. 

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